Going Galoot #5: I came, I saw . . . . . .

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Blog entry by JayT posted 03-28-2014 02:14 AM 3945 reads 10 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 4: In search of the perfect dovetail Part 5 of Going Galoot series Part 6: Time to step up to the re-plate. »

Shop’s Log: March 27, 2014

Part of going galoot involves finding quality hand tools. While there are now some manufacturers making high quality hand tools (Lie-Nielsen or Lee Valley/Veritas, for instance) there are also a tremendous amount of vintage tools that make great users if you are willing to put in a little work. I have refurbished squares, adjustable bevels and a ton of hand planes, but was now ready to move on to another vital tool for the galoot ….... hand saws.

My till was full of saws picked up here and there for bargain prices that needed a little love, so I set out to get them back to working order. This past weekend, I buckled down and got a bunch cleaned up, like this Disston No 7

And this Phoenix panel saw

One of the fun parts of saws is all the different medallions and etches that are out there, like this custom one:

The biggest problem is that as you remove the corrosion from a saw plate, many times the etch loses its contrast. On the “handsaw thread”, several of us had been discussing how to bring back the detail of an etch, so that is the focus of this blog post.

LJ Tim had posted a link on bringing out an etch using brass darkening solution. That is not a commonly found chemical, but there is an easy to find substitute—more on that in a bit.

First thing is to clean up the saw plate, being careful to not remove too much metal around the etch. Tonight I worked over a 26 inch Disston No 4 that I picked up last week with it’s partner Stanley miter box.

After scrubbing off the corrosion and grime with a Scotchbrite pad, here is what I had for an etch.

Legible, but not very easily, so let’s see what we can do to darken it up. First important ingredient is:

Wipe the saw plate down with a rag or paper towel moistened with rubbing alcohol to remove any oil, grease, dirt or fingerprints. Keep turning to a fresh part of the rag and repeating until it comes up completely dirt-free. The metal must be very clean or the next step will not work. Now for the brass darkening substitute, I use:

This cold bluing solution is available nearly anywhere that carries hunting and gun supplies, even many Wal-Marts will have it either by itself or in a gun restoration kit. Look for it near the gun cleaning supplies. I always keep some around to touch up bluing from holster wear on my handguns, but it has proven just as valuable for tool restorations and modification. Plus, it’s pretty cheap.

Using a cotton swab, spread the bluing solution liberally over the etch and surrounding area.

(Sorry for the glare, my shop is set up for good light for woodworking, not glare free photography)

Don’t worry about the blotchiness, it will take care of itself as you move on.

After letting the bluing set for a minute or so, rinse off the saw plate with cold water and dry. Then, using some 400 grit sandpaper on a sanding block, gently sand over the blued area. Since bluing is a chemical reaction, causing oxidation of the metal, you do not have to wait for anything to dry. Using a block allows the sandpaper to remove the bluing on the flat, while not touching the metal in the etch.

After this, repeat the whole process. Alcohol, bluing, rinse, sand. You will notice that the chemical reaction is probably darker and deeper in color the second time and even more so the third, causing the etch to come out even a bit more.

The whole process only takes 10-15 minutes, and the results are so worth it. After finishing, make sure to wax the plate for some rust protection or you will get to start the whole restoration process over again in the near future.

Oh, the rest of the Disston.

. . . . . . now to conquer saw sharpening.

-- Pay heed all who enter: Beware of "the Phog" Rock Chalk, Jayhawk

16 comments so far

View walden's profile


1552 posts in 1562 days

#1 posted 03-28-2014 02:28 AM

These look great! I like the trick for bringing out the etching. From one galoot to another, is your whole shop hand tools at this point?

-- "I am hiring a realtor if and when the day comes a lion is on my roof."

View lysdexic's profile


5120 posts in 2163 days

#2 posted 03-28-2014 02:33 AM

Jay – your glueing was more effective than other examples that I’ve seen. Great job.

-- I love Jeeps

View JayT's profile


5052 posts in 1751 days

#3 posted 03-28-2014 02:48 AM

Thanks guys.

walden, no, I would still be considered a hybrid woodworker, though leaning heavily to the hand tools side. I have a table saw, sliding miter saw and drill press for machinery and a bunch of power hand tools that get used mostly for home improvement chores. I’m not ready to tackle those tasks with hand tools, yet.

Once the miter box is fully functional again, though, I may very well sell the powered miter saw. I also am planning to purchase a lunchbox planer to speed up lumber prep and dimensioning. I can do it with hand planes, but my project queue gets additions much faster than I’m crossing them off and the biggest time drain is rough planing.

-- Pay heed all who enter: Beware of "the Phog" Rock Chalk, Jayhawk

View walden's profile


1552 posts in 1562 days

#4 posted 03-28-2014 02:57 AM

I think you’ll find the hand miter box is more accurate than the sliding miter saw. I agree with you on the lunchbox planer. If you can get one side flattened by hand, which doesn’t take too long, the planer would save a lot of time on the other side. It is very time consuming to try and get that second side flat, parallel to the first, and have all your lumber come out at exactly the same thickness. Although I’m all hand tools now, if I were to buy one power tool, the lunch box style planer would be it.

-- "I am hiring a realtor if and when the day comes a lion is on my roof."

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3091 posts in 1792 days

#5 posted 03-28-2014 03:31 AM

Thanks for the bluing instructions, Jay. I was aware from other reading that the plate needs to be oil-free, but the alcohol tip was new to me. I also read that you shouldn’t touch the blued area with your fingers, lest the oil from the skin alter the chemical reaction. I might give it a shot in between other project work this weekend. BTW, yours did come out really crisp.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View swirt's profile


2139 posts in 2512 days

#6 posted 03-28-2014 03:57 AM

Nice work JayT Those look great.

Ammonia is an even a better degreaser than alcohol but it stinks up your shop worse.

-- Galootish log blog,

View lysdexic's profile


5120 posts in 2163 days

#7 posted 03-28-2014 10:36 AM

I meant to type bluing not glueing. Damn you – autocorrect.

-- I love Jeeps

View JayT's profile


5052 posts in 1751 days

#8 posted 03-28-2014 12:57 PM

Always blaming autocorrect, Scott. I think you just brandished so many ginormous words in the other threads, you forgot how to communicate with us woodworking Neanderthals. :-)

-- Pay heed all who enter: Beware of "the Phog" Rock Chalk, Jayhawk

View theoldfart's profile (online now)


8437 posts in 1991 days

#9 posted 03-28-2014 01:03 PM

JayT great post. I have several saws with a faint etch so this is perfect. I have the same Mitre saw, but the tote is in really rough condition with substantial checking. I’ve got a line on some apple wood and so maybe a new tote in the future.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View terryR's profile (online now)


6507 posts in 1849 days

#10 posted 03-28-2014 01:19 PM

Thanks for sharing, JayT! You really made it look easy.
Must try again…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Pezking7p's profile


3161 posts in 1192 days

#11 posted 03-28-2014 03:49 PM

Very nice blog. Easy process. The saw looks great!

-- -Dan

View Slyy's profile


2542 posts in 1196 days

#12 posted 03-28-2014 05:15 PM

JayT that really turned out well. I’ve got a few that have hardly legible/ weak etches that if love to try this out on.

-- Jake -- "Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us." - Neil Degrasse Tyson

View JayT's profile


5052 posts in 1751 days

#13 posted 03-28-2014 06:01 PM

Thank you, guys. It really is that easy, though results will be 100% based on what you have to work with. The Disston above came out well. The Phoenix also shown above had the etch so shallow and enough corrosion that even with the bluing, it is barely legible in person and not at all in a photo.

I’d love to shine the plate up more, but would totally lose the top part of the etch, so it is what it is.

-- Pay heed all who enter: Beware of "the Phog" Rock Chalk, Jayhawk

View Don W's profile

Don W

18148 posts in 2108 days

#14 posted 03-30-2014 04:13 PM

Well done Jayt. A nice way to merge two of my hobbies. Rifle and tool restoration!

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Mauricio's profile


7115 posts in 2692 days

#15 posted 04-07-2014 02:38 AM

Great work man!

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

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