Backsaw with strange tab at rear end of cutting edge

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Forum topic by Brett posted 08-04-2011 01:50 AM 3884 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2676 days

08-04-2011 01:50 AM

I came across a Keen Kutter backsaw with a steel spine that is about 12 inches long. The teeth stop about 1/4” before the back end of the saw blade (nearest the handle) where a small rectangular tab, about 1/4” square, sticks down below the teeth (like a rudder on a boat). What is this tab for? It would definitely stop the saw being pushed completely through a cut—but why?

(Update: see a crude sketch below.)

Also, when shopping for used backsaws, what should I look for? I know how to spot a good user plane, but I don’t know how to tell if the condition of a used backsaw is good enough to put it to work.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

4 replies so far

View chrisstef's profile


17377 posts in 3000 days

#1 posted 08-04-2011 02:50 AM

Im real sure about exactly what its for, but on Disston handsaws they have a little “nib” opposite the cutting edge, not behind the edge though. No one seems to have the real answer as to what its for but its been speculated that you could hang it from your tool belt off a string or it could have been used to start a cut by drawing the nib over your mark.

Ive got an old Disston back saw thats still straight and sharp after about 25 years of sitting in my grandfathers basement. Id look for those, they should be fairly easy to find at tag sales and flea markets.

As far as a good hand plane keep youre eye out for stanley bailey’s, pre-war is considered to have better materials. If you cant find any baileys look for a plane where the frog is not machined with the sole of the plane as one piece, youd like them to be seperate. Other than that find one that looks like its in good shape take it apart, clean it, sharpen and tune it. I know doing that helped me understand how and why they work.

Good luck.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View docholladay's profile


1287 posts in 3052 days

#2 posted 08-04-2011 03:07 AM

I would have to see pictures of your saw to make a guess as to what that is that you mention. I can’t think of a good reason for something like that unless maybe the saw was specially made for purpose of cutting the edges of stopped dados and the tab prevented cutting too far. Otherwise, I have not idea. As for what to look for in used back saws, the first things are straight back and blade. It is always a plus when the handle is in good condition, but it isn’t too difficult to make a new handle when needed. You can download templates for making your own handles from the website. Ideally, you try to find a saw that is sharp, but it also is not that difficult to learn to sharpen them, or you can always have someone sharpen them for you. Depending on the size and purpose of the saw, I have some other preferences. For a Rip tenon saw, I prefer a longer (18”) saw with a heavy blade and back such as the old Disston’s with a steel back. For dovetail and precision cutting, I prefer a smaller (10” or under) with a thin blade that doesn’t make much of a kerf. I also have some middle sized (12”-14”) that in both rip and crosscut and these are kind of in between. Still, I prefer one a little on the heavy side. That way the saw does the work. It isn’t necessary to put much force into the cut. One final type of saw is the big crosscut filed miter box saws. Mine is a massive 28” Millers Falls Langdon made by Disston. I like longer and heavier saws for this for the same reason. All you have to do is move the saw back and forth. I really have no preference for steel or brass backs. Generally, the American manufacturers tended to make saws with steel backs and the english saw makers made them with brass backs, but there are exceptions to this. As for tooth count, most of these types of saws with 12-15 tpi. At this fine of tooth count, generally any saw can still perform pretty well when filed rip, but for crosscutting, you may use a little less set to the teeth and you may not file as much rake into the teeth.


-- Hey, woodworking ain't brain surgery. Just do something and keep trying till you get it. Doc

View Brett's profile


660 posts in 2676 days

#3 posted 08-04-2011 08:34 PM

Here’s a crude drawing of the saw, showing the tab (slightly exaggerated):

The original is a backsaw: I forgot to draw that feature.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View MedicKen's profile


1615 posts in 3456 days

#4 posted 08-04-2011 08:47 PM

I wondering if its not a stop for use in a miter box

-- My job is to give my kids things to discuss with their

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