F.A.Q. - Cross Cut Saws and How to Keep Them Up

The following frequently asked questions provide general information about crosscut saws and general information on filing them. It redistributes material from the public domain publication "Cross Cut Saws and How to Keep Them Up", 1922, by Wesley S. Taylor.



Question 1: Why can some men cut more timber with a two cutter cross cut saw than a four cutter?

They do not understand filing and jointing. You can pull a two cutter when not properly adjusted, but not a four cutter. There are more cutting points in the four cutter which will pull harder than the two cutter. This gives many users the idea that the two cutter will cut more timber. The fact is this percentage of users can not put either saw ready for service. There are no two cutter saws. They are one cutters, there being one tooth set in opposite direction between two rakers and by the loss of a tooth or point there is no other tooth to take its place in a section, two teeth and two rakers. This would make a so-called four cutter only a two cutter, but they are known as two and four cutters.

Question 2: Why do practically all the larger lumber and timber companies use four cutters only?

Because when properly prepared the four cutter will cut faster and last longer, and all large lumber or timber companies have first class cross cut filers to keep the saws up.

Question 3: Why are narrow four cutters more practical than wider saws?

Six inches and under in the center are narrow saws; over six inches are classed as wide saws. Probably the more a man knows about upkeep the more narrow saws will be demanded. Besides a narrow blade will give more clearance in the log. Often wide saws bucking off the log or, chopping out the blade with the ax when in a small log pinch; they also accumulate rosin in pine cutting. The narrow blade eliminates friction and uses less kerosene oil. They are manufactured on scientific mechanical ideas. (So the more complicated in construction.) Will cut easier and faster when understood.

Question 4: Why are the 14x20 and 14x19 gauge saws being demanded instead of the wide thick back saws?

Because they pull lighter and give more clearance.

Question 5: Should users bear down on the blade when sawing logs or timber to get a greater capacity?

Not unless the blade has lost, or never received the raker adjustment. The rakers sometimes called drags, must absolutely have the correct length to suit the kind of cutting or size of timber, either hardwood or softwood, and should be swaged and hooked. This saw with proper raker adjustment will not need the old method of bearing down and pushing.

Question 6: What is the longest successful cross cut and where used?

Twenty feet, and used on the Pacific coast.

Question 7: What is the scientific rule applied in selecting the fastest cutting saw from stock?

The fastest cutting cross cut will have the greatest number of cutting points, not less than 3—8 inch wide and protected by shapely teeth, rakers, and sufficient gullet space.

Question 8: Should loop or end handles be used?

Loop. They are usually shorter and can be removed or applied quicker in case of accident.

Question 9: Should long or short handles be used?

Short. They make the blade run much stiffer, cut straighter through the log. When your saw becomes short or the teeth in the center of saw from jointing or wear cut off your handles 1 inch to one fourth of inch of loss of teeth by wear or service.

Question 10: Will the round point tooth cut as fast as the straight bevel?

Probably faster, but it will take longer to file a saw with the round point. In filing the round point be sure that you do not file below the jointing. This would expose the raker, making the saw pull hard.

Question 11: What is the best grade of steel now used in cross cut saws?

Good Tungsten with a mild temper. All manufacturers are now using good steel in saws that will receive the hammer for swageing the rakers.

Question 12: Why do some users break the cutting points with setting hammer?

Because they do not retain the shape and file bevel that the factory gave them.

Question 13: Will the Wide 14x20 gauge saw pull as easy as the narrow 14x20 gauge blade?

No. See Answer to Question No. 3.

Question 14: What is the standard circle to the cutting side of a cross cut saw?

That which is obtained by the movement of the blade across the log to make every tooth cut from bark to bark for each stroke of the saw.

Question 15: Does a standard cross cut saw increase or decrease 1n cutting as it wears down?

A new saw will increase as the proper adjustment is discovered, usually three to five filings and jointings, then a gradual decrease as the blade wears down to the sectional bar holding the teeth together. Never use a pull set especially on short teeth.

Question 16: What pattern file should be used on cross cut saws?

Seven inch fine. Six inch will do. No operator can prepare a saw, with a 10 inch mill saw file for jointing and fliing, an iron wedge, back of the axe, or sledge hammer for anvil. Nail hammers, Kress or Woolworth hammers for setting. Or one eye shut for a spider. Use the best factory saw tools only, for results.

Question 17: What is a competent set or anvil for cross cuts?

Factory anvils tempered and three times as heavy as the hammer used, say 18 to 24 ounces and hammer not over 10 ounces. Use while saw is in rack.

Question 18: What saw tool has the greatest accomplishments for jointing the teeth on a man movement circle, and the rakers for any desired length?

All factories build saw tools that will do the work. The secret of success is the knowledge of the user to give them proper adjustment for the service required.

Question 19: What is the difference in the segment ground saw, the crescent ground saw, the taper ground saw and the radial ground saw?

None. These are factory catalogue names for thin back saws. The only difference being in the gauge on back of saw, which varies from 16 to 20 gauge on the back. All factories are building saws 14 gauge on the cutting side for a standard.

Question 20: Why are factories using better steel for the last five years in cross cuts?

The users are demanding from experience a blade that will stand the hammer for swaging and hooking the raker.

Question 21: What pattern of cross cuts is superior for felling trees?

Narrow Standard. Stiffness is very essential. There are good combination patterns on the market. It is not necessary for operators to own and carry extra saws for felling trees. However, each pair of cutters should have two saws; the extra blade will always pay for itself.

Question 22: What length of saws give best results?

Long blades. And they should be made to go full length through the log. The center of the saw should pass entirely through the cut on both sides of the log, thereby keeping full clearance for the cutting teeth. If your timber is large and the saw short, take your Dog along to help you gnaw the tree down.

Question 23: Should the cutting points when too open be side filed to put the teeth in parallel cutting lines?

No. Use your anvil and hammer and knock the set back. Do not forget your spider or setting gauge.

Question 24: How should rakers be swaged and hooked?

Never swage wider than set in saw, 10 to 11 gauge. Hook very lightly after swaging; if the raker is knocked low and flat it will refuse to take the wood. Most operators use the hammer for both swaging and hooking the raker. This is faster, but if you want your saw to cut fast without bearing down from the handles, be careful with your hammer. Too much hooking and swaging is detrimental, and often causes the operator to become disgusted with the tools and saw. A small percentage of users never buy the same pattern twice, using saws from the best factory patterns on down to Sears and Roebuck, trying to locate the trouble. This class of users is always found on the factories replacement list for a new saw. Be careful please. Most any good filer can keep up circle saws, band or barrel saws, but a good high grade cross cut is full of mysteries and misunderstandings.

Rakers must be some shorter than the teeth. When jointing leave the rakers full length of teeth, then swage them down with the hammer.

Swaging the Raker.jpg
Figure 24: Swaging the Raker

(See figure 24.) Not less than 1-96 part of an inch, nor more than 1-64 part of an inch, according to the timber to be cut, the shortest raker for small timber, especially soft wood. If your saw is properly jointed to the man movement cutting circle the long raker can be maintained. However, experience is the best teacher for correct swageing and hooking rakers.

Question 25: What users demand thin back saws?

All practical operators. They are built and the patterns are mechanically constructed. They also pull lighter.

Question 26: Does the same steel come 1n more than one temper?

Possibly so. Factories are tempering cross cuts to suit the climatical conditions of the zones. A saw tempered for the Southern coast will break in the frozen timber of the Northwest and vice versa.

Question 27: What kind of file rack should be used?

Any form will do, but a rack made of wood the height of the operators' or filers' elbows standing up and circled with the cutting side of the saw is best. Always use a set of tools that will complete the blade before removing from racks. This will discontinue or eliminate the use of stump sets Which are uncertain, leaving variation in the set at the point of the tooth. Many filers are using hand made anvils. I use the Atkins No. 12 anvil. It can be shifted to suit all gauges desired. And Taylor’s Patent Saw Clamp makes a complete cross cut outfit.

Question 28: How should spiders or the setting gauge be used?

This is the cheapest tool used on cross cuts, and is absolutely necessary for good service. New spiders should be jointed to suit the saw used. This is done by using the file on the feet of the Spider until the soft foot is located, usually on the short or hardwood end of the spider.

Then file down until the spider fits any new saw. Then when the saw loses its points and must be opened, set the points to fit the spider. Use the short end for hardwood and the long end for softwood.

Question 29: How should jointing tools be used?

Use a highly finished jointing tool with two side guards with perfectly square seats or shoulders to receive the file. Adjust the file in position by using a small screw

Look Down this Cut the Long Way.jpg

driver or pocket knife. See that the screw is far enough to slightly bend the file to the cutting circle of the blade. It is impossible to correctly joint your saw with the file held in the hand, or even the use of a cheap jointing tool. If the file is used in its natural position, say a straight file, it will rest on the four cutting points which are close together, holding the file level from raker to raker because the file will have a sudden drop when it reaches the gullet space. This will cause the rakers to stand out on the cutting circle, making the two inside teeth shorter than the teeth next to the rakers. (See Figure 29.)

These points of efficiency in upkeep are not understood by more than 20 to 25 per cent of cross cut saw users and operators. If the rakers are too short the cutting will be slow and rough. However, a raker that is too long will pull harder than when too short. Any good filer can find his saw trouble by examining the dust from the cut. Fine (bug) dust, short rakers; dust should break at back of gullet and about as long as a small match, and when the fiber of the wood (whiskers) show on the bottom side of the dust, rakers are too long.

Question 30: How can the blade be made softer or harder to suit the different ideas of users?

Some users complain that the blade is too soft. While others will break the points of the cutting teeth while setting the teeth. Both of the blades often shipped in the same box under the same pattern, made, milled and finished at the same time, by the same manufacturer. The only difference I have been able to find is not as a rule in any one brand of saws. But it is in the different methods of tempering used by saw makers, the majority of whom use the hot blast, with possibly one or more who temper their saws in hot oil, which is probably protected by patent right and only successfully used by one manufacturer of saws. I use these saws because they file very easy, and at the same time have 85 per cent resistance against a strain before they will break or kink. The only difference between a broken saw and one with a kink is that you can carry the kinked blade in one piece. No saw will run good after it has received a defect of any nature.


When your blade runs very easy, gliding over the wood and rubbing tne points to a rough blunt nature, especially when cutting Southern pine (lobloly) which has the hardest rosin knots, bring the shape of your cutting point from a square to a diamond point.

  • See Fig. No. 30.
  • See Fig. No. 30A.
  • See Fig. No. 30B.

This process will put the tooth in a different position to receive the sudden shock from the setting hammer and will give the desired set without losing the points, just as the factory intended the saw to be used. When the points are to the extreme (Fig 30B) just opposite to Fig. 30, they will break from a hard stroke with the hammer quicker than Fig. 30 the cutting points being too narrow and thick just Where the hammer should be applied for setting the teeth,. Filed in this condition (Briar points) should have more bevel, which

A Perfect Bevel for General Cutting.jpg

will bring them down to Fig. No. 30A. (Never use a pull set.) Teeth should be set after pointing and filing. There are three cutting points on each tooth or one cutting point and two file corners. Note line from C to E on Fig. No. 30A, the letter D for the cutting point and the letter F where the hammer should be applied when setting the saw. This process will hold the file corners C and E inside the 14 gauge clearance, making the saw run light and will make a straight, smooth cut on end of log. In setting a tooth bevelled as Fig. No. 30, the file points are often thrown out, as explained. Do not cut the file corners off with a file. Such ideas are wrong. The space made on each corner of the tooth wedges the dust in the space made by the file and will strain the tooth towards center of the clearance, making it pull hard and seem to close, when if all the file bevel was on the clearance side of the tooth the tooth would readily stand out against the gauge, and thereby hold its set much longer. Always joint and file the teeth, and joint the rakers to suit the timber to be cut, on all new saws, before they are used. The cutting teeth should be at least 3-8 of an inch wide. Narrow teeth are hard to keep up.

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