Learning to Restore Saws #1: Taking stock of the haul

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Blog entry by luckysawdust posted 01-06-2015 06:06 AM 1974 reads 0 times favorited 3 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Learning to Restore Saws series Part 2: Initial Strokes - the 'shiny' beneath the rust! »

Two years back, I graduated from college, got a ‘grown up’ job, and finally had some very limited discretionary income to devote to hobbies. I wanted, more than anything, to get into woodworking. In polite company, I describe it as ‘therapeutic’—a productive and beautiful way to give my hands something to do after a full day of ‘knowledge work’. Among friends however… I let on that, to me at least, the smell of sawdust and shavings is darn near narcotic. For those who can sympathize, no explanation is required… but for those who don’t… perhaps no explanation would suffice!

My biggest problem starting out, however… was the small amount of money I could devote to building up my workshop and tool chest. I’ve used Lee Nielsen tools at their hand-tool events… but they are way out of my price range. I would have to be satisfied with used, user-grade tools—which is not only easy on the pocket book, but afforded me the opportunity to get to know my tools a little better in the process of restoring them. Win – win!

I started out with two planes… a Trustworthy brand jack-plane that I bought for $8, and a Dunlap smoothing plane I inherited from my Grandfather. You can read (and see) about that here.

My tool collection has grown slowly, but steadily over the past two years. Some of the most recent additions are (finally!) some decent hand saws. (Until two weeks ago, the only saw I owned was a plastic-handled Stanley that came with a plastic mitre box – behold). I’ve slowly been able to replace poor/mediocre tools with better quality tools… and a gaggle of hand-saws was next on the list.

In this blog series, I’ll show the before and after… and share the mistakes (hopefully few) I make along the way as I learn the process.

First off—the saws I intend to restore and house in my frequently used set of tools:

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But before I get to those… I have a few other less valuable pieces that I intend to restore first, in the hopes that I’ll be able to learn from my mistakes without potentially ruining something I can’t easily replace. Hence:

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(my brother actually bought the one above for $1—to make other parts/tools out of—figure it can’t hurt to shine up the plate a bit?)


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An apparently ‘no name’ mitre-saw.

With as little as I know about hand-saw history… I’m sure I’ve got a learning curve ahead of me as I attempt a restoration. For now it’ll have to include just sanding, polishing, and sharpening—I don’t have the tools necessary to attempt making a new handle for a saw just yet.

Don’t fret – you’ll see a good bit of documentation about what I use, and how things progress. Meet you back here in a few days!

-- “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

3 comments so far

View Brit's profile


7522 posts in 3018 days

#1 posted 01-06-2015 01:21 PM

And so it begins…

Count me in.

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Tim's profile


3812 posts in 2137 days

#2 posted 01-06-2015 02:49 PM

Those saws really aren’t in too bad of shape, this will be fun and you’ll get some great experience and some good user saws out of it. What’s that 3rd one? A closeup of the medallion might help.

Check the Disstonian institute for tips on the approximate ages of your Disston saws. The medallions are the easiest place to start. When you sand the plate go easy and make sure to use a sanding block over where the etch might be. Other than that a good sanding will clean the plates up nice. Your handles aren’t in too bad of shape either.

Join us in the saws thread where the saw weirdo’s hang out.

View luckysawdust's profile


32 posts in 2620 days

#3 posted 01-06-2015 04:15 PM

Thanks for the encouragement!

The third saw had only the saw plate, and the tote—no hardware/bolts, and from the looks of it, none of the holes were what I’d expect to house a medallion. I’ve currently got it’s saw-plate in a bath of evapo-rust—so far I’ve not been able to detect any etching on either of the two saw-plates I’ve begun refurbishing (I’ve tried to be careful… using only a sanding block thus far on the saw plates—no sign of any etching… only pitting and other random rust marks.)

Here’s the tote for that third one, in better lighting—

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^ This one’s saw plate has a big ‘4 ½’ stamped on the heel. It’s fairly coarse toothed, as hand-saws go! Sadly, 3-4 teeth appear to have been broken off. No idea how or why… I’m not a metallurgist, so I’m not sure how to judge the soundness of the steel.

Almost forgot! There is one more saw that I picked up from a local Re-Store (poetic, don’t you think?)

This is the one with the handle that simply won’t do…

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Closer in on the handle:

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Perhaps two of the cracks could be repaired with glue, but the one on the bottom, where the lamb’s tongue would be, looks to be more extensive than my current abilities could counter-balance.

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It’s got a bit of a bend/twist to the blade—which I’ll also try my hand and setting straight, when I can get my hands on the proper tools for it

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-- “In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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