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Handsaw handles transformed

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Project by Paul Sellers posted 1148 days ago 8087 views 20 times favorited 179 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Handsaw handles transformed
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In the post war years many British and North American sawmakers like Spear & Jackson and Disston changed the whole appearance of saws to give us the ugly saws we know today. The lovely saw handles once known to all woodworkers are long since gone yet with an afternoon in the workshop, the wooden handles these post war saws can usually be transformed into the beauties of the late 1800s. I worry that we sometimes accept the modern-day western saw progression that led to plastic handles as irreversible when we have it in us to make a difference, make it our own and make it right. Disposable saws are not the way of the craftsman artisan. My saws, secondhand and 50-60 years old, cut as well as the best ever made. Learning to sharpen saws to task takes only an hour or two and they mean we can sharpen our saws for a lifetime’s use. Combine that with a good handle and the saw becomes a lovely thing again.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog





179 comments so far

View StumpyNubs's profile

StumpyNubs

6057 posts in 1383 days


#1 posted 1148 days ago

I’ve also found that even old saws don’t always fit my hand the way I’d like. I don’t have overly large hands, but I want then more comfortable. So I’ve been experimenting with making new handles formed for my taste.

-- It's the best woodworking show since the invention of wood... New episodes at: http://www.stumpynubs.com

View Paul Sellers's profile

Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1153 days


#2 posted 1148 days ago

That’s always an important issue for me too. I do have large hands and rarely does a saw hit me just right. I made a template form a saw handle I refined after it was exactly to my liking. That way I have a perfect fit every time. I make my templates from redundant plastic signs. You can score a shape with a sharp knife and the template follows the line no matter the shape exactly.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

View peteg's profile

peteg

2794 posts in 1405 days


#3 posted 1148 days ago

Now that’s what I call personalising your tools, you sure can spot the difference Paul, I like the carvings

-- Pete G: If you always do what you always did you'll always get what you always got

View Paul Sellers's profile

Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1153 days


#4 posted 1148 days ago

It looks more complex than it is Pete. A 1” chisel, a coping saw, a couple if files and a sharp knife gives you all you need really. Thanks for encouraging though.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1698 days


#5 posted 1147 days ago

the newer saw handle in the picture is all what we can find here in Denmark
and I think the rest of skandinavia and germany too :-(
and I have never liked them
and new saws you can buy for money here is …...............yiiiiark plastichandled and toss when dull :-(
the Spear & Jackson is that a poor saw I´m just asking since I have looked at them becourse
they are relativ cheap compared to what Diston is usely sold for

by the way your handles looks good :-)
Take care
Dennis

View christopheralan's profile

christopheralan

1105 posts in 2303 days


#6 posted 1147 days ago

I have never thought of that. Heck of a great idea! Thanks for posting!

-- christopheralan http://www.projectwoodworks.com

View Paul Sellers's profile

Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1153 days


#7 posted 1147 days ago

Thanks for the positive comments everybody.
Spear and Jackson were at one time comparable to Disston, but not in this or the last century. Other makers like Atkinson and many more were independent sawmakers. Today, all the wooden handled saws are made by Thomas Flynn of Sheffield but there are none of the inherited saw line left as far as i know. I don;t know who makes the ugly wooden handled Spear&Jackson saws pumped out as tenon saws today, but even these can be redeemed by reworking the handles, de-setting the saw teeth and reconfiguring the tooth rake (pitch) as I have done to make them feel right. Fact is you can buy a new S&J for £40 and rework it. Sort of using it like a kit.
Sandvik was one of the first to intro plastic handles. They produced one with a reddish purple handle and a dragon on it back in the sixties. It was a really good saw with the best steel and the handle did at least fit the hand. Nothing has ever replaced wood and the Veritas dovetail saw is a really good saw at a very fair price.

If anyone needs the steps for reworking the handle I can post later. Got to go to London today but back tonight.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

View RGtools's profile

RGtools

3299 posts in 1237 days


#8 posted 1147 days ago

I love my Old Disston. The handles are not made like that anymore (at least not cheaply) and good panel saws are so easy to find for a song if you keep you eyes open.

Thanks for sharing.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View DocSavage45's profile

DocSavage45

4678 posts in 1425 days


#9 posted 1147 days ago

What kind of wood are you using for your handles? You Tube has saw sharpening videos for those of use who need to “see one, do one.” Many of the older saws are pitted and rusted. Have you attempted to rework and older blade?

The japanese chisel makers usually look for older forged metals from days before everything was “made in China” as the carbon content is higher.

-- Cau Haus Designs, Thomas J. Tieffenbacher

View Paul Sellers's profile

Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1153 days


#10 posted 1147 days ago

It’s obviosly not clear. Sorry. These are original saw handles reworked. Primarily they will be beech. The best saw handles were made from fruitwoods.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

View Paul Sellers's profile

Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1153 days


#11 posted 1147 days ago

Yes, I have sharpened saws thousands of times in my lifetime. All of my classes have sixteen, dovetail saws, sixteen tenon saws and sixteen panel saws. I own about twenty saws of my own and I sharpened every one of the saws myself over at least a sixteen year period plus my own saws since I was fifteen-46 years to date. That’s a lot of points per inch. They are sharpened before each class if need be and classes were pretty much weekly. Phew!

I have also taught over 3,500 woodworkers about saw sharpening. It takes four minutes to sharpen any saw regardless of cross or rip cut.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1698 days


#12 posted 1146 days ago

thanks for the infomation Poul :-)

one thought to the last comment
I know time is money and thats proppebly why they spit out so many saws
that has hardened teeth the carpenters can buy and throw away even though
they are cheap compare to som of the handsaw Us makers sell
and you say its only take under five minuts to sharpen a saw…. when learned :-)
I can´t understand why they buy saws they can resharpen ….. at some point the expencive
saw most brake even with buying cheaper saws and through away
and most of the cheap saws is sharpend to do both crosscut and ripsawing
witch most take exstra time too to use compared with having two saws that is dedicated
for a single job
well as I say just a thought …. and I know I´m realy tired of my plastic handled sandviks :-(
I don´t like the buy and throw away idea thats dominate the world today

Take care
Dennis

View Paul Sellers's profile

Paul Sellers

277 posts in 1153 days


#13 posted 1146 days ago

Hi Dennis,
There is nothing wrong with the steel, these saws could be resharpenable if the kind manufacturers hadn’t taken the right away from us. It was the demise of skill though that led to this. Even 50 years ago most woodworkers coming into the trade were sending their saws off for sharpening and so the simple skill of sharpening was eventually but gradually lost. Much of it I saw was a lack of personal care for the saw. I didn’t send my saws in because I couldn’t do without them for three days. Now, I sharpen my saws and the school saws to task; that is dovetailing, ripping, crosscutting, passive crosscutting, aggressive crosscutting, aggressive rip, passive rip, progressive rip, progressive crosscut and so on. Sounds complicated? Not at all. Simply depends on the intended use of the saw and the size of the teeth. Sometimes the nature of the wood impacts the decision too. Sending a saw to a sharpening house (Saw doctor) didn’t give you any varying options and so saws were merely sharpened for rip or crosscut.

In an age of environmental consciousness and awareness of longterm consequences, it seems strange that makers would be making disposable saws, but many makers like Canadian Disston and UK Spear and Jackson and many others had no interest in maintaining standards set by their forebears. With the collapse of skill, at the most simple levels like this, we become more dependent on throw away knife blades in utility knives, saw blades and cutting irons. Worse still is the reality that we use highly developed and sophisticated industrial processes and equipment to cut a dovetail or ease a door. A hundred years ago every carpenter could file the teeth of his saw and get on with the job.

I think that you are right. It doesn’t take long to recoup your money on a more expensive saw if you sharpen it yourself. But you know, secondhand saws are cheaper now than they ever were, and you can learn to sharpen a saw in a couple of hours. I tell my students to buy an 8PPI saw from a garage sale or on line, go down to Home Depot (US) or B&Q (UK) and buy an extra-slim tapered saw file and file those teeth following the existing tooth configuration on the saw taking a two passes through each gullet applying the same pressure and the same length of stroke. File square across and level, with the saw clamped between to strips of wood to counter vibration. Even without sharpening to task, the saw will cut just fine. Set the saw if it binds in the cut.

-- Paul Sellers, UK http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog

View Ken90712's profile

Ken90712

14818 posts in 1771 days


#14 posted 1146 days ago

Nice work, great post!

-- Ken, "Everyday above ground is a good day!"

View Dennisgrosen's profile

Dennisgrosen

10850 posts in 1698 days


#15 posted 1146 days ago

thank´s poul
I didn´t knew that back then it almost was a lost skill :-(
I have the dvd about sharpening L-N sells its a good dvd
but on every site or book I have seen they only talk about either rip or crosscut saw
and how you file them and except for the differents in NO. off teeth per inch they have never
said anything about agresive cut or passiv cut progressive rip and crosscut

I know I have to learn it on a saw that has few teeth per inch
but I´m interrested to know more about these different way of sharpening them
do you know a good site about it
or do we have to demand a blogserie from you …............ LOL :—))

take care
Dennis

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