terryR's Rusty Saw Blog #2: 1931-1935 No. 5 Disston-Keystone Handle Replacement

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Blog entry by terryR posted 03-20-2012 03:49 PM 4786 reads 5 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: Disston No. 4 Backsaw Part 2 of terryR's Rusty Saw Blog series Part 3: Simonds 24" Miter Saw Restore »

Welcome back ya’ll…for part two of this series I promise more eye candy!

Still considering myself quite the newbie, I wanted a saw of lesser value on which to practice. Ah-ha! Here in the pile was the perfect choice…

This saw had a shiny coated medallion, semi-sharp teeth, seemingly very little rust, and the handle was painted black and orange. Surely, a ‘worthless’ Disston from the fading days of the company???

The initial layer of rust came off pretty easily, but no sign of an inscription…bummer. Still, the sharp cross-cut teeth would add a valuable tool to my shop, so I continued. The ‘Mr. Halloween’ tote wasn’t my favorite, so I considered re-shaping it, then I saw this slot which allows the saw’s plate into the handle:

Unacceptable. So sloppy that I thought I had stumbled upon a home-made job? But, it sure looked factory…Anyhow, new handle…period. This would be my second attempt at a new tote from scratch, but I felt confident I could do much better than ‘Mr. Halloween’! :-)

Starting with a blank piece of paper, I traced the saw’s plate; being careful to accurately copy the location of the holes which would accept hardware later. Rummaging through my collection of antique saws gave me a head start on the new handle design…in fact, I traced several old totes onto my blank paper and tried to blend them together:

I wanted a highly-decorative tote for this build, so spent over an hour drawing and erasing until I was happy with the new design. The lamb’s tongue is clearly too long for an everyday user, but oh well. Sometimes one half of my brain outweighs the other. If I break off the tongue during use, I’ll just re-shape it. :-)

A bit of transfer paper secured with masking tape make it easy to add my handle design to a lovely piece of 4/4 black walnut:

I then cut the walnut blank on an angle to approximate the front edge of my cheek; while leaving the horn section completely square. This would make the next step a bit easier for me…cutting the slot which allows the blade into the handle. My calipers measured the tang of the blade at 0.020”, so I chose my $20 Stanley hacksaw for the cut (Lenox blade with kerf of 0.018”). That is the best…make that ONLY…saw I have with a kerf that thin! :-) I used P100 grit sandpaper to enlarge the slot so the heel of the blade would fit…very tightly.

Not as difficult as it looks if you take your time and constantly check your reference lines. My cut wasn’t perfect…but very close…and far better than Mr. Halloween’s.

Now, the second most difficult part…milling the holes to accept the hardware…in the right spot. This took me a great deal of time and concentration…four holes…1,2,3 counter bores…3 squarely mortised openings, and many custom chisel cuts for the medallion whose post was flared larger in diameter near the top. Whew! Glad I had a drill press to help! Although it wasn’t that difficult…I had the original handle for a guide.

As far as I was concerned, the hard work was done and I was home free at this point! I mean, all the woodworking up to this point HAD to occur with precision to fit the saw’s plate…now it was all play time and up to suggestive interpretation. :-)

A quick trip to the best saw in my shop and I had a roughed-out handle:

I used rasps, files, cabinet scrapers, chisels, and even sandpaper taped to hardwood cut-offs to remove the extra wood…slowly approaching the outline of my design. (notice my osage orange handles on files from the big box store!)

As has become habit for me, I save the carving of the lamb’s tongue until first thing in the morning when I’m ‘full of beans’ ya know?! To begin, I simply use my sharpest bench knife to make a shallow slice along the layout line. To widen this slice, I grab a 1/8” v-shaped gouge and remove very short sections of the slot…starting at the hole in the handle and working my way toward the flat edge of the cheek:

I continue to gouge slowly until a nice v-groove separates my lamb’s tongue from cheek. That gap allows me to quickly lower the tongue section by approximately 1/8” on each side of the handle without marring the cheek…re-gouging as needed:

I also make sure to fold sandpaper and polish that gap with each grit as I continue to finish the piece:

In the meantime, I was constantly researching the web while trying to ID the exact model of this old guy. FINALLY found him on the Disstonian Institute with this description from the 1932 Disston Catalog: “The No. 5 Disston-Keystone hand saws were introduced in 1931 to meet the demands for good hand saws at low prices…Skew-back blade, striped, lightweight pattern, highly polished and decorated with orange and black decalcomania. Hardwood handle lacquered orange and black…four nickel-plated screws…”

Bingo! The orange and black handle and the pattern of the hardware gave him away! However, now I was faced with a small dilemma. Should I keep the historically correct handle with atrocious colors, or continue my efforts with the new handle???

Working my way back to the saw’s plate, I sanded lightly with WD-40 and P400 grit sandpaper still hoping for some inscription to appear; nope; none. So, I decided to continue with my replacement handle, while keeping the original nearby.

Continuing on the plate, I grabbed some P60 grit paper and started the never-ending task of hand sanding out the pits. I tried this both dry and with WD-40 as lube and I think the dry sanding removed steel quicker. Once satisfied I had removed enough pitting, I worked my way from P80 to P120 grit:

Then, following more advice from other LJ’s, I covered the plate with 3-in-1 oil and rubbed in it with 0000 steel wool. This was done in an attempt to darken the plate somewhat…I’d like to experiment more in this area in the future with other types of oils…but so far I like the final color of this plate.

Back to the handle…I sanded from P80 to P1500 grit then applied two coats of BLO (no sanding). Wow! The walnut sprang to life!

After waiting three days for the BLO to dry, I brushed on a thick coat of clear polyurethane…being sure to get down between all those darn nibs and whatnots. Once allowed to dry overnight, I sanded most of the poly off, trying to leave what had soaked into the pores…then applied a lighter coat. Another overnight wait…more minor sanding…then two coats of Renaissance wax for the final finish.

Here is the restored saw with cleaned hardware:

and a closer view of the tote:

This saw really needs to be sharpened, but that will have to wait until I learn how! I’ve already built a file holder (thanks to Andy's great tutorial), and have been reading a bit…but need a few more tools first…

stay tuned…

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

8 comments so far

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2617 days

#1 posted 03-20-2012 04:10 PM

That is a hell of a tutorial. Thanks for sharing. I think I need to do this…I have one or two saws that could use it. Now I just need time.

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

View Mauricio's profile


7144 posts in 3114 days

#2 posted 03-20-2012 05:30 PM

Thats saw looks amazing. Thanks for the ID, that is the same saw I restored but I didnt know the model. I also replaced the handle and bought some bras nuts for it.

-- Mauricio - Woodstock, GA - "Confusion is the Womb of Learning, with utter conviction being it's Tomb" Prof. T.O. Nitsch

View Brit's profile


7366 posts in 2805 days

#3 posted 03-20-2012 06:20 PM

Fantastic post Terry! That is a beautiful handle and a great cleaning job on the blade too. Thanks so much for starting this blog, it is inspirational. Now you’d better get those sheets back on the bed before your wife finds out you nicked them. :-)

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

View SisQMark's profile


384 posts in 2562 days

#4 posted 03-20-2012 07:53 PM

beautiful job, nice work!

-- Don't waste today, it is yesterdays tomorrow!~SisQMark

View racerglen's profile


3112 posts in 2743 days

#5 posted 03-21-2012 10:34 AM

I like it !
That’s a great job Terry, and very well done tutorial..
You aren’t a teacher ?


-- Glen, B.C. Canada

View Brit's profile


7366 posts in 2805 days

#6 posted 03-21-2012 11:04 AM

If he isn’t Glenn, he missed his vocation. :-) The man’s a natural born blogger. Looking forward to many more.

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

View Enoelf's profile


192 posts in 2226 days

#7 posted 03-21-2012 01:41 PM

Excellent restoration on an old saw. I have a couple from the early 1900’s that could use some love as well. Thanks so much for the incredible detail in your post.
Well done.

-- Central Ohio, Still got 9 and 15/16 fingers!

View terryR's profile


7114 posts in 2271 days

#8 posted 03-21-2012 02:39 PM

Thanks for the compliments, but you guys know I’m the newbie to tool restoration! I barely know the difference between a jack or a rabbit! :-)

And a teacher I am NOT…always had trouble transferring my work into words. I’m merely using you LJ’s as test subjects while I improve my skills! A long blog with photos is a real workout for me…now I REALLY have respect for Andy’s well thought out blogs with historical photos, a little fiction sometimes, intriguing details like the ol’ workmate always in use, and, of corse, the museum quality finished work.

SO….my point is…...YOU guys are the ones responsible for this blog appearing! You all inspire me to push myself, and please keep it up! :-)

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

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