Workshop Wednesdays - Bad Axe 14in Hybrid Sash Saw archive

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Two for the price of one? Not exactly, but it could be the only large back saw you will ever need


I'll bet somewhere in your tool armoury you'll have a tool that just looks right, feels right and works right. What's more I'll wager it's not a brand new tool either and will have picked up a few dinks in the line of duty, that mean you could pick it out from a collection of similar items blindfolded. Generally, a good tool that has no sentimental attachment will acquire this status over time and through repeated use will add up to a feeling of genuine affection for it.

On the surface we might call this patina - a worn part of the handle where it has been gripped in the same place thousands of times or a darkening of the steel through years of exposure to a hostile environment. Though we occasionally gasp in awe at the new tools designed to part us from our hard-earned, it's not always a given that our expectations will be met in the fullness of time. Therefore on that basis, it's going to have to be something pretty special that hits the spot straight out of the box.

As far as saws go, finding a good quality one off the peg these days isn't that hard. A saw from Bad Axe Tool Works, however, goes a little bit further. When it arrived, not only did this sash saw look right, feel right and work right, but it came complete with years' of experience built in, and it showed. The man behind every Bad Axe saw is Mark Harrell and he's turned the dial up to 11 on quality, removed the knob and taken it home.

No compromise

Hybrid is not a word typically associated with performance and excellence and suggests something of a compromise in the making, but this 14in sash saw features Mark's take on a saw plate with teeth that can cope with a wide range of tasks. In the scheme of things, you might not expect to achieve favourable results using the same saw and set to rip tenons as you would to cut clean crisp shoulders, but the hybrid geometry is efficient for both. If expediency is your thing, then consider the amount of hand sawing you're likely to do and ask if you do really need a separate saw for both cuts. So well-tuned is the hybrid that the time spent juggling a two-saw operation will negate any advantages of finish over function. I don't for a minute claim to understand the subtle nuances of saw blade sharpening and as long as there are expert craftsmen out there that do, I'm happy to rely on their wisdom. Mark Harrell is one of those craftsmen.

What's it for?

Well, pretty much any joint-making process that wouldn't be restricted by either the size of the saw or the thickness of the material. Take that to include carcass work, trimming to length on a benchhook and with a mitre box. Splitting 20mm stock into equal proportions for tenons 90mm wide felt about as fine as we could comfortably take this 12ppi version. Make this your starting point and scale up from there and you can keep on going until the back bottoms out on the material. Being able to choose the size of the handle will make a lot of difference to what you can and can't achieve comfortably with the saw and has as much bearing as the hybrid tooth pattern on its suitability for a range of work. So is it a tenon saw? Not in the traditional sense because it's not filed to produce a rip cut and despite the 12ppi it's not a carcass saw either as the filing isn't a true cross-cut pattern either. Right now if your collection of back saws is limited to a dovetail saw and you feel the need to expand, then look no further.

Briony Darnley

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Workshop Wednesdays , Bad Axe

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F&c Verdict

When it comes to buying your Bad Axe, you have a few options. Each saw is made to order and can be customised to suit your needs. Some options are undoubtedly cosmetic, such as the choice of timber for the handle, the style of the nuts, medallion and the back, but where it counts, the devil is in the detail and that means tooth geometry. The Bad Axe range covers traditional cross and rip patterns in all sizes from the finest dovetail saws to frame saws. There are some that for any but the most enthusiastic sawyers will have little use, but in a workshop split between power tools and hand tools, a Bad Axe hybrid is an excellent combination. I would say Bad Axe saws have a unique aesthetic among tools and it is not restricted to appearance. For me, I guess the relationship between the intelligent use of technology and an appropriate level of hand-eye intervention has resulted in a tool that feels like you've had it for years but never actually owned it.

The Numbers

Bad Axe 14in sash saw - 12ppi 0.25in plate
Price: From $265 (£156.16) (please note that all products from USA to UK are subject to shipping & taxes)