How to Sharpen a Saw: Beginner-Friendly Techniques

Circular Saw

Learning how to sharpen a saw will ensure a cleaner smoother cut for better results. Hand saws have been used in woodworking for hundreds of years, and learning how to keep a hand saw sharp can be a real challenge especially for the beginner. But in order for your saw to work properly, it must be sharp. I’ll go over some basic techniques you can use to sharpen the blade easily and quickly and the tools you need to get the job done.

When you learn how to sharpen a saw blade, you’ll notice right away that working with it is much easier, allowing you to quickly saw through material like never before. To get the job done, you’ll need to buy the following tools:

  • Saw jointer
  • Vise
  • File
  • Stone

Learning how to sharpen the teeth of the blade can take some practice and can also depend on whether the blade has crosscut teeth or ripcut teeth. The vise is used to keep the saw’s blade stable and secure during the filing process and it also helps to reduce vibration, which can make it difficult for the file to make contact with every tooth. The file you use will depend on the blade’s teeth per inch. After this step, you’ll stone the blade to remove any metal shavings and burrs.

What You’ll Need

Circular saw

If you have a workshop, then you’ll probably own many of the supplies and tools that you’ll need to sharpen the saw’s blade, such as the vise. Once you have all of the tools and supplies, you can regularly use them to keep the blades on all of your saws sharp. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to buy different types of files based on blade type.

While you can learn how to cut wood without a saw, for a more efficient and faster cutting process, you’ll find yourself relying on your collection of saws often.

In order to sharpen your saw manually you’ll need to purchase the following supplies:

  • Vise
  • Stone
  • Saw jointer
  • Triangular file

Ripcut saw teeth are shaped like chisels and can be sharpened by filing squarely across the blade, while crosscut teeth are more knife-shaped and can be formed by filing at an angle to the blade. If you have the best portable table saw like the Bosch 4100-09, then you can simply toss out the blade or have a pro sharpen it for you. But with a hand saw, it’s important to learn how to sharpen both types of blades in order to obtain the perfect edge, which can make all the difference in regards to cutting quality.


When you’re manually sharpening a saw by hand, you need to set it in a vise since the sharpening process tends to create a lot of vibration. This type of vibration will prevent the file from biting into the metal properly. Using a vise will reduce the vibration significantly by holding the blade securely in place.


Due to improper sharpening, damaged, or regular wear and tear the saw’s teeth will begin to have different heights. This type of height difference means that the taller teeth are the only teeth that are able to cut into the wood while the shorter teeth tend to get skipped. Obviously, this can make it difficult to saw. A saw jointer is often used to ensure that all of the teeth are the correct height. The jointer body will help to keep the mill file square to the plate of the saw.

In order to use this tool all you need to do is place the jointer against the saw, running it along the blade a single time. Once done, there should be a flat spot on the top of each tooth. You may need to run the jointer an additional time if not every tooth has a small flat spot on top. Be sure to check the blade closely, each time you make a pass.

Saw Set

A saw blade’s teeth have a set which is the distance that every tooth is bent away from the blade. This set is what creates a curve that’s wide enough to prevent the blade’s body from binding. In order to set the blade’s teeth correctly, begin as the base, bending every other tooth to the right. Next, you’ll bend the remaining teeth to the left.


Vintage files

Each type of saw will require a different type of file for sharpening. The kind of file you need should be determined by the points per inch of the saw blade. You’ll find that these files come in four basic to sizes: double extra slim, extra slim, slim, and regular. The file length is very important. The packaging for the file should indicate the points per inch it’s compatible with, so pay close attention to this before you buy.

A good file is also important. Avoid purchasing a lower-quality file since it can easily wear down. Once you’ve chosen the right file then you can begin sharpening. Start at the base of the blade pushing the file across the edge of the teeth. If you have a rip saw, you’ll use the file perpendicular to the blade, while with a crosscut saw, the teeth should be filed at an 80-degree angle to the blade.

Stone the Blade

The Last step of the sharpening process is to stone the blade. To do, you’ll place the saw flat on your workbench and ensure that the handle hangs over the edge. You can use a 600 grit Diamond stone or a fine India stone and apply light pressure as you move the stone up and down the teeth of the saw in order to remove the burrs that were created during the filing step. Next, you’ll flip over the saw and repeat the process on the opposite side. You only need to do a single pass for each side, which should be more than enough. However, if you found that the blade was over-set to start with then more strokes may be needed. However, you should not use more than three to four strokes per side.


Once you’re done sharpening your saw, make a few test cuts. If you find that a fine rip filed saw steers to one side when you’re cutting, then this is the result of a burr left on the tooth from filing. To fix this issue, use the stone and take an extra pass on that side. This works to even the cut in the kerf and remove the burr.

Related Questions

How Do You Maintain A Hand Saw?

Aside from keeping the blade sharp, you’ll need to store your saw correctly, in a sleeve or case to prevent moisture from staining the wood or damaging the blade. Rust can develop over time, in which case you’ll need to remove it using sandpaper and a sharp utility blade. With proper upkeep, your saw can last for several years, however, regular maintenance, after every major project, is a must.

Can Miter Saw Blades Be Sharpened?

Yes. The blade on a miter saw will become blunt and hard, the more you use it. Because of this, you’ll need to sharpen the blade to prevent the edges from becoming too rounded. A sharp blade will allow you to cut wood easily and quickly. Sharpening this type of blade should only take ten to fifteen minutes using the same tools and techniques I’ve included here.

Are Saw Blades Worth Sharpening?

Having a pro sharpen your saw’s blade is pretty affordable, but it’s just one more errand you have to run, which is why learning how to do it yourself can be more convenient. Keep in mind, some blades cannot be resharpened. This is because some blades are very cheap, so the sharpening process would damage the existing teeth. Because of this, it would make more sense to replace the blade

Final Thoughts

As you can see, sharpening your blades yourself can be a fast and simple process, once you get the hang of it.

Learning how to sharpen a saw blade will take a bit of practice in order for you to get it right, however, the process itself isn’t very time-consuming. Before you begin any type of major woodworking project make sure you always test your saw for sharpness before you get started. If you don’t file your saw correctly the first time don’t be discouraged.

Take your time and learn how to sharpen your saw the right way. You’ll be amazed by how much easier they are to work with and the type of results they offer. Taking the DIY approach can also save you the cost that comes with having your saw sharpened by a professional.