Old Disston Handsaw Restoration #1: The beginning (now with pictures)

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Blog entry by GMatheson posted 06-08-2011 03:14 AM 13947 reads 1 time favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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I was out strolling the yard sales looking for an old Stanley handplane to restore but instead I came across two old Disston handsaws for $10 each. I personally don’t have many antique tools but have been thinking about starting a little collection lately so I picked them both up and took them home. When I got home I went on to the disstonian institutes website and found the saws I had just purchased.

The first saw is a D8 that I dated between 1896-1917. It has the handle with the thumbhole and 5tpi.

The second saw is a D23 that I dated between 1928-1940.

Both saws are in pretty good shape to start with and I would like to restore them as high quality users. The D8s blade is pretty black and there is some pitting mostly at the heel of the blade and the D23s blade is very clean with a very clear etching.

I am looking for advice on how to go about cleaning the blades, handles and the brass. I have read about different methods like electrolysis, using the store bought rust removers or just using elbow grease and wet sanding the blade. Also I would like to know how valuable these saws may be to collectors too.

-- Greg in Ontario, Canada

7 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4126 days

#1 posted 06-08-2011 03:21 AM

Cool. I am looking for some saws to restore as well. Good luck on the restore. Photo’s would probably help the saw experts with valuation.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View GMatheson's profile


478 posts in 2998 days

#2 posted 06-08-2011 03:24 AM

I know. Hopefully I will get a few pictures up tomorrow.

-- Greg in Ontario, Canada

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3088 days

#3 posted 06-08-2011 04:13 AM

You have smoe good saws there. Keep that D-8 for a rip saw and the D23 should make a nice crosscut. For information on cleaning and sharpening, check out the website. It has been the best resource for me to find info. Another site you may want to check is This site is an index with links to lots of other sites with information on all kinds of hand tools. I have found information on this website to be very useful. I have about 10 handsaws – most of which are either Disston or were made for someone else by Disston. As a general rule, Disston saws from Pre-WWII are to be considered to be good quality saws. My personal preferance is for the late 1800’s very early 1900’s saws and in particular the ones before they started to add the D to the model number. I have several number 7 Disstons and in particular and old rip saw that is actually 28” long that is dated approximately 1895 or so. It is a wonderful old saw and tracks better than any saw that I have ever had. Also, the shape of the handles of those really old saws just fits the hand well. Good luck with your restoration. I look forward to seeing the pictures.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2909 days

#4 posted 06-08-2011 06:03 AM

I have restored a handful of saws and here are a few pointers I can think of based on my experience.

First, DON’T use penetrating oil like WD40 on the saw blades. The oil can somehow erase the etch. I lost a very nice etch by soaking the blade in oil. Big mistake.

Also, when cleaning the blade make sure to use a sanding block. Don’t do it free hand with sandpaper, steel wool or abrasive as these can erase the etch. A sanding block will float right over the etch. If the etch is in good shape that can add to the value of the saw.

I usually just spray the handles with simple green and then scrub them with abrasive pads to remove the dirt and oils. I then refinish them with clear lacquer. I clean all the brass by hand with brass polish and wet dry sandpaper. Some people use power buffer and or a dremmel tool works great too. You can also clean the blade with oven cleaner. That will remove a lot of the black film.

Good luck

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View chrisstef's profile


17429 posts in 3036 days

#5 posted 06-08-2011 02:45 PM

Also do not soak paper towels in evaporust and wrap the saw blades in them. After a few hours the evaporust evaporates and leaves the paper towel stuck to the blade. I had the best luck with 320 grit sand paper in a sanding block and mineral spirits. Its a grimy job for sure id suggest doing this one outside

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View nOStahl's profile


2 posts in 1296 days

#6 posted 12-07-2014 07:21 PM

that sure turned out beautiful!

For those who are interested, I made a video of how to use two pipe clamps to secure your saw to the workbench for sharpening it.

View BigYin's profile


418 posts in 2445 days

#7 posted 12-07-2014 07:40 PM

see a D8 Rip saw in action

-- ... Never Apologise For Being Right ...

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