Filing a Lamb’s Tongue…

So I recently acquired a nice old Disston #7 in need of a handle from one of my Woodnet connections (Thanks Dave!) Judging from the medallion and etch, which is clearly visible, I’d say it dates from just before the turn of the century…

Prior to my taking possession, it seems that the previous owner out of spite, or perhaps a sick sense of humor, installed a tote on this poor old saw that more resembled an oven mit than a device to comfortably operate and control the saw blade. Thankfully though the devious bastard did at least retain the original nuts and said medallion in the installation.

Since I don’t happen to have a proper donor handle on hand, that means I have to make a new one….which is a fun project indeed.

I selected a nice piece of figured maple that was just big enough for the handle  pattern, which I sketched from another #7 and an old Atkins rip saw…its a hybid of the two and kind of has that old school vibe to  it…here it is roughed out and ready to be contoured…

I slotted the handle, drilled and counter bored for the nuts and installed it to take a look…

Looks good so far. Next I contour the handle and I’m ready to define the lamb’s tongue, which is the focus of this post.

The last time I made a handle with a lamb’s tongue I carved it in with a Two Cherries 1/2 inch carving chisel (coincidently given to me by the same guy that sold me this very #7…thanks again, Dave!!!) But this time I wanted to try a different approach, so I decided to use a triangle file to create the carved detail of the tongue. I do this because I’m curious if this is the way factory workers would have originally created the detail on the saw’s original handle way back in Philly where this saw was born. I’m not aware of the methods used to create the lamb’s tongue’s in Disston’s factories…no literature I’ve read reveals this point, but I’m wondering if files were in fact the way they did it.

I started by drawing a pencil line connecting the two points of the handle where the tongue will be defined….then I use a knife to define the line. This knife line will guide the first few strokes of the file by creating a trough for the file to follow…

I use two files to create the tongue detail….a six inch double extra slim, and a seven inch slim taper. I start with the smaller file and just make level, even strokes along the knife line with moderate pressure. The file cuts very quickly. As it does, I begin to rock the file by tipping the toe and handle end up and down as i stroke back and forth to round and define the separation between the tongue and the main handle section. Here’s a look after a few strokes…

Now I switch to the larger file and further refine the groove created at first. Now I tip the file into the finger cutaway and round that area away to create that oh-so-cool illusion that the tongue is just touching the rest of the handle and not actually attached.


A little more filing and here’s the tongue all filed up…

I’m pleased with the way it came out. It will need a little more refining with sand paper, but it was certainly much quicker and easier than carving it…from start to finish for both sides, it was about ten minutes. I think from now on, I’ll file my tongues. Again, not sure how they did it in the factory, but I like the results.

I’ll finish up the handle and get it installed soon….I’ll post the finished saw along with my thoughts on its mysteriously thin plate…..stay tuned!

Published in: on November 9, 2010 at 7:47 pm  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nice work indeed!

  2. I’ve just found your blog and have really been enjoying it. I wanted to say thank you.

    For this post, it never would have occurred to me to use files instead of carving tools to make the tongue. That seems so much easier. Thanks again.

  3. Thank you for the comments, gents! Glad to hear you are enjoying the blog :o)

  4. I’ve never tried making a saw handle, but if you want something that is a bit narrower for filing the lambs tongue you might want to consider a knife file. It is basically shaped like a knife, with the two slanted edges having the cutting surfaces, and the back of the file being a safe edge. Not sure how it would look to use this, but might be an interesting effect.

  5. Hmmmm….sounds like it would be helpful indeed. Not sure I’ve ever seen a knife file, but I have heard of them. I would think it would actually perform perfectly in this situation, as it was impossible to deepen the tongue definition without widening it as well, given the equalateral shape of the triangle file. Thanks for the pointer!

  6. I just found your blog the other day and have really enjoyed reading what you have written. I think what your doing is great and I especially liked this one. It had never occured to me to file the lamb’s tongue and I will be sure to try it on my next saw handle. Thanks for the idea!


  7. […] ago I posted about a new way I tried making a lamb’s tongue on a traditional hand saw tote (here). Instead of carving the tongue with a chisel, I filed it using triangle files normally used for […]

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