I decided to dedicate my time this winter to restoring various saws I’ve acquired over the past year. I’ll be restoring half-rip saws, panel saws, tenon saws, carcass saws and dovetail saws from a variety of makers, dating from the 1840s up to the 1960s. Now don’t worry I’m not going to bore you with repetitive photos of me removing rust, shining saw plates, polishing brass and refinishing totes. I covered the process I use for these steps in my blog The Restoration of a 14” Tenon Saw so you can refer back to that if you’d like to see how I go about it. Instead, I’d like to use this blog series to do the following:
- Show the before and after photos of each saw restoration – well we all need some eye candy in our lives don’t we?
- Provide details of anything I had to do to a particular saw that was not covered in the above blog.
- Share any historical or otherwise interesting information I find out about each saw.
- Discuss various saw design features, how these features changed over the years and how they can help to date a saw.
So I might be jumping around a bit from post to post and even within the same post. I make no apology for that, it’s just the way my mind works. Deal with it, I have to. The blog will culminate with the building of a saw vise, sharpening the saws to task and taking them all for a test drive. I hope you’ll all come along for the ride and contribute your own knowledge, thoughts and experience to the saw talk.
Disclaimer: Before we start, I’d like to point out that I’m not claiming to be an expert on saws by writing this blog series, just sharing what I experience and find out in the course of restoring and researching the saws I’ve purchased. I hope you’ll find it interesting and/or useful.
So let’s get started. In my last blog, you saw me restore Big Joe, a 14” 10 TPI tenon saw made by W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner around 1887.
It seemed only natural that the next saw I should select from the pile was another saw by W. Tyzack, Sons & Turner made around the same period. This time it’s a 12” carcass saw currently filed 12 TPI rip. Here’s how the saw looked when I received it.
As you can see it’s missing a split nut on the back of the medallion. I’ll probably make one if I can’t find one anywhere.
There was an issue with the saw plate on this particular saw that is worth mentioning. It was difficult to photograph, but when I sighted down the tooth line from one end, the teeth weren’t in a straight line. Instead they bent round in a slight arc from end to end. I tried to show it in the following photo, but it isn’t very clear I’m afraid.
This is not uncommon in old backsaws. When I researched it, I found that it occurs because the saw plate has somehow slipped slightly at one end of the saw’s back or spine. It doesn’t need to slip much to cause this effect and often you can’t see any witness line to show that the saw plate has shifted. Luckily though, it’s a really simple fix and here’s how you do it. Clamp the end opposite the handle in a vise as shown below.
Tap the saw back with a mallet. It doesn’t take much so don’t overdo it.
Remove the saw from the vise after each tap and check your progress. If the tooth line still isn’t straight, put it back in the vise and hit it slightly harder in the same place, then check it again. Mine straightened up after the third tap.
CAUTION: Please don’t tap the handle end of the saw’s back. If you do, you might have difficulty refitting the handle as the bolt holes in the saw plate will have shifted relative to the holes in the handle.
I have read that an alternative way of removing a wave from the tooth line is to hold the saw plate with the teeth uppermost and the handle end towards you, then tap the toe end of the saw back on your workbench. I haven’t tried this method, but it sounds feasible.
So here is the saw after restoration.
There was a fair bit of pitting on this saw, but it isn’t bad enough to affect how the saw performs. I like a shiny saw plate on my backsaws, at least enough to see the reflection of the wood I’m cutting. However, it’s worth pointing out something with regard to shining a saw plate on an old saw. Most of the old saws that I’ve seen have some pitting. It is impossible to sand out all of the pitting without significantly altering the thickness of the saw plate. If you aren’t bothered about the saw plate being shiny, it is better to stop sanding at P400. That way the pitting will be less obvious than if you continue sanding up to P1200 or P1500 like I did here.
I’m really glad I bought these saws, because although I didn’t know it at the time, both of these totes fit my hand perfectly. I know everyone’s hands are different, but I consider myself really lucky to have stumbled upon a handle design that could have been modeled around my hands. When I grip them they fill my hand nicely, neither too big or too small and the horns seem to wrap around my fist enabling me to support the weight of the saws effortlessly. The bump on the back of the grip nestles in my palm and my fingers don’t feel the least bit cramped. God bless the saw handle makers of old. They knew what they were doing back then.
So here are the two saws together. I think they make a nice pair if I do say so myself.
When I was filing and sanding this saw handle, it made me remember an old comedy sketch that is affectionately known here in the UK as the ‘Fork Handles’ sketch. It is the work of two old English comedians called Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett, otherwise known as The Two Ronnies. The memory of it made me laugh out loud and I just thought I’d share the joy.
-- Andy -- Old Chinese proverb say: If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it.