Lamb’s Tongue: The Verdict…

A few days 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 sharpening. My thinking was the files may be quicker, easier, and that this may have been the way Disston (and others) workers created the tongue detail originally in the factories of old.

Well, I finished up the tote this morning and installed it on that really sweet #7.  Take a look….

I stained the curly maple with analine dye and finished it with three coats of 1lb. cut amber shellac and a coat of light brown Briwax. I am very pleased with the results overall….I love the shape and curves of the handle. I may refinish the handle again, though…I have not been liking how my shellacked handles have been coming out lately…I may switch back to a hand mixed oil/varnish blend. Anyway, I digress.

So back to my experiment….the lamb’s tongue I am extremely pleased with. I think it came out much nicer than my carved ones and was much easier indeed. Here’s some more close-ups…

The transition from the bottom of the tongue to the front teardrop section is smoother and more shapely, and the geometry more consistent. The file helped make this idiot proof given that its cutting both sides of the detail simultaneously, therefore keeping them parallel. Blending the curves was also more straight forward than carving given the triangular file as well. And best of all in the ease department, you don’t need to worry about the chisel digging in and tearing out grain, or grain direction at all, for that matter as the file cuts well with little concern for grain.

I’m pretty convinced now that this was the way factory craftsmen would have shaped the lamb’s tongue’s on saw totes around the turn of the century. The learning curve for carving is much greater than filing wood, and given the immense operation Disston was running at the turn of the century, it just seems to make better sense production wise: faster, more consistent results with less skill and a readily available tool (Disston manufactured their own files, but did not make chisels) which all means lower cost and greater profit with no sacrifice in quality.

So there you have it….from now on I will most certainly be filing my lamb’s tongues instead of carving them. I would be very curious to know how others are making their tongues…

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Published in: on November 13, 2010 at 11:43 am  Comments (7)  

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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Truly, a very beautiful work.
    Congratulations

  2. I hate you 🙂

    Just kidding,beautiful job. Was there any power tools involved in making the handle?

  3. Haha….thanks Mike. And yes, the one place in my shop where I use power tools is in tool making…that includes everything from saws and saw handles to knives, chisels, planes, etc. It is only when I make furniture and all wooden projects that I go old school. Handle making is in fact the one place in my shop where I use the band saw/ spindle sander at all….I think at some point I will get rid of them as well. We’ll see….

    In this case, when I make a saw handle, I cut out the rough shape on my 9 inch band saw and refine it on an oscilating spindle sander. From there, however, its all hand work….all the shaping, detail carving, filing, etc. is done with rasps, scrapers and sand paper.

  4. How does it feel over the top of your thumb? It looks so long.

  5. Hmmmm….long? Do you mean the top horn? Or the grip itself? Its quite comfy…the handle grip itself is a little taller than most saws…I’m experimenting with some different sizes, but this one feels good to me.

  6. LUV the handle 🙂

  7. […] I switch to my new favorite cross-cut saw…the old Disston #7 that I made a new handle for here, and mark out my cuts. Up on the bench, its much easier to track a line, so no need for the […]


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