Hand Saw, Nib

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Forum topic by gary351 posted 03-30-2011 11:51 PM 4009 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View gary351's profile


97 posts in 2792 days

03-30-2011 11:51 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question blade

I recently discovered a couple of old hand saws my dad left me. They must have been my grandfathers because he did carpentry work. One is a H.Disston & Sons rip saw with thumb hole the other is a Richardson Bros. saw.
They’re used up pretty good, i put brasso polish on them so i could make out the brand names,and paste wax to bring back the color in the handles. Anyway i started reading about the company that made them and what number saw the are, and then finally i seen what they describe to be is a nib on the top part of the blade. After reading about the nib they say that nobody really knows what the heck there used for. C’mon you got to be kidding me that saw was made in the 1900s. So my question to all my fellow LJs what was the real purpose/use of the nib? I think somebody out there knows, why would they go through all the trouble to fabricate a nib if they serve no purpose? Maybe somebody could post a pic of a nib .Thanks Gary

-- A poor man has poor way's

8 replies so far

View Brent Powers's profile

Brent Powers

18 posts in 3582 days

#1 posted 03-31-2011 12:21 AM

There is an amazing amount of conjecture. Here are the 4 reasons I know of:

You could use the nib as the fulcrum point when using the saw as a compass.

You could use the nib to score the cut you were going to make.

It served as a visual guide to make sure the saw was vertical

It looks nice, and visually breaks the line of the saw.

I go with the last one… none of the others really seems reasonable.

View drewnahant's profile


222 posts in 3085 days

#2 posted 03-31-2011 12:35 AM

I was told by an old carpenter that it was used to knock off the corner of the cut before starting the teeth, because when you start a coarse saw on the corner of the board, the deep teeth just catch on that sharp corner, so by knocking it off, you can start easier, and therefore stay on your line easier. makes sense to me that if you can slide the smooth edge and get some momentum before catching that single nib, it makes that first bite easier, plus if you ride it against your finger as a guide, you dont have to worry about dragging all those teeth across your hand.

View Brit's profile


7376 posts in 2839 days

#3 posted 03-31-2011 01:14 AM

Gary, Gary, Gary, you’ve started something here my friend. The expression “light the blue touch paper and stand well back springs to mind”. The truth is: nobody nowadays can say for certain, but it is most likely to be the last reason Brent mentions “It looks nice, and visually breaks the line of the saw”. In other words it was an aesthetic feature that was introduced to make the back of the saw appear to be shorter than it really was. Look at my post entitled A Vintage English Hand Saw and you will see a picture of a nib on a 19th century saw.

Personally, I find it is a useful aid to tell you when to stop pulling the saw back in the cut. As soon as you see the nib, start pushing again.

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

View gary351's profile


97 posts in 2792 days

#4 posted 03-31-2011 01:33 AM

Brent, drewnahant, Brit: Thanks for you reply…I read that it was used to hold a sheath for the teeth. My grandfather smoked cigars/cigarettes i bet it could be used to hold them.

-- A poor man has poor way's

View Paul C.'s profile

Paul C.

154 posts in 3241 days

#5 posted 03-31-2011 03:04 AM

Roy Underhill has an hilarious explanation in one of his books, I will try to find it and post it.

View drewnahant's profile


222 posts in 3085 days

#6 posted 03-31-2011 03:09 AM

maybe I misunderstood, I dont think I have seen a saw with a nib like you are talking about, I was thinking of the saws with a depression in the last 3 inches or so, and a small nib.

View crank49's profile


4030 posts in 2967 days

#7 posted 03-31-2011 03:52 AM

My dad was a floorman for over 50 years and he told me the nib was to strike a line against the steel square and also to break the edge as suggested above.

In another thread on this subject it was suggested that the nib was used to check the hardness during manufacturing; a suggestion I find highly unlikely due to the fact that the production of the nib itself would probably change its hardness.

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1285 posts in 3733 days

#8 posted 03-31-2011 05:37 AM

Here is the explanation directly from the Disston archives. The nib was only made as a decoration and was never made to serve any useful purpose.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

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