Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ruining your own life for fun an profit. Or why I don't wish to be in business.

As I approached my planned retirement age I cast about for things to do that might provide a little pocket money. More to be able to lay claim to earning my keep in my own mind rather than need.
Saw sharpening hit the mark on a number of levels.
1. It is a useful skill and it fit in with my core training.
2. There is little investment in equipment.
3. The end result has a personal use component as well as a marketable component.
4. The rate of pay per hour of time spent will never bring me into a higher tax bracket.
5. The very first handsaw that I had tried to sharpen, 20 years ago, was such a failure, forget cows and calves, it was elephants and chipmunks, that there was nowhere to go but better.

I began by reading and studying multiple sources and watching an amazing amount of video with an equal number of methods, some better than others. 

My next step and the most satisfying, was gathering XX practice saws. (You really didn’t expect a number!)

With the raw materials available I set about the practice of sharpening. Being a geek/engineer I videotaped my first efforts and studied them like I would any time study. Holding the file at the proper angle with guides and fixtures seemed like a pain in the butt. It was. Having reference lines on the vice did more for holding the angle than having to adjust a jig each time. Muscle memory and proper stance brought that problem to heel.

I found that boredom was the chief culprit. I would get distracted and lose my place in all the teeth. Having found the problem I went back to the beginning and remarked the teeth after every pass with a black marker. No more lost place.

My second attempt at sharpening a hand saw, after the dreaded elephant/chipmunk fiasco, cut appreciably faster and smoother than it had before I sharpened it. The third attempt also improved but less markedly. After the first 10 saws the mechanics have become less of a problem. I have found that most people have little interest in a sharpened handsaw. I have tried to interest family in the idea of having a saw, the only taker so far has been my son. I cheated and gave it to him for Christmas this year.

I have sharpened enough saws for personal use that I don't think I’ll need to touch a saw file for at least a decade.

Saw sharpening will fall into the same category as my frantic efforts to improve at pool, welding,  tennis, golf, machine tools, softball, etc. As long as it was my business, with money on the line, or my friends were willing to be interested and play along, I wanted to be the best. When it became a solitary quest for excellence my interest faded.

How much should it cost to sharpen a saw?

For me the first measurably sharp saw took 22 years of practice, 10 practice saws, at $2.00 each, a half dozen files, with handles, one nifty $10.00 antique saw jointing file holder that I didn't need but couldn’t resist 25 years ago. Divide that by 10 sharp saws and $35.00 for 2 hours actual work on sharpening a nice 8 point crosscut with the proper fleam angle, sloped gullets, even teeth, and sticky sharp points doesn’t seem so bad.

I’m still not ready to sharpen saws as a business. I’m happy with my work but I don't want to have the hassle of a person with an unrealistic expectation and a magnifying glass strapping themselves to my back for a $35.00 ride through hell.

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