Let’s make a saw…part 3

Now that we know we have a good donor saw plate, and its been  cut and filed to final shape, we’re ready to clean it up and make it usable. And when ever I’m cleaning a sawplate like this and have no idea whats underneath all that rust and gunk, instead of just diving in head first with a thorough cleaning, I focus on the area of the etch and gingerly clean that first to see if there is indeed an etch hiding under there. Protecting the etch and taking extra steps to uncover it properly is well worth it, as this could be a really cool or rare saw. Plus, its as close to being  Indiana Jones on a great adventure as I’ll ever get!

Here’s our saw plate so far…

Underneath said gunk, some saws can have etches of biblical proportions…fancy scrolling, rambling steel descriptions, awe inspiring warrantees of quality and superiority, and–not to be left out and my personal favorite–all manner of idealic scenes from American life of men fishing, golfing and even bike riding. What any of those last silly things have to do with woodworking, I have no idea, but perhaps early 20th century marketing firms thought golfers and fishermen could sell saws better than, well, sawyers. Go figure.

So here’s some of the tools I use to clean a saw plate…

I’ve tried several different types of rust remover and I like this Krud Kutter ‘The Must for Rust’ the best…you can get it at Home Depot and its only $5 a bottle…plus it works real quick. And sanding blocks are a necessity as well when cleaning saws…this prevents you from abrading unevenly and digging into the etch. I used to use wooden blocks of scrap wood, but recently I found this Norton brand sanding block and I gotta say, its cut the sanding time in half. I recommend picking one up. Lastly, the scraper helps remove all the heavy rust before you get to the sandpaper….no sense wasting when surface rust can be scraped off with this little tool.

I’ll start with the scraper, and using a low angle, scrape with the length of the blade and remove said rust…

I go ahead and scrape both sides of the saw plate. You can see all the rust piling up in front of the scraper…thats what we want to see.

Next, we’ll focus on the etch as I mentioned. I use 220 grit Norton 3X paper and the sanding block and gingerly sand lengthwise using mineral spirits as a lubricant. Alas, after a minute of abrading, I find no traces of an etch, which is not uncommon with a saw in this condition…its hard to tell, but sometimes the saw is so rusted, the abrading just disintegrates it in process. Oh well…on to the whole plate.

Now that I don’t have to worry about protecting the etch, I drop down a grade of paper and go with 120, now using the rust remover as my lubricant/cleaner simultaneously.

Look at all that rust! This is only after a few seconds of scrubbing with 120 and the Krud Kutter…like I said, this stuff works fast. I use a fresh piece of paper for each side, cleanig the plate thoroughly before turning it over.  Here she is all de-rusted…

Next I  use a wire brush and the Krud Kutter rust remover again and turn my attention to the tooth line. This is a very important part of the process, as the teeth are the working area of the plate, and if any rust remains on them, they won’t work at their fullest potential. I squirt the rust remover directly on the teeth and scrub vigorously until all the rust is gone.

After the derusting is complete, I wipe down the whole plate completely with mineral spirits, as well as the benchtop….you don’t want any rust remover on the plate again, as it will start to stain the steel. Now she’s ready for 220 grit paper and using mineral spirits to lubricate, starting with a fresh piece of paper with each side. I thoroughly wipe down the plate with a clean cloth after each grit to avoid cross contaminating the grits.

I sand next with 400 then 600 grit with mineral spirits as a lubricant and use the sanding block. And before you know it, she’s all clean…

Just look at that shine! ;o) If this were a fine cross cut or back saw, I would finalize the cleaning with metal polish, but its not really necessary on a course 8 point saw like this.

Now we can unite the new saw plate with the handle and mark out the saw bolt holes. I install the plate and mark the holes with a punch and black magic marker…you can see that one of the original holes on the plate is a close match, but we’ll still have to move it over a bit to fit properly. Its very important that the holes be the proper size….not too big or small. While its tempting to make them large to ease installation of the handle this could cause the plate can work lose with vigorous sawing and you’ll never have a tight handle on your saw….very annoying. If the holes are too small, you may be tempted to force them and strip the delicate brass threads on the bolts…also a bad thing. So, they need to be perfectly placed and sized to ensure a proper fit. Here they are marked out…

Center punching AND marking the holes will both guide the drill bit and help me know when the size is right…you can’t be too cautious with this step.

Its over to the drill press to drill the initial holes. I use TiN coated bits of HSS to stay sharp and cool….drilling this kind of steel is a bear with regular high carbon bits…you’d need to sharpen them after each hole you drill. Even with a good quality TiN coated bit, I find myself sharpening them before every handle I mount…..I’m thankful I have my Drill Doctor around!!! (Thanks Dad 🙂

I start with a 1/8 inch bit, run at a low speed and use 3 in 1 oil to lubricate the drilling. Here you can see the plate clamped to the table and ready…

After the initial holes are drilled (you don’t want to drill to the final diameter in one step) I unite the handle and plate again and drill to our final size.

I clamp the handle and plate together and drill the final size holes using the handle as a drill guide…

Now we can use the 7/32 TiN coated bit and drill on through. With the holes now proper, I remove the handle one last time and file off the burrs on the back side of the plate created by drilling.

Now I install the handle, snug up the nuts and here she is..

I’d say she’s a real looker, no?

In the final installment, I’ll shape and sharpen the teeth, and we can see how she does!

Published in: on October 31, 2010 at 12:43 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] For the small parts I soaked them in evaporust and polished some with abrasive pads.  To clean up the saw plate I first used a razor blade to remove the heavy rust, then sanded it using mineral spirits, a sanding block and more abrasive pads in varying grits.  For a more detailed explanation of the process see the Saw Blog entry on cleaning up a saw plate. […]

  2. I don’t know if you are still responding to posts this old.

    I’ve been following your blog since the start, but came back this week to review some of your content, as I’ve recently been dappling at saw restoration myself. I thought I’d learn from someone who actually knew what they were doing.

    I notice in this post that you cleaned up your saw plate until it shined. I’ve just been scrubbing long enough to remove the rust. I use mineral spirits and steel wool. Then I wipe it down with wax. This leaves my saw plate still pretty grey (shall we say ‘patina-ed’). So this removes all the rust, but it certainly isn’t shiny. What are the reasons for taking it to this extra level of shine? Am I hurting the saw in any way by not polishing more?


    • You ask a good question….there is a very good reason for taking a saw plate to the next level of polish, actually a couple reasons.

      1) First, the higher the polish on the plate, the less likely the plate will rust. Salt loves to get into the crevices of steel and start causing trouble, so the smaller you make the tiny scratches on a saw plate (polishing) the less likely salt is going to sit there and turn into rust.

      2) Second, the more finely abraded a plate is, the less friction it produces in the kerf…and anything you can do to limit friction in the kerf is good.

      3) And finally, a shiny plate will allow you to see the reflection of your work in the saw plate…this lets you use the reflection to keep your cuts square by matching the reflection to the work.

      I’ve found that once you get to 1000 grit paper, you pretty much have topped out the benefit of shiny-ness…any more and you’re not really gaining much. Like I said in the post, for many applications, 400 grit is plenty of polish. But some saws i do take to 600 and then 1000.


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