There has been a lot of interest in building tools from scratch, rehabbing tools that needed some love, or repurposing a tool so that it might have more potential or beauty. I have decided to chronicle a few saw builds in these categories in the hope that it might inspire someone to give it a try that was otherwise too nervous to begin the journey on their own.
For this series, I am going to do a write up on re-purposing an inexpensive gents saw into a western style dovetail saw. This idea is not new, nor is it my own. This is just my take on an idea that I found worthwhile and oh-so-satisfying! The gents saw provides the saw back and the saw plate for less than buying the raw material.
You can chose to follow along verbatim, modify every single aspect of the build, or just read it for the fun of it. You won’t hear any complaints from me either way!
My Materials List
- 1 inch thick, straight grained hardwood lumber , I used some curly maple lumber.
- (2) 7/16 inch brass split nuts. I get mine from TGIAG.com, Blackburntools.com, or Alamo Saws.
- (1) 10 inch gents saw. Make sure whatever new or old saw you use doesn’t have induction hardened teeth and has a solid folded back (don’t get a reversible gents saw). I opted for the steel back version from Crown. It was $15 USD. The brass back can be had for around $25 USD on Amazon.com
- A full-size printout of your favorite saw handle template, or a design of your own making.
Lets Get Started
This is what we are starting with: a perfectly good, well balanced, good value gents saw.
Clamp the saw plate and spine into your vise and pull off the handle. I have had one come off easily this way, and then another that required me to use a hammer to strike a ¾ x ¾ x 5 inch block to strike near the ferule to pop the spine out of the socket. This is what we want, a saw plate and saw spine. I will hold on to the discarded handle for a file holder or something. At this point, use some acentone to scrub the laquer off the saw plate and spine.
I have a folder on my computer with saw handle templates that I like. For this project, I will use the Gramercy dovetail saw pattern for its classic lines. It also includes excellent instructions on how to prepare the saw handle blank every step of the way!
Once you have located the template you wish to print, make sure that your printer isn’t going to shrink the document to fit any margin settings. On my particular printer dialogue box, the default option was “Fit”, which would have shrunk this template to 94% of its actual size. Make sure you select “Actual Size” for this reason. If you are unsure if your template printed out at 1:1, most of them include a reference scale near the pattern. Just measure the scale on your print out with your handy dandy rule to verify.
I take the handle template with me to the workshop and locate a piece of straight grained wood. For many of us LumberJocks, this is a chance to use up some fancy scraps of exotics or other species we couldn’t bear the thought of throwing away. This lumber selection is really a personal preference. Just make sure its durable and that the wood is large enough to accommodate the template with the correct grain orientation.
You will notice in the saw template below, that the grain must run straight through the narrowest part of the saw handle, which likely means that the template will be at an angle to the edge of the board you use.
Make sure you clean up the lumber so you can admire the grain, cough I mean ensure that the grain is running the right way, avoid knots or other imperfections, maximize the grain to your advantage and have a clean surface to glue the saw handle template to.
This is where we will stop for this iteration. In the next episode we will be using the drill press. A lot. We will drill out some holes to help shape the handle, drill out some holes for the saw nuts, cut a kerf for the saw plate (using the drill press with an arbor saw), drill out the mortise to receive the saw back, and finally—drill out the holes in the saw plate to attach the handle to the plate.
-- Regards, Norm