Handsaw Construction and Restoration

Matt Cianci



Working with"The Sawwright" aka Matt Cianci, in this five-day course, you will build, tune and sharpen two backsaws and understand how to restore vintage crosscut and rip saws. These are the most commonly used saws in a hand tool woodworking shop.

You start by making two backsaws - a dovetail saw and then either a 14" sash saw or a 12" carcase saw. The dovetail saw and the sash or carcase saw work well as a pair at the bench for precision cutting. We will use kits sourced from Bontz Saw Works. Both kits are customisable for length. Each student can make an 8 to 12 inch dovetail saw and a 12 inch carcase or 14 inch sash saw.

The cost of the kits, tote material, files and sawset included in the Materials Charge. 

Class will include a full day on filing, setting, and sharpening your new saws. Matt will share the finer details of saw tooth geometry and how to create proper rake, fleam, and set, and guide you through the detailed steps of super-tuning your new heirloom tools.

Full sized handsaws are incredibly effective when well sharpened. They are more versatile than powered saws and far more pleasant to use for stock preparation. Matt will show you how to restore vintage handsaws from the golden age of American hand tool manufacturing. We strongly encourage you to obtain rip and crosscut handsaws and bring them to the class. Use Matt's article on How To pick a Vintage Saw to help you find saws to bring to class.

Email us if you have questions about obtaining vintage saws.

Class Description

The first days of class will guide students through common saw forms, tote design and wood selection, shaping the brass back and spring steel saw plate, and assembling and tuning the parts. 

A full day will be focused on filing and sharpening your two new saws, in addition to covering basic filing techniques and saw tooth function for all woodworking applications. We can assemble saw vises to use in class.

The final day will focus on handsaw use, basic repair and maintenance of vintage handsaws, and construction of key handsaw aides like the bench hook.

Day 1: 

  • The design of backsaws, functional elements, and tote design 
  • Materials and wood species selection
  • Rough out and shape the tote for dovetail saw 
  • Shape saw back and plate, assemble

Day 2: 

  • Refine tote and assembly
  • Saw #2 Tote: rough out and shape

Day 3: 

  • Shape saw back and plate, assemble
  • Refine tote and assemble

Day 4: 

  • Saw Sharpening

Day 5: 

  • Saw Maintenance, cleaning, restoration
  • Selecting and using vintage saws
  • Use of bench hook and appliances
  • Practice sawing techniques


We suggest that you bring the following

  • A cheap 4-in-1 rasp, a rat tail file and a smooth or bastard-cut 8" half-round file Most hardware stores, such as Ace Hardware, will have these files at a good price.  
  • More expensive but significantly better are Auriou hand-cut rasps which provide a smoother finish at the rasping stage. If purchasing the French rasps, we recommend:  10" Cabinet Grain 9 and 9" Cabinet Grain 14. You can also obtain these rasps from Lee Valley or Lie-Nielsen.

    We'll have a supply of rasps and files on hand for the shaping of the handles if you choose not to purchase the rasp and file.

  • For sharpening, especially with smaller teeth, we recommend a pair of inexpensive reading glasses available at most drug stores. We suggest a pair with 3 diopter strength.

  • We strongly recommend that you bring a saw vise to class. There are good instructions here on building a saw vise from scraps in the shop. As an alternative you could bring a vintage saw vise in good working order or a new saw vise from Tools for Working Wood


This class could be intimidating if it is your first time working with hand tools. However if you have self studied and completed many of the projects in Jim Tolpin's "The New Traditional Woodworker" or have taken hand tool classes elsewhere or have other equivalent experience then this will be a great class for you.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.

Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.

Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10

Cost: $ 750

Materials Charge: $ 215

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.