The Nib and the Blade

the Nib the Nib

Ponder the nib as you hold the wood in the bench hook and saw across the grain.

Good handsaws are taper ground: that is, the metal is thinner on the back than it is on the tooth side to permit an easier passage through the kerf. They may also be ground thinner near the toe end of the back than at the handle end. You can test the grinding and temper of the steel by bending the blade in your hands. The evenness of the bend, the stiffness of the return to the flat, and the tone of the blade when struck with your thumb reveal the quality of a saw.

It can also reveal if your fingers are too slippery, as Bob Simms found out when testing a saw in 1922.

Did I tell you the story about the tool shop? The rule is, when you go to buy a saw you don't just pick a saw, you bend the tip around and pass it through the handle and if it doesn't come back straight—you throw it out. So I went in and said I wanted two of these handsaws and while I was testing one, it slipped and went right across his face! These were times of depression, you know, and he was so anxious to do business that he never even murmured! I grabbed it and the one next to it and got out of there! I still dread that saw.

The nib on a saw poses an even more vexing question for many. You won't find them on today's handsaws, but until the mid-twentieth century, saws commonly had a tiny protrusion, a "nib," near the toe end. So, what's it for? There are two schools of belief. Existential Nibonists say it's a vestige of the decorative work found on early Dutch handsaws and serves no purpose. Utilitarian Nibonists say the nib must have a purpose, and are divided into warring sub-sects. Guardians say the nib is there to secure a wooden blade guard. Startarians say that it's an aid to starting the cut. Temperance Utilitarian Nibonists believe that it was used in the heat-treating process.

I've seen it happen too many times. Galoots gather, liquor flows, and the tooligans start picking fights. I used to be a club-swinging Existentialist myself, but after taking a few skull-cracks, it became clear to me that the nib was indeed put there for a purpose. Nibs were put on saws — just to mess with our heads! To drive us apart—when hand tool users should be united!

Jointing levels all the teeth of the saw.
Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

Woodworking Tools and Installation Tips

There are a lot of things that either needs to be repaired, or put together when youre a homeowner. If youre a new homeowner, and have just gotten out of apartment style living, you might want to take this list with you to the hardware store. From remolding jobs to putting together furniture you can use these 5 power tools to get your stuff together. Dont forget too that youll need a few extra tools for other jobs around the house.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment