LumberJocks

The Restoration of a 14" Tenon Saw #1: Identification, Historical Evidence and a Vivid Imagination

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Brit posted 1063 days ago 6044 reads 8 times favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of The Restoration of a 14" Tenon Saw series Part 2: Cleaning the Saw Plate »

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.



27 comments so far

View blackcherry's profile

blackcherry

3156 posts in 2458 days


#1 posted 1063 days ago

Brit a very interesting post to have read, nice work on all the research and the best part is you have the genuine article the saw. Thanks for sharing the historical part as well as your fine saw…BC

View Don W's profile

Don W

14899 posts in 1202 days


#2 posted 1063 days ago

very nice saw, very cool story. I love the story’s (true or perceived) that go with these old tools. Its going to be hard not to wonder about the projects made with this saw, or what a wedding night was like in1898 in Bolton, Lancaster, England.

Also I noticed “The saw could be anything from 10” to 24” in length” ..... your going to NEED the set!!

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View Kenny 's profile

Kenny

260 posts in 1083 days


#3 posted 1063 days ago

Now that’s an awesome story! whether it is 100% true or not matters little. The fact is you found a saw with an inscription, researched it, and found what I feel is a very possible history of where the saw came from. That’s an incredible story all in itself!

The fact is as well, it is documented that those you believe originally had the saw at the start of it’s life were saw-makers from the town inscribed on the saw. I feel that would be evidence enough for most, as long you weren’t trying to use it as any kind of historical provenance to raise the value of the saw at sale time.

And even still, with paperwork on the Duckworth’s past as you have found, you have a very nice saw with a very interesting story to go with it. I think all but the most particular of collectors would find that very intriguing and be very happy to call that saw their own.

I know it would be a very welcome addition to my shop!

Great story and great find! Please be sure to post more after it has seen some love!

-- Kenny

View Arminius's profile

Arminius

304 posts in 2438 days


#4 posted 1063 days ago

My guess is that Duckworth was a seller of saws, and while Duckworths may once once have made their own, by this era was more of a retailer. A ‘made for’ inscription for that purpose is not at all uncommon among American saws, and is certainly seen on some English saws.

View Brit's profile

Brit

5128 posts in 1477 days


#5 posted 1063 days ago

blackcherry – Thanks. Its amazing what you can find out from the compfort of your armchair. I found the marriage records for some of Joseph Duckworth’s other children too. I had to stop myself building a family tree. LOL. God bless all the historians and researchers who have laboured to put historical records online for all of us to enjoy.

Don – I would think a wedding night in Bolton, Lancashire was much like any other wedding night once the clothes came off. :o) I have so many saws to restore now, I’m going to have to stop buying them until I’ve caught up a bit. Then again, maybe I’ll just get the two that are currently in my watch list.

Kenny – Glad you found it interesting. It is a bit far fetched I have to admit, but it was a heck of a lot of fun. I found out all kinds of things along the way.

Arminius – You are probably right about the Duckworths being resellers. They probably ran a hardware shop and did nothing more than put the saws together from parts purchased from W. Tyzacks, sons and Turner.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Don W's profile

Don W

14899 posts in 1202 days


#6 posted 1063 days ago

I’ve got a box full of saws, a shelf full of planes and a rack full of braces. Next weekend is a big antique fair I just can’t pass up. At least its fall here in the North East USA. That means flea markets will be coming to an end for a while. Happy hunting.

-- Master hand plane hoarder. - http://timetestedtools.com

View Brit's profile

Brit

5128 posts in 1477 days


#7 posted 1063 days ago

Well they say that there’s always someone worse off than yourself, so I guess its true.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View Arminius's profile

Arminius

304 posts in 2438 days


#8 posted 1063 days ago

They might well have been saw makers as well, but one would not sell that many tenon saws and they would be a high-end item. I have a R. Groves carcass saw with a somewhat similar stamp from circa 1850. The firm that sold it made saws for the lumber industry in Quebec, importing steel from Sheffield to manufacture the larger and cruder saws. Bringing a fine English saw across the Atlantic would have been a very special order, and the saw would have been a major investment for a craftsman who would have waited the better part of a year for it. I feel privileged to use it. I hope your Tyzack gives you the same satisfaction.

By the way, with the split nuts, I am guessing yours is rather older than the 1921 catalogue..

View pierce85's profile

pierce85

508 posts in 1197 days


#9 posted 1063 days ago

Great detective work, Brit! What a nice way to bring a saw to life.

Regarding the occupational history. A ‘Saw Maker’ in 19th century England was listed as a specific occupation in the census during that period. Here’s how it was classified in 1881:


(Source: Woollard, Matthew. 1999. “The Classification of Occupations in the 1881 Census of England and Wales.” Historical Censuses and Social Surveys Research Group Occasional Paper No. 1, University of Essex: Historical Censuses and Social Surveys Research Group.)

By the way, 19th century history is one of things I do. So I’m naturally drawn to this sort of thing. My specific area of research is 19th century medicine, causes of death and disease. I only mention this because when I see such a great job of historical detective work like Brit has shown here, it gets my juices flowing and I’m compelled to look at/for sources for more tidbits. Nicely done, Brit.

View Brit's profile

Brit

5128 posts in 1477 days


#10 posted 1063 days ago

pierce85 – It is interesting, because during my research on this saw and another 14” backsaw which is quite a bit older than this one, I formed the opinion that the term ‘saw maker’ meant one of three things.

1) Manufacturers such as Spear and Jackson and Tyzacks would call themselves saw makers.

2) Prior to much of the work being done by machinery, a saw went through a number of different stages with each stage being carried out by a different trade. For example there were wet grinders, dry grinders, saw handle makers (which was a year apprenticeship on its own) and saw makers who were the people who adjusted the temper of the saws through hammering. It was a skilled job, but just one of a number of steps that led to a finished saw.

3) Saw resellers like Arminius mentioned would also call themselves saw makers.

It is difficult to know which definition applies to a person who listed saw maker as their profession.

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View pierce85's profile

pierce85

508 posts in 1197 days


#11 posted 1062 days ago

You’re right. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what that occupational designation meant for a particular individual at a particular point in history because ‘Saw Maker’ was a classification term used by census takers. As a result, it became an official occupational title for most record keeping of the day.

What you’re seeing in these records are occupational titles according to a census classification. Nevertheless, out of nearly 420 occupational titles used by the census at that time, it would have certainly been descriptive enough. In fact, the title was probably too narrow – which, by the way, points to what Arminius was saying.

View lilredweldingrod's profile

lilredweldingrod

2495 posts in 1741 days


#12 posted 1062 days ago

I see Sherlock “Andy” Holmes is still alive and kicking in England. How neat! Actually I think having the Duckworth saw is a better deal than a brand new one. Great thread, Andy.

View Brit's profile

Brit

5128 posts in 1477 days


#13 posted 1062 days ago

Elementary my dear Rand. Now where did I put that violin?

-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.

View lilredweldingrod's profile

lilredweldingrod

2495 posts in 1741 days


#14 posted 1062 days ago

Don’t forget the pipe with the lid on it. lol ala Mafe…..

View Mauricio's profile

Mauricio

6809 posts in 1786 days


#15 posted 1062 days ago

I really enjoyed reading this. Nice blog and great detective work.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

showing 1 through 15 of 27 comments

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

HomeRefurbers.com

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics

GardenTenders.com :: gardening showcase