In this blog series, I’d like to invite you to join me on a journey of discovery as we look at the history and restoration of an old English back saw. This is where the story starts…
I really wanted one of these (Adria Large Tenon Saw 14”x 4”)
…but didn’t have enough of this:
So over a number of weeks, I trawled through eBay.co.uk, until I finally found and bought this…
The saw plate is 14” long and the saw is 18 ½” overall. It has an iron back and is made by W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner. It is filed 10 TPI (11 PPI) rip and has a cutting depth of 3 5/8”. By the look of it, I don’t think it has ever been re-sharpened.
Whenever I buy old saws, I always try to find out as much about them as I possibly can. However, anyone who has tried to date an old saw knows that it is fraught with error, often frustrating and difficult to arrive at a dependable conclusion. Nonetheless, I had to try. So, let me share with you what my investigations revealed concerning this wonderful old saw, because this saw holds an interesting secret.
The Tyzack family, of which there are many branches, were heavily involved in the Sheffield tool making industry from 1849 right up until 1989. If you are interested, you can read a family history here.
The W. Tyzack that we are interested in was a son of the founder (also called William). In 1870, William Junior took a partner, one Benjamin Turner. Benjamin was no stranger to William as he was married to his sister Ann. Their company then became known as W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner. In 1876 they purchased 12 acres of land and built the Little London works. (nowhere near London by the way, still just outside Sheffield at a place called Heeley, right next to the railway tracks).
The elephant became their trademark. Non Pareil translates to ’without equal’ or ’unparalleled’.
I found a trade catalogue from 1921 which shows a later model of this saw, known then as a No.13 back saw. In 1921 you could buy a dozen of these saws for 64 shillings. The saw hasn’t changed much, but the handle profile is slightly different.
Just in case you can’t read the catalogue text above, allow me to dwell for a moment on the consumer choice that was available when ordering a new back saw in 1921. The choice was London Spring Steel with a Brass back, London Spring Steel with an Iron back, Cast Steel with a Brass back, or Cast Steel with an Iron back.
The saw could be anything from 10” to 24” in length, going up in 2” intervals. You could also order an extra heavy brass or iron back to go with the saws in the 10” to 16” range (I guess the longer saws were heavy enough). They were fitted with English beech handles which came with polished edges and flat brass screws as standard. For an extra 6 shillings you could have the flats of the handle polished as well and get raised brass screws. For an extra 8 shillings per dozen, you could have Mahogany or Rosewood handles and an extra 20 shillings per dozen bought you ebony handles. You could also just buy the saw plate set and sharpened for 2 old pennies per inch of length. What a wonderful time this must have been to shop for a new back saw, especially when you consider that this amount of choice was offered by just one of a number of saw manufacturers around at the time.
So what is this saw’s secret I hear you ask. Well this saw bears an inscription on the saw plate. The inscription reads: Made for J. Duckworth, Bolton.
I thought it would be fun to try and find out who J Duckworth was and at times like this, the internet is your friend. It would have been easier had I known his first name, but at least I knew the surname and where he came from; a town in the county of Lancashire called Bolton. I tried James, John, Jeremiah, Jacob, Joshua and one of the last names I tried was Joseph. This is what I came up with from the marriage register of the parish church of St Peter, Great Bolton in the county of Lancashire. This historical church still stands proudly in the centre of the town.
So not only was Joseph Duckworth a saw maker, but so was his son Herbert and the bride’s father was a sawyer. How cool is that?
Now I know what you’re thinking. If Joseph was a saw maker, why didn’t he make his own saw? Well I don’t think that Joseph or Herbert were saw makers in the same sense that William Tyzack, sons & Turner were saw makers. They weren’t men of means. I doubt they had their own company or even their own line of saws. They probably worked for a company like Tyzacks or Spear & Jackson. I also find the words Made for in the inscription interesting. If someone bought this saw for Joseph as a present or a retirement gift, wouldn’t it have been better to say Presented to?
I can’t find anything to suggest that Tyzacks made saws as special orders with inscriptions, but maybe they did and Joseph ordered his own saw. The romantic in me would like to think that young Herbert did his apprenticeship at Tyzacks and made this saw for his dad as a demonstration of his saw-making skills and to show his old man that he had come of age as a saw maker.
In truth, I guess I’ll never know if the above product of my imagination is fact or fiction, or even if I found the right J. Duckworth. I do think it is kind of cool though to have a wonderful Tyzack tenon saw that was made for a saw maker called Joseph Duckworth. So with apologies to real historians everywhere, this will be my saw’s story until someone provides evidence to the contrary. From this day forth this saw will affectionately be known as BIG JOE, as in “I’ll have to fetch Big Joe to cut those tenons.”
Taking all this into account along with some other evidence that I won’t bore you with, I estimate this saw was made some time between 1880-1910. I have been unable to narrow it down any further than that.
So with a new found respect for both saw and maker, in the next part of this blog I’ll show you how she looks after a little love.
-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."