Disston Backsaw Rehab

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Project by jcontract posted 02-27-2010 01:17 AM 3497 views 4 times favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I’m headed to the Philadelphia Furniture Workshop next weekend to take a class on Handcut Dovetails. The first day, we practice saw sharpening. So, rather than practice on one of the “good” saws, I found an old Disston that was in need of some serious help. I figured what’s the worse that can happen.

Really rusty for sure, but surprisingly the handle is in good shape, and the saw plate is straight as well. I might just be able to get a working saw out of this one. That’s a bonus since all I really wanted to do was bring it to the class to practice.

The techinque used for cleaning the saw plate was really very simple. Just some automotive wet-dry sandpaper with some WD40 as a lubricant. With a little elbow grease, the saw plate came clean. Astonishingly, as rusted as this saw is, there is noticeable staining, but no pitting!

I sanded the handle, hit it with a light coat of wipe on poly, and then dyed the handle with a cherry finish. I added 2 coats of Bison Clear wax as a protectant, and she’s ready to go. What do you think ? Not too bad for a first attempt?

I’ll post pictures of the toothline after I learn how to sharpen. I took this saw to Joel Moskowitz of Tools for Working Wood and his exact words were “that saw is going to need a lot of work”. I’m game!

18 comments so far

View something_vague's profile


15 posts in 3213 days

#1 posted 02-27-2010 01:51 AM

I have a very similar saw made by Disston. That saw is absolutely worth hanging on to once you get it completely up and running. I did a small amount of research on my saw and have found out it was made in the 1870’s. The logo cap that is on the handle will give you good idea of the time period it was manufactured. Here is a link where you can find the time period your saw was manufactured/made.

View jcontract's profile


84 posts in 3288 days

#2 posted 02-27-2010 03:17 AM

Thanks vague. I looked it up. Medallion places this one between 1896-1917. Probably 90% of Disston saws that collectors find will have this medallion. By 1900 Disston was making more saws than any other manufacturer worldwide, and their share of the market increased each year. Also by this time, Disston had bought over a dozen of its competitors, leaving only Atkins, Bishop and a newcomer to saw making, Simonds as major sawmakers in the US. Bishop stopped making saws in 1920, and Simonds made a strong impression on the market for only a short time, closing down in 1926.

View kcrandy's profile


285 posts in 3633 days

#3 posted 02-27-2010 04:01 AM

Wow, that handle. That’s a work of art.

-- Caulk and paint are a poor carpenter's best friends

View savannah505's profile


1823 posts in 3787 days

#4 posted 02-27-2010 04:16 AM

Looks like it should be on a hardware store shelf, about 100 years ago. A real beauty.

-- Dan Wiggins

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3259 days

#5 posted 02-27-2010 05:38 AM

I used the same technique to cleam up a couple of old Disston saws that I picked up for nothing. I used a non woven abrasive pad instead of sand paper and I was even able to bring back some of the original etch. I got them sharpened and they cut beautifully. I would venture to say that once you get that old Disston sharpened, it may actually cut as well or better than your other saws. Those things were made with very good steel. If you don’t want that one, you can certainly send it to me. It looks great and should be a keeper.

-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View Skylark53's profile


2678 posts in 3261 days

#6 posted 02-27-2010 06:36 AM

Nice save!

-- Rick, Tennessee, John 3:16

View createncarve's profile


8 posts in 3222 days

#7 posted 02-27-2010 07:23 AM

That’s awesome. Great rehab!

View woodworm's profile


14470 posts in 3791 days

#8 posted 02-27-2010 09:21 AM

Coooool work!

-- masrol, kuala lumpur, MY.

View bill merritt's profile

bill merritt

203 posts in 3489 days

#9 posted 02-27-2010 11:53 AM

Very nice job on a real good saw !

-- Bill Merritt -Augusta Ga. woodworker

View jtash's profile


30 posts in 3284 days

#10 posted 02-27-2010 02:17 PM

Looks great! It should make a great saw.

View AJJ's profile


75 posts in 3349 days

#11 posted 02-27-2010 06:43 PM

Nice job. I have one in the shop I need to work on.

-- AJJ, Eugene OR

View Dennisgrosen's profile


10880 posts in 3316 days

#12 posted 03-15-2010 11:08 PM

cool save
you already did a fine job
your filling better live up to that :—)


View bigike's profile


4055 posts in 3489 days

#13 posted 03-15-2010 11:20 PM

very nice work!

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop,

View chrisstef's profile


17761 posts in 3207 days

#14 posted 03-30-2010 02:44 AM

Fantastic looking old saw. Im working on rehabbing 4 Disston saws myself. Right now i have identified 2 of them as a No. 7 22” 10 TPI Panel Saw a D7 26” Handsaw. You did a great job on the rehab.

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

View exelectrician's profile


2328 posts in 2628 days

#15 posted 10-30-2011 04:28 AM

..... I guess you are in a pickle with such a great start, we are all sitting on the edge of our seats, watching and waiting for the file and set job..

-- Love thy neighbour as thyself

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