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Of canted blades, nibs, skewed backs, and sawmaking allegory

Comments

Comment: 

 

If we look at the work that has been turned out with a canted or parallel blade, it seems that there has been excellent results produced by both. Craftsmen have been using parallel blades with great success, as much or more so than canted.
 
Today's handcrafted furniture is some of the best quality available, and modern craftsmen produce some of the best work ever. These results speak for themselves.
 
Craftsmen use the best tools they have available, and this was no different 200 years ago, than it is today. Yes, steel or brass was used for the back 200 years ago and still to this day, but the Egyptians made saws out of bronze, so I have read (reference: Grimshaw on Saws). I have done some experimenting and bronze is without a doubt a higher quality alloy than brass. There are cases of brass and bronze pulled up from the ocean floor and the brass was like a sponge while the bronze was like the day it went down. Bronze is clearly more durable and a better material in that application. Ok, we don't store our handsaws in the bottom of the ocean, but still, bronze is a much better alloy, aside from cost and being more difficult to work, and climate could effect brass over time and bronze could endure better, IMO. However, from the aesthetics, bronze also is more pleasing to my eye, and I love the pink hue it throws off as light reflects from it.
 
Another example is the spring steel we have today, it is much higher quality than what was available 100-200 years ago. There are certain steels that one could claim as being superior possibly, but the fact is that the manufacturing of spring steel is more efficient and produces much more consistent results than it previously did. This is no reason to continue manufacturing spring steel just as it was done in the 19th century.
 
The industrial revolution did nothing for craftsmanship, it was all about manufacturing. The irony of Disston being eclipsed by the very industrial revolution which he piggy backed on is most fascinating. The fact is that the modern toolmakers can handcraft a better tool than Disston could manufacture, today. This should be no surprise, since Disston was looking for ways to manufacture handsaws at less cost, less work by hand, to produce what was a more consistent result.
 
On the canting specific, it seems to make sense that the lower trailing edge gives more bite while finishing the cut, and this is also true of the Japanese saws, which have a reverse cant to them, as they are pulled. But pull saws use a parallel blade on some mass produced modern saws. I know that speaking for myself, I don't have the skill to know I keep the blade exactly level when cutting, and I believe I can accentuate the same effect as the cant, with the blade as it is pushed through the cut. In that regard maybe canting does have an effect, but I can accentuate the same results with a parallel blade myself. While one was to say that the cant keeps them honest on their cut (leading edge of their dovetails), I think one can also make a point that the advantage is with the trailing edge in providing the most cut for the effort. But in reality, I tend to watch the teeth where they are cutting, not the back of the saw, so I'm not sure canting has too much effect for myself.
 
There are many factors in how a handsaw cuts, the plate thickness, the set, the rake, and even the size of the teeth. For my purpose, a canted blade has little, if any impact on my results. They look kinda cool though, like raising the rear of your car, a canted saw looks more aggressive to my eye, but at the same time it looks odd to me, like a chopped top Ford coupe.
 
Regards,
Alan
 
PS - good post Leif!

Comment: 

Thanks for commenting, Alan!

It's interesting you should phrase it that way - that "the proof in the results"... That could be construed as a derivative of that 20th century mantra of design "Form Follows Function". I would whole-heartedly agree that the quality of the materials available today are superior, and to your assessment of the industrial revolution (with one minor caveat - that what it did for craftsmanship was to afford better quality tools for the craftsman - which in itself led to the downfall of the master/apprentice relationship, but that's another post entirely).

My point in writing this was more to point out the role aesthetics played in the design of the saw, and the cant. Let's take the classical orders and the design of the columns again as an example. You might notice that the columns are tapered from the bottom to the top - there's no real structural need for this taper, it's almost entirely for our own sense of proportion. If the columns did not taper, they would look top-heavy to us, and indeed many times in modernist architecture where columns are used you see that effect (come contrasting examples would be the Lincoln Center vs. the classic design of the Parthenon).  To me, the parallel blade looks heavy at it's end - though in reality it isn't enough to worry about, it's my sense of proportion - the same that drives the look of the chop-top coupe - that says so. 

That same sense of proportion still drives furniture design today.  It's why we so often taper the legs of tables.  But in the past couple hundred years, more "efficient" designs have been eating away at that sense of proportion - yet you can't drive them out completely.  What's come before will always have some sort of an effect...  Do you know why there is fluting on classical columns, and even see on so many today?  They are there because of what the original columns the Greeks patterned the column design after - and they were so used to that aesthetic that anything without something reminiscent of it looked "off" to them.  You see - columns were previously made up from bundled reeds...

Leif

Comment: 

 

Leif,
 
Very nice write up on saws, however your cavalier treatment of nibs leaves something to be desired.
 
Stephen

Comment: 

 

I apologize for giving the subject of nibs such short thrift...  I had meant to go into further discourse on the subject but thought I was getting too verbose as it was - and I thought I had enough there for my point to be made about aesthetics, design, and vestiges of lost traits.  I do know you believe otherwise about nibs - my personal thoughts are that they remain only for decoration...  Though I suppose there may have been another original purpose and the nib is simply a vestige of it - myself I don't see them as useful as they are.
 
Not that because something is decorative it can't have a use - for example, wheat carvings on the handles.  While on the surface it may seem they are purely decorative, they do serve a purpose in aiding one's grip on the handle of the saw.  Whether or not it is beneficial is debatable, but I can easily see it as a reason for their existence.
 
Leif

Comment: 

 

Leif,
 
I have used saws with NIBS and found the NIB very useful in removing the resultant 
splinters after a cut.
This may explain why on some saws the NIB has worn off. It may also explain why the NIB is positioned on the saw so that it can be used to remove the splinters either from a straight cut or an angled cut. 
Before you consider a reply, please cut a piece of wood with a NIB saw and then turn the saw upside down down and scrape the cut with the NIB. You will be amazed how well it removes the splinters.
 
Have a nice day.
 
Sam 

Comment: 

 

Hi, John - thanks for commenting. 
 
I'm afraid I'm still not convinced...  Just because you can use it for that, doesn't mean it's why it's there - I can glue sandpaper to the bottom of my jointer, and use it to sand a table top...  but it only hints at the intended use of the thing.  I still think the nib it's purely decorative.
 
Leif

Comment: 

 

I really enjoy reading nib debates, the nib has been responsible for a lot of excellent reading for me.  I had a thought recently, is it possible that the nib served some benefit in the manufacturing process.  Like some sort of an indexing point or other reference point, that was then left as decoration.  Either way, still good reading, and thought provoking.
 
Matt

Comment: 

 

Hi Matt,
 
In order to use the nib as an indexing point, they would all have to be the same and located the same distance from the end of the blade. In my experience reconditioning countless old saws, I find no two alike. The nibs were obviously filed in by hand, not stamped or cut with a die. 
 
Nibs are only found on certain saws, like the Disston No.12 for example. I first thought they only put them on their highest priced saws, but no, the Disston No.7 has a nib and was not a high priced saw. Nibs are only on straight back saws, never on a skewback such as the Disston D8. One must wonder why. 
 
When using a little logic and common sense, one must conclude that the nib serves no intentional useful purpose. It is there to merely give one a certain sense of quality similar to some of the better wheat carving we see on the higher priced saws. Problem with this analogy is, saw makers started wheat carving even the cheapest saws in an attempt to make a buyer think they were getting something better than it was. "Hey, look Bubba, it's wheat carved, must be a really good saw."
 
Thinking that the nib was intended for starting the cut is totally illogical. If that was the case, why not make it a small tooth that wouldn't easily break off? 
 
If a nib is needed by a few users of handsaws to know how far back to pull the saw, perhaps those people shouldn't be using a handsaw, and what would they do if they had to use a saw that doesn't have a nib?  "Oh my gawd, Bubba, I can't use this saw, don't have no nib ownit".
 
Breaking up the line of the back of the saw?  Why?
 
Matt, I'm with you though, it is interesting to read all the speculation that goes on about the old nib.  Funny thing...even some of the Wenzloff saws have a nib.
 
Marv     

Comment: 

 

Hi Marv,
 
One thing is for sure,  We know why the Wenzloff saws have nibs, because the early vintage saws did. :)
 
I was just on the W&S web site a few days ago for about the 100th visit.  WOW, what an example of truly FINE tools.
 
Matt

Comment: 

 

Yes, I agree, and this can be related to styles of Greene & Greene also, IMO. Some of the cloud lifts and accentuated joinery were in fact for aesthetics. I built a bench last year and added a couple touches to it that were purely for aesthetics, and I asked myself if I should be doing that to my workbench. I decided for myself, yes, to feel good about my work, I don't mine spending time for that.
 
As an example on handsaws (not to get sidetracked;-) Simon Barley visited Cali a year or two ago, and we talked about some aesthetics, and how they diminished through the years. And also a couple that improved over time as well...
 
One example is the large bevel that appears on the bottom of the back, prior to approx. 1850, where most of the makers used a larger, more defined bevel. I think it's interesting to note the 1850 time frame, this marks the beginning of the 2nd phase of the industrial revolution. Disston was already getting going, and I suspect more and more pressure was being placed on the English saw makers, who still dominated. It seems the makers started to put a smaller bevel, which was less labor intensive to  allow higher turnout. Somewhere between 1850-1860 is what Simon had found through his research in when that seems to have happened.
 
Another interesting area which Simon did research was in the fonts. The fonts were much different in the early 1800s than by 1850, and some saws can be dated by those fonts. This is an example of how aesthetics improved over the years, per my comment above.
 
Craftsmanship seems to have dropped in the handle, for instance, where the cheek changed and a more defined bevel existed on many saws. London Pattern style handle was popular, and certainly one of my favorites. Like everything you paid for craftsmanship, as one did for the quality, since several makers had more than one line of saws. Premium saws could demand more.
 
This is directly related to my comments about Disston sacrificing craftsmanship in order to manufacture more consistent saws, but the Brits were doing the same in trying to compete. Let us not forget that the production of steel seems to be driving much of this. America is just gearing up, and Disston was on the crest of a big outside set, and caught the wave at the perfect time. The Brits were doing the same, and/or trying to compete also...but as America is kicking into gear, Disston is driving the tool industry as saws are in demand to build our country. By the late 1800s when electricity is discovered and implemented, some of the first lighted hotels started to appear in the Adirondacks around 1890, I believe (approx.). In 1908 Louis Allis introduces the electric motor, and America runs away with it all, and Disston is in his prime...and this is where power tools eclipse him...but you have to give the man credit for amassing such a fortune off hand saws...most fascinating...
 
There is more work to creating a canted blade, not much, but there is some with either the back and/or leading edge of the blade at the toe. The point is that if it is desirable for folks, and it does take any more work, they should be willing to pay a premium for that feature, even if marginal. Fair is fair.
 
I like to view this in the way that plane makers have been able to do in recent years where we see incredibly nice infills being made, a new generation of tools.
 
On handsaws I do believe that craftsmen will pay a premium for added aesthetics like inlays in the handle, possibly edging like the rosette and binding of a guitar. Or stones inlaid in the wood and/or metal, like abalone or mother of pearl in the saw nuts, filing on the back, or etching, etc...this is all craftsmanship that takes time. I view the bronze in the same context, as I mentioned in my previous reply. It is a premium metal, and it cost about 2x the cost of brass, at the current prices.
 
Boy, I sure went off on aesthetics...gave you a eye full there, didn't I? Instead of eye candy, I'm gonna call this eye graffiti...:-) Some things are hard to explain in 10 words or less...
 
Regards,
Alan
 
PS - If you haven't read Simon Barley's Thesis on Handsaws, it is excellent. If your interested and don't have contact, let me know and I'll see if it's ok for me to pass it on to you.

Comment: 

 

Leif,
 
Could the cant be attributed at all to sharpening?  Teeth at the heel get less filing, and over time, the cant begins to form?  I heard a guy demoing hand woodworking techniques at a show explain it this way...   
 
Thanks,
Jason

Comment: 

 

That's a good point...
 
Possible?  Yes - but I personally don't think that's the case...  I've heard the same thing, but with a slightly different explanation - that the handle doesn't fit under the vise so the teeth at the heel wouldn't be sharpened for that reason - like you see sometimes with severely worn out full size handsaws.  I can see that in some cases, but just don't think that it's really a good explanation - as then you would see a hump or uneven teeth at the spot where they quit sharpening...
 
Leif

Comment: 

 

Leif,
 
You commented:
"Chris' explanation is that he saws using the back of the saw as a gage to keep it perpendicular to the board he is sawing - and that as a result when he gets to the bottom of his cut on the front, because of the cant he hasn't sawn past the line on the far side."
 
I was playing around with a Japanese Dozuki last night, and one thing that dawned on me was that the low side of the cant is on the backside of the board when one is cutting, so Chris' comments seem plausible as a modern reason, but there must be another reason for the blade to be low on the trailing edge for the Japanese style saws, which have developed over many years. The "more bite" theory could make sense, who knows...when I'm really sawing hard, I do notice myself applying more pressure to the cut as I am following through with the trailing edge. I think canting could make sense in that regard.
 
I have various saws that are canted from sharpening as mentioned, but I don't believe that is directly related to why toolmakers would have done it intentionally, to begin with. That is just an artifact of sharpening, IMO. Not that my opinion matters. *lol*
 
Regards,
Alan

Comment: 

Thanks again for the comments, Alan! 

Japanese saws are a completely different animal, I think...  More comparable to a gent's saw than the ones we are talking about - but as they are used in pulling, and are substantially thinner - the cant does makes sense to me on them.  But that begs the question - was there an intentional cant on a western style gent's saw ever?

As to your opinion - it needs only matter to yourself.  Look at me - my opinion means diddly, but I put up a website just so everyone can read it anyway, no matter how inconsequential it might be!  Laughing

Comment: 

 

I guess the whole discussion begs the question did anyone make a straight bladed back saw pre 1820 or so? I note that Thomas Seaton's back saws are canted, maybe as I think you alluded to somewhere above, perhaps the mass produced versions were easier to make with the modern processes of the time. I can just see some anal retentive accountant saying if we do them straight we might save some steel, and get more blades per sheet.
 
Come to that when they started making them straight was the width the same as the wider or narrow end of the saw? Perhaps it was a matter of we have always done it that way so that is why they did it, the cant that is.
 
Regarding capitals, I like the looks of Ionic as it is more pleasing than the simple Doric, and not as fancy as Corinthian, it is just right.
 
I like the explanation for the saw nib that Roy Underhill offered on one of his shows, Those who know cannot answer, and those who answer cannot know.
 
Think I covered all the major points.
 
For the record my back saws are R H. Smith, about a hundred or so years old and not canted.

Comment: 

James Mittlefehldt

Comment: 

Just to throw it out there for those that may be interested - as a polar opposite of modernism and to display the utter height of ornamentation in design prior to the industrial age, one can look at the (thankfully brief) Rococo period:

 A Rococo Table

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rococo

Leif

Comment: 

 

Leif,
 
I certainly agree with you that Japanese saws are a different beast all together, but it is interesting to note that most all of them have canted blades, and Japanese style saws have been around for years like that. I hadn't thought about the gent saw too much, but I have not seen any with canted blades, that I can detect from the factory anyway. OTOH, I don't think I have any gents saws that old. Most of my gent saws are Disston 68s, I like those.
 
I had started to reply a day or so ago but started looking at some of my saws and had a brain lapse, and lost it. :)
 
I have a few saws that could be canted, but I'm not clear. One is an old Brittain that Simon Barley brought me when he visited. Interesting saw, 14" blade, 2 1/4" at the toe depth, and 2 3/8 at the heal depth. It has one massive brass back on it. It has an older, smaller, London pattern handle on it. Very nice, early to mid 1800s. Seems he said this font dated it mid 1800s, and it has a small bevel on the bottom of the back which matches up with that timeline. It is not clear to me if you dropped this that it would seat the blade any deeper, it seems to be hammered on the blade, and it's a thick back. This is not like a typical folded back. It's about .028" thick plate. Another one I have is old, and has a narrow back on it, but the blade is fubar at the toe. This has old small split-nuts that are filed smooth, as I said the back is only 5/8" wide. 1 5/8" at the toe depth, 1 7/8" at the heel depth. Again, who knows if it was like this knew or not, I don't know how to tell and this is not that old of a saw, I don't think...possibly early to mid 1800s.
 
The oldest saws I have are about 1800-1820, and I think most folks refer to pre-1800s for canted blades. I haven't seen enough of those in person, myself. Of course the Seaton Chest saws are just a bit older, which James mentions. 
 
I like the Rococo stuff. It reminds me of much of the design and sculpture around Italy, most of which dates older...One thing in Italy is worth going to see, the Stradivarius museum in Cremona. Both me and my wife were blown away, the old hand made tools he used, and amazing how much stuff they amassed that he crafted or used to craft with, tons of instruments as well.
 
Regards,
Alan
 
PS - I always liked your diddly opinions Leif! Thanks for sharing them! :-)

Comment: 

 

Leif,
 
Found some info digging through some of my handsaw material. In an article that Phil Baker wrote for the The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc. (circa March 2006), titled "The Nineteenth-Century American Backsaw", there is a section labeled "Tapered and Parallel".
 
Phil bases this review on the 299 backsaws in his collection (at the time), 158 had parallel and 141 had tapered blades. Of the tapered blades, the amount of taper varied from 1/4" to 3/4", with 4 having 1" taper. Several of his saws having less than 1/4" taper were considered parallel. The earlier saws seem to have more taper than the more recent examples.
 
He does state, "All, as far as I know, eighteenth, nineteeth, and twentieth century backsaws with open handles had their handle grips' center line 35 degrees off a plumb line from the saws back. The angle on a closed handled saw was 25 degree plus or minus. Henry Disston, around 1846, began to make closed handled saws twelve inches and under with the 35 degree handle. It took approximately six years for the other makers to follow his lead.".
 
He also points out that he started to work with backsaws starting in 1948, and that a parallel blade was the tool to use in a miter box. Here's an interesting comment he makes, "Tapering the blade will produce somewhat the same effect as the 35 percent handle angle. Therefore, I would say that closed handled saws with a tapered blade were made that way for shop work."
 
He wraps up the section with:
 
"I have drawn this conclusion. Backsaws were surely made with parallel and tapered blades. What hasn't been decided is why there is a difference in the amount of taper. I find some connection between blade length and taper, but feel is not conclusive."
 
Speaking for myself, I think Phil makes a valid point in the length of the blade vs. the hang of the handle, and he does point out that 1/4" of taper on a 12" saw has little effect.
 
I wanted to add this to this topic, so that it is in the same place with this other comments here.
 
Regards,
Alan

Comment: 

 

In Smith's Key to Sheffield Manufactories in 1816 he shows 4 backed saws all of which have canted blades, so it was a manufacturing technique rather than a result of not removing the handle when sharpening.
 
Stephen

Comment: 

 

Hi Leif, 
Interesting blog, I might disagree with some of your conclusions, but generally agree with the gist of what you are saying. I have a write-up here:- http://www.backsaw.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=53&I...
 
I will add a link to this blog.  
 
As to why early saws were canted, I think it is possibly because the backsaw evolved from the handsaw, and the blades were already tapered (in width) still are (200 years later) for that matter. The change to parallel blades seems to have been sometime before 1850 so far as I can tell. 
 
I would be interested to hear more on your thoughts regarding nibs (although a serious discussion on nibs is almost an impossible task) 
 
Regards
Ray

Comment: 

If nothing else, the subject surely inspires prolific prose!

Alan, thanks for including the Phil Baker quotes.  Those are some pretty severe cants on the older saws, for sure... And thanks for commenting too, Ray!

I stand by my opinion that the cant, nib and skewed backs are all just aesthetics, and serve no functional purpose.  Mind you, though - it is just an opinion.

It's great there are those passionate enough about these old handsaws to debate their finer points with such detail and abandon - it's a credit to galoots everywhere.

On nibs - to be sure, there are those that are very, very passionate that these little bumps somehow hold the key to all or most the mysteries of the ancient past, that somehow they are tied to the Masons, the Knights of Templar, and are somehow the last defense against the gathering dark.  I'm not sold... I really think the things just break up the length of the back, giving the saw a more proportionate composition.

Handsaws - the full size variety - are tapered for a good reason.  A square blade be a waste of material, and be a nuisance to use.  But look at the modern saw (I've blurred the make intentionally):

Modern Handsaw

 

Isn't that a beauty. 

Now look at these, the newest in the middle, is from around 1950, the top is a Disston from before WWII sometimes, and the bottom is a Woodrough and McParlin from around the turn of the century:

Older saws

 

You can literally see the quality of the aesthetic (and of the saw itself) withering away, and the functionality along with it.  just what has this to do with nibs?  Nothing.  And everything.  The nibs were one more thing that decorated the saw and set it apart.  Look at the care given to the shaping of the handle in the Woodrough saw - the lamb's tongue (did that have a purpose once? Maybe to tie the saw to a rack?), the little divot in the top of the handle (something else to tie the saw to a rack with?), the rounding of the grip part of the handle, the smooth curve of the horns.  So - why is it hard to believe that a nib is just another aspect of that?

Now look at the modern saw - it's disposable - forcibly so.  It's not even meant to ever be sharpened, the teeth are induction-hardened.  The handle doesn't even look remotely comfortable.  They don't even bother to use chrome nuts anymore... It's the tool reduced to a point nearly beyond usefulness...  Like those wrenches you can buy with a lifetime warranty, if it strips out nearly every time you use it, sure - you can have it replaced for free...  But is it worth it?

 On the angle of the handle - there's something to that.  But it's very subjective - the rule of thumb I know of is that the finger should point to or just forward the middle of the blade for the right.  But it's just a rule of thumb - otherwise, there would be no such things as a gent's saw.   Or Disston's "Improved Combination Saws" for that matter...

On a backsaw, the purpose of the back is to stiffen a thin blade so it can cut straighter and deeper.  It's relative relationship to the cutting edge of the saw is immaterial and unimportant functionally in any other use than as a miter saw.  Even then, if it's deep enough and doesn't use the back for support, is also immaterial.

Now realize - this is all just my opinion, and I've been wrong many times.  I also have to admit one guilty pleasure - I enjoy the banter the subject inevitably brings forth...

Please feel free to post more debate and information, I enjoy it!

Comment: 

 

While reading the last few posts to this entry something occurred to me, and I went out to my shop to test my theory. It is not definitive, in fact highly speculative. 
 
I have this really neat saw with split nuts, filed rip,8 or 9 teeth per inch, and an 18 inch blade, with a nib. It occurred to me that perhaps the nib was to aid the sawyer, in that when the blade is near the high point in the cut, where the nib breaks the straight back of the saw, it shows the saw is nearly out of the kerf and you should start the downward stroke when the nib is above the board. Try it sawing slow and it almost, note I said almost, makes sense.
 
Come to that I have a question for the professor emeritus of saws, what would be the purpose of the above saw, short blade, filed rip, and with 8 or 9 ppi. Would it have been designed for resawing?
 
James

Comment: 

 

Professor Emeritus?  Ah, you assume too much.  Hardly...  That term might fit Erv Schaffer or Don McConnell, or perhaps even some of the distinguished gentlemen commenting above - but certainly not myself...  I'm just rather opinionated and have my own web site...   ;-)
 
Your saw, while not a common find, was most certainly available as shown by the Disstonian Institute's pages.  One thing to check on your saw is the number of split nuts - if there  are four or more, then it was a saw that has been cut down - most (probably not all) saws that length will only have 2 or 3 nuts.
 
It would not be a good saw for re-sawing due to it's length, but for ripping something like - I dunno, say drawer sides, it would be grand to have at the bench...
 
Using the nib as a visual clue on the return is a good use of it, for sure.  Whether or not that can be construed as it's original purpose, I don't know...  It seems that it would be happening rather fast at full-speed sawing.  It's a great point to ponder, though...
 
 
 
Leif

Comment: 

 

It has three screws in the handle, and it just barely accommodates three fingers on the inside. I have no doubt it is as made not cut down, ( my hands are a bit above average size but not huge)No medallion no etching that I can discern, and as I said split nuts.
 
It is a bit of a mystery, as it has fairly fine teeth, and is so small, cute little bugger though.
 
James 

Comment: 

 

I love those little panel saws, and if it's original and old enough to have split nuts, it must be an especially nice find...  At least, it sounds like a nice saw to me.  It might be that it was originally a crosscut saw and was re-filed rip - there are people out there that believe all saws should be rip, including a couple famous ones...  One in particular come to mind, but the name escapes me at the moment.  Ian Kirby maybe?
 
Leif

Comment: 

 

Not that I am gloating or anything but I also have a 20 inch Shurley and Dietrich as well also fine toothed and filed rip, would be around a century old give or take a decade. 
 
JAmes 

Comment: 

 

I didn't realize they were canted on purpose, I thought they were canted as a result of filing erosion, though that would tend to curve the edge.  It's interesting that while they eliminated cant in backed saws, they have not done so im panel saws, for the most part.
 
ThomD

Comment: 

 

On my old Diston hand (panel?) saw, the nib is located where the thickness of the saw blade, toward the toe, becomes noticeably thinner.  Not a butcher of wood much smaller than a 2x4, still I wonder whether the nib indicates the point at which one would gently cut on a pull (or push) to more accurately (with a narrower kerf) line up a cut on the pencil line or marking gauge line, and also be able to use the toe along the way for checking or correcting the course of the cut.
 
Ron22003

Comment: 

According to various references nibs were places on saws for several hundred years, up until the early part of the 20 the century. From the earliest times a saw was used it was noticed that there was splinters at the bottom of a cut. The nib was used to scrape off these splinters.

 
If you have an old saw with a nib, cut a piece of wood and use the nib to to scrape the splinters off. It is amazing how well the nib cleans the cut.


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