Saw Setting Instructions
The use of many of the saw set shown on this site can only be guessed at, since much of the literature supplied did not survive. Some saw sets such as the patented G L Holt had the instructions stamped on the side. It says "Adjust corner of anvil at base of teeth, and gage for very little set". I wouldn't consider that to be a very clear explanation, but they only had a small area to stamp the instructions.
The goal in setting saws is to put as little set in the saw as needed. To much set and the effort increases and the saw will also be harder to control. The more the set, the more wood will be removed and that will slow how fast it can cut through the board. Too much set will also reduce the amount of guidance the kerf can supply. This means that as the saw goes through the wood the slot produced (kerf) will support and guide the blade. Too much set will allow the blade to wobble against the blade loosing the guidance. Too little set will cause the blade to bind in the kerf. In short, the blade will be thicker that the kerf and jamb.
To make this even more complicated, the amount of set also depends upon the type of wood being cut. Generally, softwoods need more set than hardwoods. The fiber length in softwoods are longer than in hardwoods and tend to create more fuzz on the cut area. Whereas hardwoods tend to create a sharper edge and a more dust type sawdust. Generally the adjustable sets with numbered settings will give enough set for softwoods, since much of the wood cut by hand was for house framing. This will be a good overall setting for most applications. If you are working in a shop which uses hardwoods and you want to reduce the amount of set, then adjust the setting to the next higher number. If you have the time you may want to experiment and continue to reduce the set until the blade starts to bind.
One final note, Disston and other saw makers made "taper ground" saws. The blade was tapered away from the saw tooth and was said to need no set. I don't think that that was completely true, but check the blade before you set it.
Additional Saw Links For Setting and Sharpening
Sharpening Instructions From Vintage Saws Vintage saws
Internet Woodworking Instructions Internet Woodworking
Video On How to Sharpen Handsaws Video
Gary Roberts has scannes of old literature on sharpening saws at Toolmera
Scans of some old saw set instructions
Disston Monarch saw set instructions from 1949 for the #2 and #12. The #20, the largest, was not being made at this time, but the instructions would be the same.
For Stanley saw set instructions go to this link Stanley Saw Sets & Stanley instructions
E. C. Stearns instructions from 1940. A little dirty and oil stained.
Atkins no. 3 Criterion hammer set instructions
Instructions for the original Taintor's Positive #1