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Jonathan's "Saw Chops"

The following dialogue is taken from portions of  email conversations I had with fellow woodworker Jonathan Skipsey, whom I've corresponded with regularly for quite a while now.  These particular quotes are in relation to a discussion we carried on concerning saw vises - Jonathan had seen field built vises and was considering making one for himself.  I thought it might be of help to others, so asked if I could add it here.

Also, these plans are along the same lines as some saw grip plans offered up on Alice Frampton's "Cornish Workshop" web site, specifically located here: A Saw Grip for Sharpening - please review those plans as well.

Wondered what you might make of this design (see attachment) for saw chops. It is so simple and effective. Just tap the "jaws" home and that's it! I saw a similar one built by an old joiner, and have modified it a bit so as to be collapsible. Later this week I'll send you a photo. Good thing with this is being able to work from either side (if the legs were set into the ground) although I am informed that the idea originally was to rest your foot on the bottom rail to steady it against any suitable heavy object such as the side of a truck or stack of lumber etc. 
The trickiest part is getting the tapers to fit snug in the uprights and also that the 2 jaws meet tightly all the way along. I am about to do a little patient fettling and fitting with my Stanley block plane (so useful!). Thought I'd clamp a "Flat & dirty" blade, move it a bit so as to mark the high spots, and just fettle and fit, clamp, re-mark, fettle etc. I'll try the jaws without any "padding" to begin with-and I'll see how it goes. It could be even simpler-just use 2 tapered boards (riven and planed) with a bit of relief at the bottom so as to get all the pressure onto the tooth edge. 

The vice I mentioned several weeks back was one (loosely) based on one shown in George Ellis's "Modern Practical Joinery" (see attachment). I find it too much of a hassle having to move the saw back & forth, as I only built it about 13" long. But its still good for tenon/back saws.

Until the next time,


Nice simple design isn't it; about as simple as you could get! The design you referred to works on a lever principle. This one uses 2 wedged jaws. I reckon you could knock one up in less than an hour once you knew the pattern. No messing about with hinges/slots etc. Not much that could break or fail. I used all softwood carcassing, to get the feel of the pattern. If I change dimensions etc well it was only about $8 cost. When I get the form, I'll use beech frame and oak jaws.  I don't see any problem with doing backsaws-only about 3/8" of the cambered jaw is touching the blade; and the
jaws are only about 1 1/2" deep in total. The brass back would be hanging in the gap. 
You'd be ok as long as the top rail wasn't too high up to snag the wood handle. A long tenon saw could be put in the vice slightly off centre.  I'll get a back saw and put it in the vice when I do a photo to show what I  mean. PS it fettled up ok and I just polish cut my good crosscut in the new chops 'cause I'm doing some roofing on Monday and I need that saw A1 butter cutting mode!
regards, Jonathan


Hello again

Here's the photos as promised. More later. Been using it again today. I should have put the uprights much further apart (almost the full width of the jaws, and have the jaws slightly convex so they grip first in the centre of the blade). Its solid now, but with necessary adjustments will be bomb proof. Also, I'll need to put a couple of bolts and washers through below the ripped vertical groove (to prevent splitting) With a bit of fettling, adjustment and modification I think I'll end up with a saw vice that's just right for my purposes.



Good morning, and thanks for your reply!
Somehow I lost your e-mail address and could not find it on your site.

I thought you'd be interested to see this diagram (saw chop.jpg). I came across it unexpectedly in a book "The Arnold manual of first & second fixing carpentry" by Les Goring. (incidentally he has the best section on saw sharpening I've seen in any "text" book-even than George Ellis's much older book) You can tell he likes to sharpen and doesn't see it as a chore. His layout is pretty much the same as the one from my training college. So, as in most aspects of wood work, there's nothing new under the sun!! Since I made my version, I added 2 coach bolts, pretty much as in Les Goring's diagram, to prevent the "vees" from splitting. As I expected, the 2 jaws will need to be made of oak or beech for durability, and they need to be cambered slightly to get clamping pressure in the centre first. The uprights on mine need to be much further apart-with almost no jaws sticking out at either end. It does work well now (after maybe 40 or 50 sharpenings); but I can see it will be better still with a few modifications.



I've taken the various diagrams Jonathan sent, and drew up this set of plans for the saw chops:

It's a classic design, easily made.  I would use hardwood for the jaws, and probably even look for a little curved ones, to put the center of the curve into the middle of the jaw to keep the length of it tight against the saw blade.

Thanks goes to Jonathon for providing the details!