Slow Days at the Shop. #4: Making my own backsaw

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Blog entry by fatman51 posted 11-18-2015 08:17 AM 937 reads 0 times favorited 2 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Bench Planes! Part 4 of Slow Days at the Shop. series Part 5: Making a guide for my Makita D handled routers »

I have been reading blogs and articles recently, by people who make their own hand saws and decided to make one of my own for no good reason. I made a good heavy duty twelve inch 11 tpi rip filed back saw. I made the back out of a heavy piece of lawn border,bluing it with a propane torch and motor oil. I made the blade out of an old wrecked hand saw that had a kink that I did not feel was worth trying to pound out. I watch for these at flea markets because wrecked saws are an inexpensive source for saw hardware and scrapers. My new saw blade is 30 thousandths, a little thick for small dovetails, but good for an aggressive rip filing. Coming up with my own design, which does resemble a common saw tote, I made the handle out of a piece of poplar figuring that I would copy it with a harder hardwood on my next saw.

I love this saw! I have been using it every day and I am pleased with what I have made but I have determined that I will never make another handsaw from scratch. While purchasing a saw or saw kit can be expensive, websites like sell pre cut saw blanks with a varariety of sizes, teeth per inch, and pitches availiable for a very reasonable price. Now that I have done it, cutting the saw teeth in with a file was enough of a chore that I would rather not do it again if I can help it. I appreciate that other lumberjocks make their own saws and do a very nice job of it. I respect their talent and patience. It took me many hours to learn the skill of cutting saw teeth and another hour or two to shape the teeth and complete the job once I had it figured out. Fortunately I have a stash of antique saw files and the file I started with is still sharp, but I would hate to wreck an irreplaceable file by making saw blades that are inferior to those which I can purchase inexpensively. I enjoyed making the handle and the back but I will let a saw maker cut my saw teeth for me in 0.20 thousandths saw blanks for the rest of the saws I want to make.

I cut out the handle with the coping saw because I was working lat at night and I did not want to bug the wife.

I used my little polish made two speed breast drill to start the cut in the center of the handle. I do not know much about this particular tool. I do not know id it was cheap or expensive or even who made it, but I do know that the language on the box is polish, because the wife’s family is polish and she recognized the language. The tool does work well.

The nice thing about coping saw blades is that one can remove the bow and leave the blade stuck in the workpiece while they resume cutting from the other direction.

I did not make a pitch guide because I can control my file well enough to control the pitch, but I did need to use a guide block to help with teeth spacing, so that I would cut the teeth where they belonged. once i had all of the teeth cut, I jointed the saw with a twelve inch single cut mill file, set the saw up in the vice properly, and filed the teeth with a six inch double extra slim taper file, until the flats just disappeared, skewing the file in the direction of whichever tooth needed the most material removed.

I ordered a bag of saw handle screws from Amazon. I do not have a close up of the teeth, but they came out alright. The new saw does look rather like an antique, however

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

2 comments so far

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

1691 posts in 480 days

#1 posted 11-18-2015 09:32 AM

Are saw handle screws different from other screws, John? I see the pictures of your completed saw, and I’m thinking, it looks just like the one I have that I spent ninety bucks on. Which, by the bye, is the only Veritas tool I’ve ever convinced myself to buy. It has a screw head on the bottom of the tote that I have no idea what it’s for. What is “lawn border.” And, please ‘splain “bluing”.

-- Mark

View fatman51's profile


335 posts in 1254 days

#2 posted 11-18-2015 05:31 PM

Yes, saw screws are different and the only affordable source that I know of is these on amazon.

Lawn border is any product made or used to define the perimeter of a lawn. In this case I have some scrap pieces of heavy duty cold rolled powder coated sheet steel or bar that is 14 gauge or 0.0781 (5/64) inches thick, that was made for that purpose. I cleaned it up, cut it to size, folded it with a pair bar folding tools, available from Harbor Freight, and blued it.

I am not the primo bluing expert, but I do use the process occasionally because it is an in expensive way to finish homemade hardware. There are lots of videos on Youtube. But, tak clean metal, a steal cake pan, a heat gn or a propane torch, and some motor oil of ant weight. coat your clean steal with oil and heat it up until it changes color.
do not heat it red hot. You can recoat and repeat if you like. I set the bar across the edges of the cake pan and then pushed into the pan when I was done to cool it in the spilled oil. I have found that shiny cold roll, 3 in 1 oil, and a heat gun can yield a beautiful gold tone. One can also order chemical bluing products from Amazon and jst follow the instructions that come with the kit.

I think you did well to purchase your Veritas saw. The one piece handle and back design is different from traditional designs and I think that screw you mentioned is both important and different from regular saw tote screws. The Veritas saws are made with quality 1095 spring steel, a little too hard in my opinion, (brittle and hard on files) but the best choice available from steel mills as companies like Disston and Stanley Metal Works have not rolled out quality saw steel for decades. Veritas does a very good job with their saws and you can order the correct, quality file from Lee Valley or Blackburn to sharpen your saw. The Nicholson files from the HD are so bad that one might convince themselves that they can not master saw sharpening. I have not ruled out purchasing the three piece set of , to borrow a phrase from Millers Falls tool collectors, “Buck Rogers” back saws from Veritas. They are every bit as good a saw as I can make out of blanks from Blackburn. It depends on how much time I have to make my own, what I can spend, and how much I like my own handle design as I continue to use the saw I made.
Interestingly, I own one veritas tool, a marking gauge that was a gift. It is an attractive marking gauge and very “marky” but I seldom use it. I was fortunate to have begun collecting tools as a child when quality tools were still being sold at the family owned lumber yard a block away from my families home and shop. The owner operators were so generous as to sell tools to me and my brothers at cost. I would hate to have to pay the Lee Valley price for good planes and Chisels in today’s market.

-- The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself. Benjamin Franklin

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