First Backsaw Restoration #2: New Handle

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Blog entry by Brian Shourd posted 10-18-2011 11:15 PM 2482 reads 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Derusting and sharpening Part 2 of First Backsaw Restoration series no next part

After finishing restoring the blade, it was time for a new handle. A lot of friendly lumberjocks suggested that I try to make the old handle fit better before I went all out and made a new one from scratch, so I thought I’d try that.

Then I saw this beautiful hunk of Padauk at the store, and it was just begging me to be made into a new handle. I couldn’t resist.

Maybe next time I’ll try the handle refitting, but this time I was moved to the dark side.

To start off, I needed a pattern. I looked around a lot of places ( has a whole bunch of good ones) before I settled on this one from Norse Woodsmith. So I cut out the template, and like any good woodworker, I cut out a test version from plywood.

Happy with the test version, I proceeded to trace the pattern onto the padauk. You can see that I left a big bulb area around where the saw plate is attached – that’s because the original handle has three holes, and this pattern has only two. I figured that I would worry about shaping that part after I had put in the holes, and just left some extra on there for good measure.

To cut out the handle, I first used the drill press and some forstner bits to shape the inside round bits, and just make some relief cuts.

Then I was off with a jigsaw (the kind you hold, not a scroll saw) to make a rough version of the handle. A band saw would have been much better, but I haven’t got one. This worked just fine.

Now it is time to fit the slot for the blade. I ran across this clever trick to make sure that the blade slot is perfectly straight: you take the saw blade that you will cut the kerf with (some people say that you should use a thinner saw for this task, for a really good fit – I don’t have one so I used the same saw) and prop it up until it is exactly half the height of your handle. Clamp the saw to your workbench or other flat surface, then draw the handle across it while keeping it flat on the table. Voila! A perfect kerf.

Of course, I couldn’t cut deep enough like this, so once the saw cut was started, I clamped the handle in a vise and finished in the usual manner.

Then I needed to make a mortise for the back of the blade. I just did this with a chisel (they said I was crazy when I bought the 3mm chisel – the obvious lesson is to always buy any tool you see). I was looking at the original saw handle more closely, though, and it is pretty obvious that whoever cut this mortise did so with a table saw. I wonder if it is actually the original handle, since that doesn’t seem like the method a traditional manufacturer would use.

Time for a test fit:

It fits! Having finished the hard part, now it’s time for the real fun: shaping. This is the part where the handle goes from brick to beauty. I used several rasps and files to round over the edges where my hand grips, and to give the saw a better shape. For some of the details, like the little nub on top and the chamfers near the blade, I used a chisel. Here it is after some basic shaping.

All in all, the shaping took hardly any time at all, and it was really an enjoyable experience. My favorite part was test fitting the handle in my hand time after time, and getting it just a little bit closer with each test until it is absolutely perfect.

Ok, now that we have some shaping done, we should drill the holes for the bolts. First I mark the hole locations. Good thing I left some space around the original template!

Now drill out the holes on the drill press. The holes actually were two different sizes, depending on whether they accepted the post or shaft part of the bolt. Also, the hole for the medallion is square, not round. 3mm chisel to the rescue again!

Another test fit to make sure everything is still going smooth:

Now I can remove some of the waste and bring the shape back to nicer proportions (hopefully)

All that’s left now is loads of sanding. I hand sanded all of the contours first, going from 80 grit up to 220. After that, I used my random orbit sander (a belt/disk sander probably would have been a better choice, but again, I don’t have those) to get the flat faces. I decided to use the ROS after I did the contours to get nice crisp transitions on the face. I figured, if I didn’t like the crisp edges, I could easily break them. I think I like them.

After a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil (my personal favorite finish for anything that is handled – pardon the pun), it’s ready to put back on the saw. I also gave the blade another coat of paste wax to ward off rust.

For comparison, here is the before shot:

Now that I’m done, I must say what a pleasure this project was. It had all of my favorite ingredients: it was inexpensive, useful, I learned some new things, and it didn’t take months to finish. I think I’ll have to do this again some time.

Thanks for looking!

-- Brian

6 comments so far

View Dan's profile


3630 posts in 2299 days

#1 posted 10-18-2011 11:19 PM

Very nice and well done..

-- Dan - "Collector of Hand Planes"

View DaddyZ's profile


2475 posts in 2460 days

#2 posted 10-18-2011 11:31 PM

Nice Job on the Restore, here is a look at mine not to long ago



-- Pat - Worker of Wood, Collector of Tools, Father of one

View Brian Shourd's profile

Brian Shourd

106 posts in 2012 days

#3 posted 10-18-2011 11:35 PM

DaddyZ, nice job. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind laminated handle before, and I love it! The dark wood/light wood contrast is very nice.

My next handle may have to be half walnut and half curly maple. The two-face of saws.

-- Brian

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2199 days

#4 posted 10-19-2011 12:47 PM

Good job Brian !
And a great how you did it as well .,

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Andy Panko's profile

Andy Panko

88 posts in 1741 days

#5 posted 04-26-2012 01:53 AM

WOW! Great job! Very impressive, especially considering you’ve never restored a saw before. The handle looks awesome.

-- Andy Panko, Edison NJ,

View MrDan's profile


200 posts in 2707 days

#6 posted 01-01-2013 07:30 AM

Great blog, thanks for the right up. “the obvious lesson: buy every tool you see.” hahaha

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