Friday, April 15, 2011

Blog Re-run: The Raker Tooth, A Product of the Industrial Revolution, by Bernard Ten Bears

Blog Re-run:  I've noticed that this particular article has been getting a lot of hits lately, so I decided to repost.  Very good content.

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. I've filed a crosscut (or two), but I'm one of the few folks around here who was taught such things. Now it's even getting harder to find people who file their own chainsaws. THAT is rediculous!

  2. The raker is the most important tooth and the most missunderstood,when I lerned they do more than just pull sawdust out of the kurf it was life changeing!No moor dust now inch to three inch shaveings.A crosscut is a bunch of skinny dado planes in a row,the cooper,s croes uses the same princeaple.Someboddy was useing there brain. Then some one figuered out to swage them like a cabinet scraper, trade barrowing from trade.They are gaged by the thousandth .008 for hard wood .012 for soft.Warren Miller shows how on you tube for you who need to se to learn.The crosscut is 4-6 times moor efcint then a chane saw I just can,t beat that stuped motor.
    jim mcgee