The Tragedy of Dull Saws

Goldring Pipe Book 2013This afternoon, I was reading William Goldring’s The Pipe Book: A History and How to (1973), which briefly recounts the history of each historical type of pipe and explains how to make a similar one using a few, simple tools.

In the section on making a briar pipe, the author suggests using a saw to remove the initial waste from the briar block.  He remarks:

Briar is a very hard wood, as you have undoubtedly discovered, and this precludes the use of an ordinary wood saw.  Instead, a hacksaw must be used to make these and all subsequent cuts.

If by “ordinary wood saw,” he means a dull one, he is undoubtedly right.  However, briar is no harder than some of our native hardwoods, and is often softer than hard maple or hickory.  It seems Goldring had no idea that hand saws could be–or should be–sharpened, so he found the disposable blades of the hack saw more effective on the briar.

A sharp hand saw cuts briar very easily, in fact.  It’s a pity that misinformation like this got into print, but it’s doubly a pity that Goldring evidently never had the pleasure of using a sharpened hand saw.  I think he would have enjoyed it.

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3 Responses to The Tragedy of Dull Saws

  1. This is very interesting. I just got into pipe smoking and was looking into how to make pipes. It seems too that many current pipe makers don’t even use saws. I have seen several that use a lathe followed by a sanding or grinding wheel to make the shapes. I am sure some use Foredom power carvers too.
    On the subject of using a hack saw to cut wood. I find this kind of funny too. Compared to my dovetail saw, a new hacksaw blade is slow and dull. Wonder how bad his saws looked?

  2. Dave says:

    I use my Grandfather’s and father’s pipe. I to was interested in the construction of a pipe.
    Interesting information. Thank you for the blog.

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