A Cresson saw with class…

You never know what you’re going to find at the bottom of a bucket of rust, and that tantalizing  few minutes after spotting a rust-heap is enough to keep me diving into dumpsters, yard sale piles and flea market bins for the rest of my life.

Case in point is a great old Cresson saw I found a couple weeks ago in a 5 gallon bucket lot of old rust…

She’s rusty for sure and the tote is in pretty bad shape, but those brass dome nuts and steel plate just look sexy as hell, as JoshClark likes to say. You can clearly identify the “Cresson” stamp on this saw despite the rust.

Walter Cresson was an early Philadelphia saw maker in the 1840s and 50s who was bought out by Henry Disston some time before the Civil War. His saws are characteristic of the early American style that drew heavily on English tool forms, but what makes this saw truly unique is the steel plate over the tote and domed nuts. You can read more about Cresson at Wiktor Kuc’s wonderful site here.

This saw is a wonderful candidate for restoration as the plate is dead straight and still rings true as the day it was smithed…impressive for its age! Here are some more pics as found…

You can see the crack in the tote that goes clean through under the steel plate…

Here’s the stamp…it clearly reads “IXL…W. Cresson…Philada…Spring Steel….Warranted…Extra”

The toe…unfortunately missing its nib…

And the back side of the tote…

I disassembled her gingerly and set about cleaning up the saw plate….I use a biodegradable rust remover to start. The great thing about cleaning up really old stamped saw plates is that you don’t have to worry about obliterating an etch.

Here’s the plate all cleaned up…

Now I can turn my attention to the real challenge of this rehab…the tote.

I cleaned her up with a good scrubbing in denatured alcohol…

The first step is determining exactly what kind of wood the tote is made of….tradition would suggest apple or beech. Further, the “Extra” distinction on the saw plate suggests that this is a top of the line model saw, warranting the nicer species of apple. However, the open pores and grainy nature of this wood says it is def not apple. My first thoughts were walnut, and after cutting away the broken section of the top horn, the choclatey color of the untouched wood inside further confirmed my thoughts.

Mahogany would be the other possibility for species, but to me, this grain seemed too varied in color for mahogany. After doing a little research in some old saw catalogs, I found that all of Disston’s steel plate saws in his 1876 catalog indeed had walnut handles…and since he bought out Cresson some 10 or 15 years previous to that year, maybe he was taking a cue from Cresson to continue using walnut in steel plate saws? Disston certainly had a habit of maintaining the characteristics of the saws made by makers that he acquired.

So, I decided on walnut….here’s some close up pics of the tote for your curiousity….tell me what you think….

Before I started on patching the upper horn, I first glued up the crack that goes clearly through the front section of the handle. As soon as it was dry, I planed the broken top horn smooth and patched in a chunk of walnut to make the new horn. I used Titebond II for dark woods to hide the glue line as best as possible…

It will be very tricky to start shaping this tote, as you can see where the new patch starts to encroach on the upper hounds tooth detail…those are always a challenge to blend well, as the glue line does not take well to fine detail. You can see where I’ve started to sketch out the new horn shape.

Here it is rough cut after the glue dried…

I shape the new horn with my GramercyToolsSawHandleMakersRasp (have I mentioned this tool before? 😉 ) Here she is starting to take shape…

Now on to that tricky area of the hounds tooth to blend….

Now I can smooth the new patch to the surrounding area by feathering it in with 220 and 320 grit paper.

The challenge now is to match the color of the old wood to the new. And to complicate things, I’m going to use boiled linseed oil on the whole tote to bring out the warmth and age of the wood. The BLO will darken the color of the tote significantly, and much more so on the older wood of the tote and less on the new patch….so that means I have to stain the new horn darker to match the resulting darker walnut after oiling. Confused? That’s why you should always practice on scraps.

So, after settling on a color after some experimentation, here’s the new horn stained. You can see how much darker it is before I oil the whole tote. Once I oil it, it will blend beautifully…

This is often times the trickiest part of handle repairs….you can stain the new patch to match the old wood as it is, but as soon as you put a new finish on it, the old wood and new wood absorb finish in totally different ways and don’t color the same. So you have to anticipate this difference ahead of time and color the wood to the finished product, not in the raw.

After the BLO, I apply two coats of 1lb cut amber shellac and then clean up the steel plate and nuts.

And here she is reborn…

I’m very pleased with the way this saw came out…I’m giving her a place of honor on my historic saw wall next to my recent Disston#99. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by,


Published in: on February 26, 2011 at 12:07 pm  Comments (13)  

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13 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nice restore. I have a couple of saws coming to me through an eBay purchase and may take a couple of lessons from here on the road to restoral.

    • Thanks Mike! Welcome to the slippery slope! 😉

  2. Really nice job Matt. Very impressive indeed!

    Looks like your new horn is original. Love the final color too. Excellent blend of color match between the old wood and new wood.

    Take care,

    • Thanks Marv….that’s just about the highest compliment anyone could ever offer! 🙂

  3. Neat. What is the biodegradable rust remover you like to use to clean the plate?

    • Greetings Anonymous person….the rust remover I use is made by Krud Kutter and called “The Must for Rust”. You can get it at Home Depot.

  4. Wow, that’s very well done! That repair is almost invisible. Great work!

  5. I agree with the commenter above about the excellent blending job of old and new wood.

    I was also curious, along with a commenter above about the rust remover that you used.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thank you for the comment….see above for the rust remover…

  6. Matt,

    How about hide glue? I know it’s a pain in the butt to prepare, but it should do you about right in terms of repair and restoration.

    BTW, I just spent all my allowance on a Chamber’s New England Fowler, so my tool aquisitions are on hold for the month of March. I just hope there are some decent garage sales when I get home next week! You have me all chomping at the bit and looking forward to the “Hunt for Old Steel and Wood!”

    Best regards!

  7. A very cool “new” saw. You did a beautiful job bringing it back from the rust bucket!

  8. Does the side plate have square holes,you didnt show it seperately?

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