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 The original split-nut saw screws were missing and had been replaced by two modern saw screws and a rivet.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 http://www.rmsaws.com/p/about-us.html