An Unusual Large Backsaw

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Blog entry by summerfi posted 04-29-2015 05:10 PM 1938 reads 0 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I purchased this interesting backsaw on eBay for a song. I was the only bidder, probably due to the saw’s poor condition and the fact the seller didn’t mention the brass back. I think other potential bidders passed because they didn’t realize what it was. Here is the saw in it’s as found condition.

So what is unusual about this saw? First of all, it’s length. It is rare to find a brass backed saw with a 20” plate like this one. Second is the maker, Beckett. Who was he, and where did he make saws? Finding no record of him in my saw books or on the Internet, I consulted the experts. One British saw collector told me he thought the saw was American. So I consulted America’s noted backsaw authority, Phil Baker. Phil agreed that the saw is not British, and told me there was a Beckett making saws in Hamilton, Ontario around 1860. That date is consistent with the characteristics of the saw, so perhaps that is the right answer. I may never know for sure.

What would such a large backsaw have been used for? It is possible it was a large tenon saw. The tooth configuration when I received the saw was 9 ppi rip, and this would be appropriate for cutting large tenons. It is also possible that the saw was used as a miter saw. Mechanical miter boxes weren’t invented until a few years after 1860, and the brass back on this saw shows no wear from that type of box. If it was a miter saw, it would have been used in a wooden miter box. I don’t know if woodworkers prior to 1860 had dedicated saws that they used in their wooden miter boxes, or if they used the same saws that were used for other purposes.

The restoration of this saw was challenging. The 1” wide brass back was in good condition except for having a ¼” sideways bow that had to be straightened. The plate was very crooked and pitted. The steel in the plate seems too soft. I could replace it with a new plate, but due to the potential rarity of the saw, I decided to leave it. I was able to get it pretty straight before reinserting it in the straightened back. The beech handle was split through the screw holes, had numerous weather checks, and had broken upper and lower horns and hook. These all needed to be repaired. My first attempt at gluing the split handle was unsuccessful, and you can read this post about how I solved that problem. The original split-nut saw screws were missing and had been replaced by two modern saw screws and a rivet. Whoever did that bored the holes larger than their original size. These had to be plugged and redrilled. In the end, though, I think the saw turned out pretty nice. Here are pictures of the completed saw.

As part of the restoration, I retoothed and sharpened the saw at 11 ppi crosscut, which would be more suited for miters. I’m thinking about making a wooden miter box to go with the saw.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed seeing this unusual saw.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works

20 comments so far

View walden's profile


1552 posts in 1442 days

#1 posted 04-29-2015 05:19 PM

Great find! I think you’ll find a back saw that big is more useful than you think. I have one of the Wenzloff 19 inch backsaws that is a replica of the one in the Seaton tool chest. It has a 10 ppi rip configuration and is so well balanced, I can use it for even the smallest jobs. It’s my favorite backsaw now.

Great job on the restore. It looks amazing!

-- "I am hiring a realtor if and when the day comes a lion is on my roof."

View JoeinGa's profile


7367 posts in 1427 days

#2 posted 04-29-2015 05:34 PM

What a difference! Nice restore

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

View putty's profile


972 posts in 1026 days

#3 posted 04-29-2015 06:10 PM

Another nice save Bob!
Good idea about the miter box, put the old gal back to work!

-- Putty

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

2244 posts in 697 days

#4 posted 04-29-2015 06:22 PM

Looks great.

-- Don K, (Houghton, Michigan)

View ralbuck's profile


1795 posts in 1686 days

#5 posted 04-29-2015 06:35 PM

Good save!

-- just rjR

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2200 days

#6 posted 04-29-2015 06:43 PM

Gr8 job, Bob !

-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Buckethead's profile


3140 posts in 1289 days

#7 posted 04-29-2015 06:47 PM

A beauty..

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

View chrisstef's profile


15459 posts in 2426 days

#8 posted 04-29-2015 07:16 PM

Ya know, I almost went after that saw Bob. I may have even put a bid in on it. It was/is a super interesting saw and I remember not being able to find a lick of info on the maker. Of course you did that old girl more than justice on the refurb. I guess if I couldn’t have it, im glad that you do.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View Don W's profile

Don W

17875 posts in 1987 days

#9 posted 04-29-2015 09:35 PM

Well done Bob

-- Master hand plane hoarder. -

View duckmilk's profile


1581 posts in 744 days

#10 posted 04-29-2015 10:10 PM

Nice restore Bob. Curious how you plugged the too large holes in the plate.

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View summerfi's profile


3261 posts in 1107 days

#11 posted 04-29-2015 10:26 PM

Thanks guys.
The holes in the plate were fine. The holes in the handle were enlarged to accept the shoulders on the modern screws. If you look at the second picture, you can also see that the hole for the screw head on the top right screw was gouged out much too large. I used a 9/16” replacement screw there and filled around it with epoxy.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works

View Dave Rutan's profile

Dave Rutan

1368 posts in 1608 days

#12 posted 04-30-2015 12:28 AM

Usually a back saw of that length was used in an old fashioned miter box, the kind with the guide rails that keep it from bottoming out.

Nice job on the restoration. It looks better than new.

-- Ni faru ion el ligno!

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


13569 posts in 2038 days

#13 posted 04-30-2015 02:04 AM

Awesome job, Bob!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View duckmilk's profile


1581 posts in 744 days

#14 posted 04-30-2015 02:08 AM

understood, thanks again, beautiful.

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View CFrye's profile


8566 posts in 1260 days

#15 posted 04-30-2015 02:54 AM

Beautiful restore, Bob. I recently watched a YouTube video with a huge miter saw in use here. Two appearances at about 2:25 and again at 7:15.

-- God bless, Candy

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