Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Raker Tooth, A Product of the Industrial Revolution, by Bernard Ten Bears

Today in the News: We reached about 170 hits today.  Not bad.  We're approaching the 7,000 overall point.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for reading this blog.  Without the encouragement of the readers and guest writers, it certainly would've been a bust or me babbling on about nothing ( I still kinda do that).  You can email me at .
Link of the Day:
The Raker Tooth, A Product of the Industrial Revolution

Everyone thinks that the industrial revolution was about the introduction of machines and the perfecting of assembly lines. This is one truth. It certainly was about trying to manufacture and make money on a large scale, after all, this is America. I have some personal knowledge about a barely talked about subject. Everyone has a private "little" knowledge, that's why its good to get together and learn from one another.

I don't know where the concept of a cross cut saw originated but I do know in America the axe was favored for the first three quarters of the 19th century. Here in New England the first crosscut saws were for two men and the teeth were ground out of a steel blank and then filed to sharpen. The teeth were left in tandem and not offset at a cutting angle, thus had a very slim kerf.

As things progressed, the teeth were set at angles with a saw set thus widening the kerf and increasing the cutting power. Pockets for the handles were pinned or welded in a forge to the saw itself and when you broke a handle, you lathe turned a new handle or whittled one out that would fit. As time went on crosscut saw handles were mass produced and could be bought by the box full. Holes were drilled in the saw and it could be a one man saw, which has a handle on one end that looks like a huge handsaw handle. A hole was bored in the one man saw for a round handle for another man, if you happened to want to set your saw up to get some help. A two man crosscut eventually had round removable (thus easily replaceable) handle on each end that was attached through a holes in each end of the saw. 

As with all things American, cutters became interested in speeding up the process. They wanted to be able to get down through a log with the saw in a much faster fashion. Necessity, always being the mother of invention, made some bright person-chime in here if you know who took out the first patent-came up with he idea of the raker tooth. If the saw had a raker, between two cutters in a row, left straight and not at an angle, it would clear the sawdust out of the kerf and allow the saw to move back and forth much faster, less drag, more fiber being bit by the tooth...what an idea. My best guess is that local blacksmiths who were building the saws designed and implemented it by passing the idea from one locality to another. A good idea never stays a secret very long. Then as saws were produced more in large factories, the raker tooth became common as well as popular.

There are specialty handsaws of all kinds and usually they don't have rakers, but if you see a bowsaw, a crosscut, or any kind of folding saw, it has a few little teeth that were only an idea once. Someone put their skills into action with that idea, and cutting trees was never the same thereafter. Even a chainsaw chain has a very pronounced raker tooth. I do surely wish I had an idea that would help people and last so very long.

Bernard Ten Bears
Thank you, Bernard Ten Bears.  I acquired a crosscut saw awhile ago from, where else.....Harbor Freight.  I sawed wood with it for awhile, but it got dull quickly.  When I asked Uncle Bern about sharpening it, he replied, you gotta get an old guy -a real old guy, to show you how to sharpen it.  The problem with me is that I need to see something to learn it.  I learn very little action from reading.  These are the skills we must work to keep alive!
Pax Domini Sit Semper Vobiscum,
Mike, Oscar, Hotel....Out.


  1. Good post. As a kid it was my job to cut down the trees and cut them to length so I could drag the logs home. My Father gave me my own felling axe for this job. Once home he & I would cut the logs into size for the fireplace using the crosscut saw. I never saw a chainsaw until I was about 20 years of age, and I left home to settle in Australia.
    I still have a crosscut saw hanging in my woodshed though, you never know when it might be needed again!

  2. I learned to sharpen crosscuts when I worked as a wilderness ranger in the Boundary Waters. One of the neatest skills I picked up. I am always on the lookout for the tools required when I go to auctions and garage sales. Thanks for the great post!