Becoming one with file and rasp

A selection from my file arsenal.

Making hand-made tools requires plenty of file and rasp work. These tools are indispensable for the amount of control and precision shaping required for this trade. I love both of these types of tools, but I have to admit that long hours of filing and rasping can make both the body and mind very weary. My mind begins to wander, and I start thinking about computer controlled CNC machines, or perhaps a gang of neighborhood kids that work for only $1.00 per saw handle.

But then I realize that a tool made by a robot robs us of the hand-made qualities and uniqueness of these tools, and paying kids only $1.00 per saw handle violates child labor laws, and would be considered a sweat shop. I support neither.

So my mind wanders back to the task at hand, and I begin to break down my blade or handle blanks, notch by notch, stroke by stroke. I discover the subtleties of each tool, working with and against the grain of wood and metal. Sometimes the movements are bold and crude, hogging out material; sometimes so dainty, I wonder if I even removed any material.

Soon (several hours later), I look at the clock, and am amazed at how absorbed in the task I have been, shaping this small bit of utilitarian sculpture. The form has taken shape, in contrast to  its rough origin. I wonder, “Have I become one with file and rasp?”

The next work day dawns, and I find myself dreaming about robot sweat shops and such. Then I start shaping the material, with each stroke of the file and rasp. New forms blossom from crude materials, once again, I have become lost in the action, a snake chasing it’s tail.

My rasp collection.

The completed saw blade from Durer’s “Melancholia”


Here is my interpretation of the saw from Albrecht Durer’s “Melancholia” print.  I filed the teeth to 8 ppi with a good bit of positive rake, similar to the saw in the print. I did not, however, file the teeth as unevenly as the saw depiction, they are a bit uneven, though. It was a compromise between usability and aesthetics. I wanted it to be recognizable as a copy of the saw in the print, but reasonably usable.


I was really curious how this saw would be in use, as the closest saw to this that I’ve used is a Japanese pull saw, obviously very different since you pull it, not push it. It is honestly a bit awkward, but perfectly usable. I’m sure most early saws were awkward to use compared to our fine-tuned modern saws. Such is the process of tool evolution.

What I both enjoy and find awkward about this saw is the great curve in the blade and the pointed tip. Who knows why saws of this era were designed as such. It may have been due to available materials, forging technique, etc. This effectively gives you vastly different rake angles, which are further varied by the angle of attack upon the wood being sawn. It would also seem to make the saw more versatile, allowing for piercing cuts in the center of a board. This is all speculation, of course. I’ll continue to explore medieval saw forms, and  learn a thing or two about the tools of our past.


I’ll have this saw posted for sale  sometime soon, you can contact me for custom work if you would like to be put on my backlog for this saw. Also, a final note: I will be out of my shop from April 22nd through May 30th. I will be checking my email and still taking orders, just expect a delay. Thanks


The saw from Albrecht Durer’s “Melancholia”


As a custom job for a client, I am recreating the saw pictured above in Albrecht Durer’s Melancholia. This is a very exciting project for me, as Durer is among my favorite artists, and it creates the opportunity to explore another ancient saw form.

I will not be making it exactly as pictured, the teeth will be more evenly cut. I’ll embellish and fine-tune it, until it does what it’s supposed to do.  Once I am happy with the saw, I will list it for sale with my others. Just a sneak peek for you, stay tuned….