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. 😉

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

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  1. Love it. I like my only British saw better then my Disstons, because the handle fits my hand a lot better. The Disstons are a bit too large for me. So good to see how you have quite a collection of these.

  2. Got pointed to your blog a few weeks ago and have enjoyed all the posts. I too am organizing the shop and right now all my saws (Only 4 handsaws and 5 backsaws) are spread out all over the place basically where I used them last. I’m going to build some kind of storage case for them and was wondering your thoughts on that. I thought it might not be a good idea standing them on their totes unless you make some sort of base to stay off the horns. Looking at your walls, hanging by the totes okay. Was just curious your thoughts, as I would hate to cause any discomfort to my saws. Thanks again.

  3. Thanks for the comment Doug…glad to hear you are enjoying the blog!

    It sounds like you need a saw till…a traditional hand saw cabinet. I have a couple and built them using plans from Wiktor’s site.

    Here the link for the plans…
    http://www.wkfinetools.com/tCare/sawTill/sawTill1.asp

    Good luck!
    -Matt

  4. Hey Matt,

    I just discovered your blog the other day and I’m really enjoying it. I design and build studio furniture part time and I work a lot with hand planes. However, other than back saws, I don’t use or no much about saws. Could you recommend a good rip and xcut saw for me to get me feet wet in the saw world? I have a antique tool dealer who specializes in ‘user’ grade tools so I’m sure I will be able to track down your suggestions.

    I also have a website/blog and perhaps if you have time you could check it out. victesolin.ca. I’d like to add your blog to my links page if that’s alright with you.

    Thanks and keep the great posts coming….I have much to learn.

    Vic

  5. Vic
    Thank you for the comment…glad you are enjoying the blog.

    As far as recommending some hand saws for you, I would say old Disston’s are the way to go. For that matter, any 19th or early 20th century saws are likely to be great users. I point out Disston only due to the fact that they are the most plentiful and inexpensive.

    For a good general rip saw, I’d recommend a 5 and 1/2 or 6 point saw, 26 or 28 inches. That should be able to handle most rips in 4/4 stock. Disston D-8’s are common is these configurations and absolutely wonderful user saws.

    For a cross cut hand saw, I’d say that panel saw sizes are easier to get used to for the novice sawyer. I’d say a 20, 22 or 24 inch cross cut in 9 or 10 ppi would be the most handy. My 20 inch, 10 point panel saw is indespensible in my shop. Disston’s are again the most common here, and of the highest quality.

    I would avoid saws made after WWII…saw quality declined rapidly following the post war housing boom that made the Skillsaw a fixture on every building site, and the hand saw a blank canvas for painting on.

    For more info on how to date and rehab saws, check out

    http://www.disstonianinstitute.com/

    and

    http://www.vintagesaws.com/

    Good luck!

    -Matt

  6. Any friend of Sheffield saws is a friend of mine! I’ve been researching in this field for about 12 years, and have accumulated about 1500 British saws, which means mostly made in Sheffield. Since I moved house last year to a smaller property they have gone to join another 500+ at the Ken Hawley Tool Collection at Kelham Island Industrial Museum in Sheffield, where there will be a dedicated room for saws only.
    One or two comments on Matt’s blog: The Sheffield saw industry took off in the late 1750’s because 1. crucible cast steel – almost all made in Sheffield – came on stream, 2. There was more water power for rolling steel plate than anywhere else in Britain 3. Other local raw materials like specialised stones for grinding and 4. Local metal working know how. By 1820 almost all British saw making had become centred on Sheffield (London and Birmingham makers had faded away). German steel was a second quality product – but still very good spring steel – made by reforging cementation (blister) steel; it’s probably not the same as the17th & 18th century German steel that was imported. It gradually ceased to be used as cheaper and cheaper cast steels came along, and the term wasn’t used after 1914 or maybe earlier (for obvious reasons).
    Crowns were struck (ie stamped) on blades from the early 1800’s until etching really came in and they have been etched right up to the late 20th century. They are decorative only, and have no quality indications, or anything to do with royal approval. Three were almost always used on Sheffield handsaws in the 1870-1890 period.
    I’ve got two Millington back saws, but haven’t seen a hand saw – I’m envious!
    I’d tentatively date the Spear at around 1830-1840. S&J made some of the best Sheffield saws ever (I reckon their best period was 1910-1930).

    Best Wishes Simon

  7. I have recently obtained a “seems to be antique” swa with the following engravings on it.

    JOSEPH PEACE& CO
    WARRANTED WITH PICTURE OF AN OLD STEAM LOCOMOTIVE AND THE WORD WORD CAST STEEL NEXT TO IT WITH THE WORD SHEFFIELD AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BLADE. THIS SEEMS TO BE SOMETHING SPECIAL AND I WILL APPRECIATE ANY INFO ON IT!

  8. Hi Matt,

    I love your blog and can’t get enough of your passion for old saws. There’s just something about them isn’t there?

    I thought you might be interested in reading a forum post that I wrote on Lumberjocks about an old vintage Spear and Jackson crosscut saw that I purchased on eBay.co.uk (I’m on the south coast of England by the way). The handle on this baby is to die for. Check it out. There is a link at the end to another post I did on cleaning the saw plate.

  9. Hi Matt, I have a question. Seeings that you like British saws I have a Naylor Vickers & Co back saw and and Hand saw. I have found some history on these Items. Vickers bought out Naylor and of course as of today Vickers is part of Roll Royce….Any ways trying to find out value or some pics of some. The back saw has three brass bolts with screw type back. The saw has the medallion with with three brass bolts. Each saw has the name I. Welch etched in the handles. The handles are in excellent shape the blades are weather worn


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