A tenon saw and more sharpening fun…

Whenever I undertake a new woodworking project, I find myself needing to take breaks periodically due to spring steel withdrawal. You know what I mean…the ache you get in your loins for a freshly revealed etch and crisply sharpened teeth staring up at you from your vintage Disston saw vise?

No…you don’t get that feeling??? Hhhhmmmm….maybe my wife is right? Well, anyway….

It’s sad, but it seems I can’t go more than a few days without diving into some old saw rehab to bring another long-lost gem back from the brink of the scrap pile.

This week was wrought with said withdrawl….I’ve been knee-deep in my new super saw bench build…ripping, planing, cutting…actual WOOD working so I had to distract myself with some saw time. And boy am I glad I did, because whenever I do, I seem to take leaps forward in my saw sharpening and fettling skills….this week was no different.

I’ve had this war-era Disston #4 back saw sitting in my short till for a few months and I’ve been meaning to retooth it. When I originally bought it back in the spring, it was covered in rust and looking pretty sad with its purely machine shaped handle (you know the ugly ones I’m talking about that Disston insulted us with right before their fall from greatness).

When i first brought her home, I immediately cleaned her up and reshaped the handle. At 16 inches long, she’s a true tenon saw….def hard to find in this vintage.  The teeth however, at 12 points per inch, were peg filed, as is common to find with older saws, and with fleam to boot….not going to fly as a tenon saw at all!

Here she is after a day at my spa…

After cleaning her up, I put her on the shelf with plans of re-toothing her soon, but you know how that goes….summer…fall….and here we are.

So I took her down a couple nights ago, with arms sore from planing white oak, and I decided the time had come for that re-toothing. I was set on 10 points, rip cut (no fleam), and about 7 degrees of negative rake….my favorite recipe for tenon saw teeth.

The first step of course, as she was a 12 point saw, was de-toothing her before I could re-tooth her.

So, over to the grinder we go…and quick work here (a lot faster than filing them all away….aarrrrrggghh!!!!)

I leave just the bottoms of the gullets left and chuck her into the saw vise to take her down to a clean line with a mill file…

You can see I’m skewing the file here just a bit to make a cleaner cut. And the last two strokes I turn the file 90 degrees to the tooth line and draw file it for a really smooth finish.

Next, I mark out the tooth spacing with a fine Sharpie and threaded rod as a guide. You can use lots of little tricks to mark the tooth spacing…I’ve been meaning to try those templates from Lief at Norse Woodsmith…gotta upgrade my process…

To start filing in the teeth, I use a very light touch and take one stroke across the Sharpie mark to simply create a groove for subsequent strokes…no heavy filing here…its quick and easy…

Now that a groove is created at the correct spacing, I can focus on makin’ teeth. I don’t take more than two or three strokes with the file per tooth…you really want to keep your spacing accurate and its best done bit by bit.

A few minutes and a few passes and the teeth are just about shaped…

After the first shaping, I joint the teeth and then perfect the spacing by paying close attention to the gullets and “moving” certain teeth forward of back by accentuating my file stroke to the left or right. This is honestly the trickiest part of filing….it can get real tedious so I take my time.

Here they are all shaped…

Now comes the part where lots of people do different things…some sharpen now, then set, some set them sharpen…and the fight goes on.

I like to first set the teeth, joint them again, and then finish with the sharpening. I think it’s absolutely paramount to joint the teeth after you set them because the setting process changes the presentation of the tooth point to the wood (Mike Wenzloff explains it better than I do). By jointing after setting, you return the tooth point to a true perpendicular to the wood when you saw.

I set with my Stanley 42 on the smallest setting…

Followed by a jointing, the final filing, a light stoning of the set, and voila….she bites wood again!!!!

I chucked some 10/4 white oak into my leg vise and hastily scribed some plumb lines to simulate tenon cheek cuts. She needed just a little more taken off the right (because I file my teeth all from the same side, my saws always steer to the right and need to stone a little more off that side due to the burr) and after that it was like buttah’!!!

The 16 inch saw plate really helps to keep the cuts lined up and with 3 and 5/8 under the back, I can reach serious depth without needing to switch to a panel saw.

Daddy likey!!!!!

With the ache now abated, I can return my focus to the super saw bench in bliss…..aaaahhhhh…all is well in the world once more!

🙂  Matt

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Published in: on December 30, 2010 at 8:24 pm  Comments (13)  

Roughing the saw bench parts…

If you read my post on ripping one of my 6×8 oak beams in half  (here) then you may remember me mentioning that I’m planning on making  a new, super-duper saw bench. I’ve decided that its time to take things to the next level with my saw appliances…my little saw bench is nice, but it feels under built for my work. I want my new saw bench to be bomb-proof….I weigh about 240 and I’m clumsy…I’m not very nice to inanimate objects.  

So this new design will be built entirely from one of my oak beams, which, since my big rip, is now two 8 and 1/2 foot long 4×6 inch beams, actually. So the next step is to rough out all of the parts.

I start by cross cutting both 4×6 beams in half to make them more manageable. I’m using one of my 20 inch panel saws here because with the beam trestled up on the floor, I’m pretty sure the teeth of a full size saw would be biting concrete as much as wood…

You can see that I’m using a little cross cutting guide here to make the cut. It’s essentially an upside down bench hook with 180 grit sand paper glued to the underside to grip the work. I place it directly next to the cut line and stroke away. This low on the ground and kneeling makes for some inaccurate work. So, I figure when making a big cross cut like this, if you can’t bring the work to the bench hook, bring the bench hook to the work. It works like a charm! Here’s a close up…

The nicer of the two cross-cut beams will become the top…two side by side, 4 foot lengths at 4 inches thick and 6 inches wide…lots of real estate to hold the work!

For the legs of the bench, I’m thinking I need four 18 inch lengths. My current saw bench is around 20 inches tall and I want this one to be about two inches taller. With the added height from the four-inch thick top, I should have plenty to work with.

So 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 cross-cut guide. I will kerf in the top and side of the cut to give me a two-dimensional guide however.

To do this, I start on the top of the work, line up the saw teeth parallel with the face of the wood and stroke slowly back and forth to establish a shallow kerf the whole width of the cut…

Now I do the same thing to the side of the cut line…

Now I just line up those two lines with the saw plate and saw away…

I gotta say…this old #7 is a real gem….its fast, smooth and leaves a really fine finish. I measured the saw plate thickness all around and at 0.032 at the tooth line and tapering to .024 at the back…its super thin for a 26 inch hand saw by today’s standards. The thin plate gives it that almost Japanese pull saw smoothness (yes Wilbur…I do love the smoothness!)

So here are the four legs roughed to length….

You can see where the pith has caused some fierce checking, so I’ve decided to rip these down to get rid of the checks.

I’ll rip these on my workbench by securing them with holdfasts…this is definitely the easiest way to rip. You can rip all day like this without tiring at all because of all the upper body weight you can use and multiple muscle groups at work.

I use my 26 inch, 5 point Disston #9 with the Wenzloff saw plate…I figure it did so well on the big beam, why mess with a good thing? These oak legs are only 4 inches thick now, so the work should be fast and relatively easy.

First, I kerf in the vertical cut line to keep the saw plumb…

Next I get the cut going with an overhand grip making sure to split the line perfectly…

And once I’m at full depth, I switch to a side by side upright grip and stroke away like a madman…

In a few minutes, I’ve got all four legs roughed into 4×4’s…

All that’s left is to cut the two cross members that join the legs and the top…I mark and  rip them to remove the checked area as well…

…and soon, I’ve got all my parts for the bench roughed to size…

I’ll let these parts acclimate for a week or so and then true them up and start building my new super saw bench…I can’t wait!

More to come…

-Matt

Published in: on December 22, 2010 at 8:24 pm  Comments (5)  

T.P.I. vs P.P.I.

If you’re like me and you find yourself falling further and further down the rabbit hole we call hand tool woodworking, then you no doubt have a laundry list of questions that are waiting to be answered by the long deceased hand tool deities. So, it can only be expected in my quest to revive the once grand love and labor of hand sawing that my list includes everything from how much set should a hand table saw have to what the heck did they do in the “jimping room” at the Disston factory?!?

One such question that was on my list for a while was the difference between the traditional English pitch measurement, and the American measurement. Pitch, in case you are wondering, is the number of teeth that a hand saw has per inch and is given in two different standards: teeth per inch (TPI) is the traditional/British measure and points per inch (PPI) is the American gauge.

It’s fairly simple to determine the difference between the two (we’ll get to that in a minute) but it is entirely another animal to know what gauge a person, sawyer, or even saw smith is using with certainty, because I found many people using the two gauges interchangeably. And even more annoying, I found that very well versed people would do so. Just because someone said 6 ppi didn’t matter because they could in fact be measuring full teeth and not in fact the points as ppi would indicate. And just so you know I’m not harping on insignificant details, I’m referring to major hand tool retailers, makers and users….and in situations where they were describing goods and services (and no, I’m not talking about the Home Depot website…I’m talking our people here!)

So, in case you’re like me, and you long for accurate language, then here’s a quick tutorial of what I’ve learned and how to gauge the pitch of a saw:

Teeth per inch (TPI) is the traditional method that Englishmen brought over from the old country. When measuring the teeth, you measure from gullet to gullet, and count only the number of full teeth in one inch. I like to imagine the teeth as little mountains…only count the mountains that have a full left face, peak, and a full right face. I use little brass calipers to make it easier.

Now, points per inch (PPI) on the other hand, is a measure of only the peaks, or points, of the teeth and NOT the full tooth including the left and right face. Because PPI only measures the points and not the full teeth, there will always be one less tooth than points. So a 6 PPI saw and 5 TPI saw are one in the same. American makers like Disston, Atkins, etc., actually stamped the pitch of their saws on the heel…that’s what that number under the handle is…a measurment of the saws pitch, or PPI.

How about some pics to demonstrate…

Here’s a pic of a 4 TPI rip saw…

See how the calipers measure from gullet to gullet and show 4 full teeth?  That’s the 4 “T” in 4 TPI.

Now here’s the exact same saw, but measured in “points”…

See how the calipers measure from the point of one tooth to the point of another tooth in one inch? When you measure this way, you pay no regard to gullets, the faces of the teeth, or anything…just the points. That’s how to gauge PPI. That means this saw is 5 PPI. And if you’re following along at home, you now know that 4 TPI = 5 PPI.

So you see how things can get confusing, right? Here we’ve got the same saw measured two different ways and having two different pitches. The problem in converting from one to another…as you often have to do when buying an English saw…is that you don’t actually know for sure if the measurer used one method over another based solely on the number. What I mean is, its not like converting yards into meters, where the number changes by some small fraction and gives the conversion away (like 1 yard = 0.9144 meters). This is what I was running into in catalogs, websites and blogs….companies or dealers or craftsman would say PPI, but mean TPI and I had no way of knowing what they actually meant without measuring the darn thing myself!!!!!

Like i said…annoyance. But, then again, it was really a matter of just sitting down and first understanding the real difference myself.

Here’s a couple more examples…

Measured in TPI, this saw has 4 and 1/2. Measured by PPI, it equals 5 and 1/2 PPI.

But (and here’s where it gets a little more tricky) because this saw has no negative rake to the teeth, that means the gullet and the top of each tooth are at the same linear point along the tooth line, meaning that you don’t even need to move the calipers to change gauges. Get it?

 As stated above, 4 and 1/2 TPI = 5 and 1/2 PPI….one less tooth than points.

Here’s one more…

Here’s 2 and 1/2 TPI…

And measured in PPI…

…it’s 3 and 1/2 PPI.

So, figuring out the two methods was an important step forward for me. Its important to be able to refer accurately to a saw’s pitch for learning its function, selecting the best saw for the job, and conversing via internet about a perspective purchase.

Confussed? No worries, apparently, half of the hand tool world is too! 🙂

Happy sawing!

-Matt

Published in: on December 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm  Comments (11)  

Review: Gramercy Tools Saw Handle Makers Rasp

I spent the whole day in the shop today with plans to finally install the leg vise on my Roubo bench, but before I got into that ordeal (turning my bench over to saw the parallel guide mortise in the base of the leg, among other steps) I wanted to repair the tote on a nice Disston #12 I got over the summer.

This particular #12 I found at the same old barn where I got my nice little Tillotson carcase saw (which I rehabed here). I cleaned up the plate of the #12 when I first got it, but have not had a chance to fix the tote…it was missing its entire lower section and need a glued in chunk of apple to repair.

So, one night this week after work I glued in the repair piece and set it aside to cure, all the while with plans to finally try out my newest tool on this repair….the Gramercy Tools Saw Handle Makers Rasp.

It seems the good people at  ToolsForWorkingWood believe that saw makers deserve their own rasp to shape the handles of their wares, and if you’ve ever shaped a saw tote with regular cabinet rasps (as I have many times) then you know the frustration incurred. You see, this rasp is unique in that it curves along the last few inches of its length to allow the user to avoid gouging the opposing face of the tote when working the insides of the handle web. Take a look…

I should note that I was the oh so fortunate recipient of this rasp as a gift from my WoodNet Secret Santa, as well. What the heck is a WoodNet Secret Santa? Well, if you don’t know WoodNet, then you’re missing out. Its an online woodworking forum that is quite frankly, the coolest damn place to hang out and talk wood online. Do yourself a favor and check it out. And next year, make a point of joining the Secret Santa hoopla…unless, of course, you have something against free tools?

So anyway, back to the tote. All I can say, is that after I roughed out the shape of the repair at the band saw and spindle sander, the normal drudgery of shaping the roundovers and blending the curves of the handle turned into the most smooth, precise exercise I’ve undertaken in quite some time.

The Gramercy rasp cut very smooth and left a finish that only needed to be touched up with 120 and then 220 grit paper before finishing. And not once did I bang the nose of the tool onto the opposing edges when working the curves inside the hand web…which is a common occurence with straight rasps despite my best efforts. Not only that, but the curved nose of the rasp helped round the edges better than a straight rasp…kind of like it was made for rounding edges. Brilliant!

This is undoubtedly one of those tools that once I use it, I wonder how the hell I ever got anything done without it! What normally was a process of roughing with my 4-in-1 and then refining with various cheap Borg rasps, was now accomplished in a fraction of the time, and leaving a better finish, with the Gramercy rasp.

Well, I’m sold. I can’t wait to make my next tote!

Here’s a shot of the work in progress…

So, if you like to make saw totes, or repair then often, do yourself a favor….get one of these bad boys! Scower the couch cushions, raid the kids college fund, steal the offering from church, just do whatever you can and get one. You can thank me later.

Oh, and thanks Santa…you are most certainly, The Man!

🙂  Matt

Published in: on December 11, 2010 at 7:47 pm  Comments (8)  

A Disston Mystery?

This past Saturday I woke at the crack of dawn to attend a local antique tool auction a couple of towns away. The auction itself didn’t start until 10 am, but the real action happens in the parking lot of the event starting at 7am…that’s where you can find the “tool pushers” as Schwartz calls them.

Yes, Patrick Leach was there, as were many well known names in antique tools, including Roger Smith, who happened to have a nice pile of rusty saws for me to pick through in the whipping cold winds.

I picked out a couple nice 19th century British saws, including a really sweet Biggin and Son rip saw, and one odd Disston that caught my eye. Or should I say, it was the three medallions on its truncated handle that caught my attention….aaaahhhhhhh…the prize medal saw!!!

For those of you who don’t know, the Disston #99 is a very scarce saw made in the heyday of Disston. It included the Extra London Spring Steel blade as used on the #12, an apple handle, straight back and nib, and instead of the standard three nuts and one medallion, this saw was graced with three medallions and one lone nut.

Here’s a pic from the Disstonian Institute…

I quickly paid Roger and scurried off like a junkie with my score…locking myself in my car to drool on my new prize.

Now before you get all excited, you should know that there are some apologies for this saw. First, as I mentioned above, the tote was badly broken…nearly the entire hand grip and bottom was missing from the tote. Second, the central medallion, and largest of the three was also absent.

However, there is some good news. The two remaining medallions and nut were fully intact with their split nuts. The plate was in great shape…a little surface rust, and dead straight…I mean not even a little wavy! And finally, the most miraculous of all perhaps, the teeth were absolutely perfect…. 6 ppi, filed rip, each and every tooth looked factory fresh. Perfect height and gullet depth, and in an uncommon rip configuration as well.

Now for the mysterious part (did you catch that in the title of the post?)…the handle was beech. Yes, I said beech. If you’ve been paying attention, you should know that the handle on this saw is supposed to be apple. After all, apple was the premier wood and given to all top end Disston saws. So why was this one beech? Maybe its not a #99? Maybe its a #77..another triple medallion saw? And just to make things really slippery, not only is the tote beech, but it has a lamb’s tongue instead of the requisite double loop in the bottom section of the handle. Hmmmmmm…..perhaps this is a very early #99???

Well as soon as I got a chance, I got her home and started the investigation. I gingerly disassembled the nuts, removed the tote and cleaned the etch and plate.

Here’s a pic after clean up…

 

The etch is indeed present…its faint, but it’s there. It reads as  “Henry Disston and Son” making this a saw from the desirable post-Civil War years when Hamilton joined the firm, but before Huey, Duey and Lewey followed suit.

In addition to the “one Son” you can read that the plate is indeed Extra Refined London Spring Steel and unless my eyes are playing tricks on me, the second “9” of the #99 can just be made out. I did my best to photograph it, but it didn’t come out great. Take a look…

 

Now before you think I’m makin’ this up, it really starts to get interesting.

As you may know, all saw plates from the Disston factory that were given the Extra Refined London Spring Steel designation where stamped with an “X” at the upper corner of the plate above the heel (and normally covered by the tote) So, if you’ve ever removed the handle from a #12 or the like, you can see this “X”. Well, it seems this saw indeed has the “X”, buts that’s not all….it also has the words “MADE FOR 99” under the tote as well! Take a look…you’ll have to click on the file to enlarge it and once it’s full screen, click right above  the first top handle hole and you’ll see it clearly stamped…

Have you ever seen anything like that? I certainly haven’t…let me know if you have, cause I’m thinking this could indeed be a very early version of the #99….earlier than those shown in the well-known 1876 Disston catalogue.

Here are some more pics….

The tote after cleaning…

 

The two medallions…showing the Disston eagle with the “Warranted Superior” mark…

Here’s another shot of the etch…not too much better…

So I’m pretty excited about this little lady….the plate being in such perfect shape, its beggin’ to be put back to work. I just happen to have the perfect “one Son” medallion for the vacant hole, and I’m already picking through my beech stash for a handle patch.

It won’t be long ’til she’s rippin’ again!

Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 9:32 pm  Comments (5)  

My Little Saw Museum…

Recently, in my never-ending hunt for antique spring steel, it seems I have developed a thing for early 19th century British saws….or perhaps more accurately, the saws have developed a thing for me. What ever the case, I have been finding a good deal more of them lately.

So, in the midst of my shop rehab that went on last week, I decided to give many of my saws proper display on the walls of my new space. After all, what better way to decorate a saw nuts shop, than with his favorite saws? Now, mind you, I’m no Mike Stemple….I’ve only got about 40 or 50 saws, but then again, I’m still young. ;o)

I decided to segregate my saws a little by dedicating one wall to American makers, and another to British, and designating a particularly special spot for my burgeoning, albeit tiny, collection of early 19th century English hand saws (I’m still deciding where to put my english back saws).

Here’s the main American wall…

And here’s my little British corner…

The horizontally mounted saws are my little British babies…those hanging below from their totes are my main user rip saws. All of my user cross cut hand saws are in my saw till above my bench, along with all of my back saws.

Here’s a little closer view of the british wing of the museum…

Listed from the top down are:

1) 28 inch Robert Sorby with 3 ppi…one hell of a ripper! A gorgeous and bold makers mark with four crowns.

2) 26 inch John Spear with the most beautiful handle I have ever seen on a saw…I can’t wait to copy it!!!! Another bold stamp on this one with crowns and all.

3) 26 inch Kenyon and Sykes as told of before here

4) 26 inch saw with a gorgeous London pattern handle and a stamp that reads “German Steel” with “…ington” barely legible above it. I could be stretching it, but I came up with Millington….the only British maker I could find with those letters in his name, and the vintage roughly fits the German Steel designation. More on that in a minute.

5) 26 inch Groves and Sons with beautifully patinated London Pattern handle and a fairly clear makers stamp. A crown or two are visible. Some sick S.O.B. replaced the original nuts with domed nuts and a ‘Disston and Son’ medallion…..grrrrrrrrrr.

Now for some close ups….here’s the Sorby. The handle is solid…not even a little wiggle! And the split nuts are all present and accounted for. ‘Handsaw makers of Britain’ puts Robert Sorby making saws through most of the 19th c. but the crowns say this should be an early one. Any thoughts from those more inclined to old English than I are much appreciated. Don’t get too close though…she still bites!!!!

Next is the John Spear. ‘Makers’ puts John Spear on his own for only a few years before he joined with Jackson, though it does say that early Spear and Jackson saws could be marked with just Spear’s name.  Dating this one could be tricky as such, though again, the crown marks say it could be closer to the early part of the century. She is missing two split nuts unfortunately which have been replaced with domed nuts. But just look at that handle…..ain’t she a BEAUT’!!!!  Check it out…

Now the Kenyon and Sykes….still the centerpiece!

Next is the Millington (as I’m referring to it until otherwise instructed). Upon first inspection of this saw, I could barely make out a stamp on it and I did gingerly clean the area a bit to better reveal the mark. Its very hard to read the makers name, but I am pretty sure its something like “…ington”. Any one who wants to swing by my shop is welcome to have at it! 😉 But what makes this one so special to me is the gorgeously intact London pattern handle and the ‘German Steel’ mark which is fairly clear. German steel saws were common until the Brits mastered making their own steel for saws, which wasn’t until about 1820 or so. That means that this saw could be the oldest of the bunch, even older than the Kenyon. Even if I can’t ever identify the maker, its still a special saw. I tried to get some clear pics of the mark, but they just wouldn’t come out as they are faint, but readable. Here she is regardless…

Finally is the Groves and Sons. This one’s also a bit of a puzzler as the ‘and Sons’ mark puts it more like mid-19th c., but the crown marks should have gone out of vogue by then, right? Anyway, the grain of the beech on this tote makes my knees go weak….domed nuts be damned!!! The pics of the stamp on this didn’t come out to well either, but here she is…

So that’s the grand tour of my 19th century British hand saw wing…my little slice of history, as I like to say! Interestingly enough, I have found all of these saws over the past six months or so just at flea markets, yard sales, and such…all for just a few bucks. One of the perks of New England living, I suppose.

I don’t know why, but these saws are fast becoming my favorites…maybe I just love thinking of the sooty little shops in ol’ Sheffield where they were born with sweaty, foul mouthed Brits hammering and grinding away. You know…’It was the best of times, it was the worst of times….’ and all that, right?

Any how, if you ever find yourself in the Ocean State, do drop a line…I’d be happy to give the full tour for but a pint of ale. 😉

Published in: on December 1, 2010 at 4:27 pm  Comments (9)