Saw handle: Complete

I’ve been away for the last two and a half weeks. Just before I left, I put the final coat of finish on the saw handle. When I returned, I rubbed out the finish and put it back on the saw.

Everything turned out perfectly save one detail: I messed up the centering on the screw holes. Especially on the medallion. I could fix it, but I have two reasons not to. First, it serves as a reminder that I will need to practice that next time. Second, the saw itself is not worth it; I found out that the back is slightly bent. I don’t know if this happened recently or no, but it doesn’t really matter.

There’s also another good reason not to fool around with this one any longer–I want to get cracking on handles for my good saws. To that end, I bought a board of apple in Pennsylvania during my visit. It’s a pretty board and I don’t think I’ll want to stain it at all.

I also retrieved a brace from my mom’s place. The ratchet mechanism seized up, so I chucked in a sort of wide-bladed screwdriver bit, placed the blade in a vise, put in some wd-40, and turned. This freed it, and now it’s bleeding rust. Soon I’ll be able to give this one to a buddy.

Saw handle: Back mortise and screw holes

The mortise for the blade’s back was pretty much a piece of cake. I marked it off with a marking gauge on both sides, sawed down the lines, and chiseled it out.

After verifying that everything fit, it was time to drill and shape the holes for the saw screws and nuts. This was sort of a complicated operation, because there are several different sizes of recesses to cut. I started with some small pilot holes in the correct locations. Amazingly, I got them straight working freehand:

The fun part was next, because I got to use both of my braces and two auger bits to cut the recesses for the screws and nuts. Most of the shallow ones are 1/2″ in diameter, but the one for the medallion was 3/4″.

Then I had more holes to drill, because the nuts require one size, the screws another size, and the screw with the medallion needed yet another size. I did a sloppy job with the holes for the nuts, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s actually not a bad idea if they have a lot of slop anyway. I was much more careful on the side for the screws, and that turned out fine:

I test-fit everything. It’s all good. So it’s done except for the finish. I washcoated it this morning. Hopefully this time, the finish won’t take forever.

Saw handle: Cutting the blade slot

Sooner or later, I had to cut the slot for the blade, and I wasn’t looking forward to it. There is a method of cheating at this in a Lee Valley newsletter article [ed: link updated in 2021], but the only appropriate saw I have for doing this is my dovetail saw, which wasn’t gonna work.

So that meant cutting it “freehand.” And I’m really supposed to be able to do this sooner or later, anyway, because it’s the same as sawing a tenon cheek. Unfortunately, I haven’t been very good at that.

I decided that it would probably be a good idea to practice. So I marked out a bunch of lines on some scrap and sawed away:

The first tries were not encouraging. In fact, at first, I screwed up about seven times versus one instance where it wasn’t that bad. Eventually, though, I managed to relax and let the saw do the work instead of holding with a death grip. I did three good ones in a row. It seemed time.

It took what seemed to be an eternity, but once I had established the kerf (approaching from both sides), it was a cakewalk.

I managed to split the marking line. I hope that this means better tenons in the future.

Next up is cutting the mortise for the back and the holes for the saw screws and nuts. It’s starting to occur to me that this saw handle is now far better than the beat-up saw blade that it’s going to go on.

Saw handle: Shaping

The first step in shaping a saw handle is to mark out the inner lines that you’ll shape up to.

Then it’s time to break out the rasp and file and wish you had a better rasp:

I didn’t use a center line along the edge of the handle this time. I just cut alternately from each side until they met in the center. I kept them even by measuring the depth with my double square. That tool should be dragged out back and shot for being so handy.

When it was all mostly said and done, except for final sanding, it looked like this (shown next to the old handle):

The next steps are to cut the holes for the screws and the slot/mortise for the blade. I am not looking forward to the slot. It’s where I can really screw up the whole thing in one simple, easy step.

Saw handle: Cut out cleaned

Instead of starting to shape tonight, I decided to clean up the rough saw marks made by cutting out the handle.

That’ll be it for tonight. Somehow I came up lacking in the energy department.

There was some question about “purity” somewhere or other, or in other words, “would I have used a scrollsaw or bandsaw to make this if I had one?” Well, yeah, probably. Remember that Disston wasn’t shy about using machinery to make all of those beautiful early 1900s saws. They weren’t stupid, and they sure had room for some bandsaws.

Saw handle: Cutting

The worst part of making handles seems to be cutting out the handle. I’m still using a coping saw for this. I should probably wax the blade. In any case, beech does not cooperate much.

It didn’t take terribly long. The grip is maybe 1/32nd thinner than the original, which is probably okay. I’m not going to bother to even it up tonight. I’ll do that when I go to shape the handle.

Saw handle for Jackson backsaw

The handle on my old beat-up Jackson backsaw looks really sad and has a lot of nasty rot and gunk in it. In preparation for the handles on my other backsaws, I thought it might be a good idea to start with the old one, just so I can continue to mess around with a saw that isn’t worth very much.

I finally got my stupid scanner working and scanned the old handle. Then I used Inkscape to trace the outline, and finally, today, I cleaned it up a little. I got this thing:

This seems reasonable, and the dimensions also appear to be correct. I didn’t try to make it pretty or add extra flair. The “holes” are almost certainly inaccurate, but I don’t care, since I’ll be transferring them from the blade and not the drawing.

It’s a somewhat “urgent” project now. I put new teeth on another one of those cheap Craftsman dovetail saws this weekend, so I have the “urge” to put a real handle on the ones I have. This time I went for 14tpi rip, and I used a worn 5″ x-slim taper to cut the initial teeth. That went a lot faster this time.

The saw works perfectly… as a dovetail saw, that is. This is or is not unfortunate, depending on how you look at it. I wasn’t intending to make a saw that cut as well as this one, I just wanted something that was faster than my current 20tpi dovetail saw. This cuts so well that I might just try it for stuff that I used the dovetail saw on before.

So I’ll probably be getting yet another one of those cheapie saws. This time, I’ll file it to something like 10 or 11tpi rip. That ought to do what I want it to. Except that maybe I wanted to make a panel saw? Eh, I guess it doesn’t hurt to have a few.

Winchester Saw: Finished

My Winchester No. 16 handsaw has been sitting around waiting for me to do something to it since time began. I’ve had this saw for nearly five years. When I finally decided to do something about it, it was back in March, when I discovered that it was a Winchester:

I didn’t know what to do with it at that point. It’s a mildly rare saw, so one option was to try to sell it for something useful, for example, a pile of Disston D-8s. But the handle was in crap condition, and it had the less-snazzy “Warranted Superior” medallion, so I decided to restore it and keep it as a user. I don’t know when I decided to do that, but it was a long time ago, and as such, I’ve had the blade sitting around, derusted and waxed, waiting for sharpening. I took the handle off, and procrastinated on the refinishing.

About three weeks ago, I decided to do something about it. I finished today:

The saw was filed to 6TPI. That’s pretty coarse for a crosscut saw, so I was originally going to make this a ripsaw to replace my beat-up D-7. However, the handle has that funny notch on the top that would make ripping uncomfortable with two hands, so I figured decided that this would, in fact, remain a crosscut saw. The rake angle is 15 degrees, with the fleam angle at 20 degrees. I had initially filed a 20-degree rake angle, but I screwed up pointing it (of course), so on my second try, I decided that since it was so coarse that I should make it a little more aggressive. It was probably a good idea; it does saw very efficiently. The cut is fairly clean for 6TPI.

I spent about a million years refinishing the handle. It was dented, nicked, and beat up. This photo also shows how the top horn was mangled:

The first thing I did (several months ago) was strip the original finish. At the same time, I cleaned the sawnuts:

And then it sat. And sat. And sat, until about three weeks ago. Even after stripping the original finish, it was still really uneven, so I sanded around the curved parts. For the flat parts, I just skimmed it with a smoothing plane. At this time, I also learned what the wood in the handle was for the first time–American Beech (fagus grandfolia). OK, well, that’s not a big surprise.

Then there were decisions. Should I stain it? With what? I finally settled on few thin coats of a “Colonial Maple” pigment stain. I used a washcoat beforehand. Though it would result in accented nicks and dents, it would even out the flat parts, and who’s going to try to hide the fact that this saw hasn’t been used, anyway?

Finally, I decided to use the same flat-sheen polyurethane that I used on the mallet as a protective top layer. I went from a thin coat to thicker coats, then back down to thin coats for the final one. Several coats were necessary, because the varnish would run down the surfaces that were vertical, depending on the way you held the handle. I did the first coats with the handle held upright, then the later ones held flat. A close-up of the finished handle:

I used a progression of 320 grit sandpaper, #0000 steel wool, 1500 grit sandpaper, and rottenstone, all lubricated with mineral oil, to rub out the finish. There’s still a scratch here and there from the coarse-grit paper (because polyurethane is tough), but overall, it looks nice, and it’s very smooth to the touch.

Millers Falls flange wheel mystique

I’d mentioned earlier in an earlier entry that there has been some hubbub about the design of the Millers Falls #2 drill, namely that some guy named George Langford says that the later dual pinion design is inferior to the flange roller. I eventually snagged a really beat-up #2 for cheap on ebay. It’s hard to date this one precisely, but it’s probably at least 105 years old; it is a type H, I, or J, which includes a chuck patented in 1890. It’s hard to say exactly what type it is because the side handle is missing and the main handle is a replacement:

This is, of course, beside the point. It’s a flange roller model, and the real question I wanted to answer was, “does it really turn that smoothly?” Why I cared, I don’t really know.

Well, “out of the box,” it didn’t. In fact, it was a lot worse than my dual-pinion #2, but I didn’t take much stock of that. I suspected that it needed some cleaning and lube, just as my dual-pinion did (and as one of my #5s did).

As you might be able to tell from yesterday’s entry, that job sucked. Every tooth gap on the main gear and pinion had caked-on grease inside. I picked it out with the closest pick-like thing at hand, which happened to be a putty knife (a real precision instrument). Then I wiped away the residual crap with some WD-40 and a toothbrush, and called it a night.

Then today, upon arriving home from work, I was faced with a pile of drill parts on my dinner table, so my executive decision was that putting it back together was better than eating it. So I cleaned off the flange roller, applied a little bit of oil to the proper places (basically, any metal that rubs against any other metal, except for the gears, because they’ll just collect grease again).

The result?

Okay, that is one smooth drill. It’s really hard to describe, but it’s significantly smoother and easier to turn than anything else I have, and anything else that I’ve ever tried, and that’s saying a lot, because one of my #5s is very, very smooth. Maybe there really is something to this flange wheel mystique after all.