Hand Tool Restoration #1: Disston D-8 Rip Saw

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Blog entry by brianl posted 06-03-2011 01:50 AM 6793 reads 1 time favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
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As I have delved more and more into hand-tool woodworking I have discovered that I get a lot of satisfaction and enjoyment out of tool restoration. I’ve restored planes, saws, drawknives, spokeshaves and enjoyed every one. None of my tools are really collector grade though – I restore tools to actively use them.

A while back I decided to start expanding my saw collection. When I made the transition to hand-tool work, I bought four saws from Traditional Woodworker: a rip panel saw, a crosscut panel saw, a back saw, and a dovetail saw.

While the saws were excellent introductory tools, there are a few gaps that they could not cover. For example, I found I was using my backsaw for cuts where I should really be using a fine-toothed crosscut panel saw. My rip saw was also a little too fine for use on soft woods.

I looked at modern saws from several manufacturers (Veritas, Lie-Nielson, Grammercy, Pax, etc…) but all of them were out of my price range. Instead, I started keeping my eyes open for a restorable Disston saw. After looking around for a few weeks I found a D-8 rip saw with a thumb hole that looked to be a diamond in the rough. The blade was straight and while it was rusty, it looked like most of the rust was just on the surface.

Once I got it home I separated the blade and the handle with a little effort then dunked the blade into my electrolysis tank to derust it. Doing so removed the rust, but left plenty of discoloring. I’m not one of those guys who requires a perfectly shiney blade, but I also didn’t want something that was black all over. So I spent some quality time with the blade, some mineral spirits, and some 400 grit wet/dry sandpaper. After it was cleaned up I put a coat of paste wax on the blade.

After an hour or two of sanding, the blade was looking pretty good. Now I had to tackle the handle. I first rubbed it down with some mineral spirits and 0000 steel wool to remove the remnants of another finish. I then did a light sanding to smooth it out some. I didn’t want to remove the history of the handle, just smooth out some of the rougher sections. After it was a little smoother I gave it two coats of boiled linseed oil, followed by two coats of blonde shellac and finally a good coat of neutral paste wax applied with steel wool.

The brass I cleaned up by soaking a vinegar, salt, flour mixture for a half hour. I then rubbed it down with steel wool. I’ve used ketchup for this task before but it always imparted a reddish tint to whatever I was working on.

Once everything was put back together I clamped it in my restored saw vise (another rusty restore) and went to work with the saw files (using Skroo-zon file handles) to sharpen the blade. In about thirty minutes I had the blade razor sharp again.

I then tested the saw on some scrap poplar I had laying around. Unfortunately, as soon as I did so I noticed that the blade was binding really badly. I did some more reading and figured out that it was because the teeth had no set at all on them.

Naturally I then went out, purchased a saw set, and learned how to use it. I put a slight set on the teeth, just enough to eliminate any binding. Now this restored 1920s Disston cuts through poplar like a knife through butter!

-- Brian - Belmont, Massachusetts

3 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4094 days

#1 posted 06-03-2011 03:44 AM

Very nice looking Saw. I’m currently hunting for old saws to begin a similar journey.

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

View canadianchips's profile


2600 posts in 2993 days

#2 posted 06-03-2011 05:52 AM

Nice restoration. I enjoy buying rusty old tools, I get a lot of satisfaction in trying to clean them and put them back to life again. I have cleaned old saws and found a good imprint of the maker underneath, to me its like finding an archealogy discovery !

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View chrisstef's profile


17382 posts in 3003 days

#3 posted 06-03-2011 02:34 PM

I totally agree with you chips … ive derusted about 8 Disston saws and each time i get the rust off the emblem i feel like Jacques Cousteau.

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

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