Thomas Flinn Pax Saws archive

Friday 1 April 2011

Jim Hooker the man with a passion for Japanese Saws consents to give an English saw a try


Sheffield based Thomas Flinn & Co is the last remaining UK maker of traditional hand saws, having taken over such well-known brands as Lynx, William Greaves and, most recently, E. T. Roberts and Lee. It's good to see the great tradition of Sheffield tool making continued in this way. The Pax range sit towards the top end of Flinn's saw brand and is clearly aimed at the premium market in which North American makers such as Lie Nielsen, Adria and Veritas amongst others have carved themselves a strong market niche. Against this background and as a long term user of Japanese saws, I was intrigued to be offered this ten inch Pax tenon saw for review and to find out whether it would change my allegiance.

The difference

As a tenon saw, the teeth are configured for rip sawing, but what makes this saw different from most is that the pitch of its teeth vary along its length, starting at 20 tpi (teeth per inch) at the tip and decreasing to around 10 tpi at the handle end.

The idea is that the closely spaced teeth near the tip make it easier to get the cut started and established before developing longer strokes for rapid completion of the cut using the whole length of the blade.

The Blade

The blade is topped with a heavy folded and polished brass back, which lends the saw a nice weight and helps stabilise the blade for a straight cut. As is usual with western style saws, the blade comes with a thin coat of lacquer, which gradually wears away in use but does provide some useful rust protection. For those who prefer an unlacquered saw, the instructions advise that the lacquer can be wiped off with white spirit.

The Handle

The open handle is made in elm and lightly finished with Danish oil. I was initially concerned that a knot above the hand grip, in the narrowest part of the handle, might prove to be a weak point but some vigorous pulling around proved these concerns to be unfounded, no doubt helped by the interlocking character of elm grain - Thomas Flinn clearly know their materials.

In use

In use I found that the saw does indeed start the cut easily. It followed a line accurately without any tendency to wander off line and it cut easily and smoothly under its own weight, leaving a good finish to tenons in hard maple and oak.

To gain another perspective I took the saw with me on a West Dean course where I asked fellow veteran student John Reid to give it a test drive on a piece he was making.

John is a very skilled maker of fine furniture and an everyday user of western style saws. As you can see from the pictures, he used the Pax to produce some very snug tenons in English oak, pronouncing the saw to be very nice and better than a premium North American saw he has recently acquired. Interestingly, he was less convinced that the variable pitch teeth made a difference to the ease of starting a cut. What we both agreed on was that the comfort of the grip could be improved with a little easing of the rather sharp transition between its gently curved front face to the flat side face.

Woodworkers Institute

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Jim Hooker , Thomas Flinn , Furniture & Cabinetmaking Magazine

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F&c Verdict

Have I been convinced to give up my Japanese saw habit? No, but I would be very happy to use this Pax tenon saw and it is good to see that Sheffield can still compete on equal terms with the best that the North Americans can produce. A very nicely made and sweetly performing tenon saw from the last of the traditional Sheffield saw makers.
Excellent performance
Accurately made and well finished
A little minor and easy fettling of the hand grip would improve comfort

The Numbers

Blade: 250 mm (10in) taper ground, rip pattern teeth, variable pitch, 20 tpi decreasing to 10tpi
Handle: English elm with Danish oil finish.
Weight: 480gms
Price £119.94 inc VAT
From: Thomas Flinn & Co