Check out these nuts…

Wiktor Kuc of (the finest old tool site on the web!!!!) requested some close up shots of the domed brass saw nuts on my recent Cresson saw rehab. Wiktor is one hell of a guy, and I’m always inclined to oblige him, so I disassembled the saw one more time and took a bunch of pictures for him. I figured I might as well share them with all while I was at it. I’m a nice guy. 🙂

So, here ya go!

Here they are all together…you can see the blank medallion nut, which is larger than the others. Before the advent of true stamped medallions, saw makers would include one, larger blank nut…don’t ask me why…

Here’s some shots of the larger nut….the underside is actually recessed, not solid…

A comparison in size to one of the smaller nuts….

That’s about it…thanks for looking at my nuts.



Published in: on February 28, 2011 at 7:57 pm  Comments (3)  

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)  

The Disston Mystery…..solved???

Its been a very busy few weeks in the shop lately….I’ve been neck-deep in saw rehabs and sharpenings. I’ve had a lot of requests for saws over the past two months and I’m just catching up now, plus I finally finished the SuperSawBench, and have tried to squeeze in some sharpenings for my own saws, plus the normal rigamaroll that goes along with it all.

I have been stealing time here and there to make progress on my mysterious original Disston #99…a saw that I found at the last Spicer auction. I fell in love with this saw the moment I laid eyes on its truncated handle poking out from the bottom of a rust pile. You can check out my initial thoughts on it here.

Here’s a pic of her that day after a cleaning…

I’ve conferred with other saws geeks and hand tool punditry and it seems that this is indeed an early Disston #99. I was perplexed at first given the beech tote with a lamb’s tongue, but my above sources say that was indeed the way the originals came before they switched to an apple tote of more subdued styling, as seen at the Disstonian Institute and elsewhere. So, it appears that that means this little lady is a bit of a rarity…… 🙂

Anyway, knowing she was special motivated me to be extra particular with the impending rehab…..and it took me a good six weeks of hemming and hawing to decide how to patch the tote, which was the major focus of the process and biggest obstacle to overcome.

The first step was to find a nice piece of beech to perform the critical patch to the handle, and I searched high (, low (my dad’s firewood stack) and in between (Josh Clark and Mike Hendershot…fellow tool geeks)  to dig up that special piece….which, by the way, needed to be quartersawn and seasoned by about 150 years to match properly. 😉

In the end, I took Josh’s advice and dug into my ever-expanding pile of old transitional planes to scavenge the necessary flesh for the transplant. And it turned out to be a genius idea! The reason is, that if you get addicted to antique tool auctions, like so many of us do, then you invariable end up with piles and piles and racks and racks full of tools that you swear will be of some use to you some day, either to rehab and use, or sell and become rich, but which equally invariably, you never end up doing anything with except giving to friends who come over and drool on them, or selling for a song just to get your wife off your back.

Anyway, the point being that it turns out I actually have a supply of well aged and quartersawn beech to rival the New Brittain, Connecticut Stanley Works at the turn of the century. Go figure! So I picked a poor old transitional jack plane from the rack–ensuring first that it was way beyond its useful years– said a prayer to the Tool Gods (don’t laugh….they exist and will curse you with crappy tools if you don’t pay heed to their power!!!!!) and cut into the little buggers body to extract the necessary meat. Once I stopped crying, I quickly sawed and planed the chunk down to finished dimensions for the patch.

Here’s a pic of the first stage of the glue up for the handle…

My leg vise was surprisingly handy for this application…it worked like a charm….I can see myself using it often for small glue ups like this.

Anyway, you can see from the pic that the patch will proceed in two stages. This first stage is actually two pieces of beech glued to the tote to create the main grip. In the next stage, I had to plane down the bottom of the grip section perfectly parallel and co-planer with the lamb’s tongue section remaining to create a sound surface for the patch and glue line.

Here she is glued up and ready for stage two…

Once the two patches were glued up, I proceeded to rough shaping the new handle…

With the hard part over and my heart racing in anticipation, I shaped the lamb’s tongue and grip with my trusty Saw Handle Makers rasp (have I told you I love this tool?!?!?!) I lapped the shaped handle on a granite plate with 220 grit paper to blend the patches and create the flats, as the factory would have at the saws birth…

She’s really starting to take shape now!

Last week when I was working on this, I guess I got so wrapped up in the process that I forgot to take pics of fixing the upper horn, which you can see is also in need of patching. Oh well!

After finish sanding, I turned my attentions to color matching the patches. I used Golden Oak oil stain, a bit of Early American followed by three coats of 1lb cut blond shellac. A judicious buffing with 0000 steel wool, a cleaning of  the three medallions and here she…born again……..the Disson “One Son” Prize Medal saw….

The split nuts were actually in good shape and gripped up very nicely….no stripping or breaks. The medallions cleaned up sweet as well, and the patch looks decent….I’m pleased with the results.

Here’s some more pics….

Now all that’s left is to sharpen her up and let her get those teeth back into some wood….I’ll get to that this weekend I hope. She’s a 6 point saw and I was thinking of filing just a touch of fleam into the teeth….maybe 5 degrees or so…to sweeten up the action. I’ve got way too many 6 point rip saws, so I think a specialized filing for this unique saw may be in order. We’ll see….

Happy sawing! 🙂


Published in: on February 10, 2011 at 9:36 am  Comments (12)  

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)  

The mother load!

Just a quick note this morning before work…I wanted to pass along to everyone a most impressive project recently completed by Jeff Burks. Its seems Jeff has spent the last few months compiling a 5 volume PDF file on US saw sharpening patents. It totals almost 16 thousand pages of drawings and text for patented American saw vises, sets, swages, filers, grinders, gauges, gummers, shapers, jointers, etc. The research covers all tools related to handsaw sharpening, but is not limited to handsaws. Check it out…

Also, Jeff completed what he called a “side project”…a similar compilation of all known US patents by Henry Disston…that’s some side project!!!! Def check this one out too…

I’ve just scratched the surface of these monumental works…you will be impressed, as I am.

Nice work Jeff!!!!

Published in: on November 15, 2010 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment  

A historical saw…

Do you know why I love collecting antique hand saws? Because you never know what you’re going to find.

Living in New England as I do provides the most fertile environment for the rabid tool collector (and believe me…tool collecting IS a disease!!!) because these lands are steeped in history. And thusly, the materiel of days gone by are no more present than they are here in the basements and barns of our near lands.

Exhibit A:

A few months ago, in the early days of summer, I was on my way to my wife’s grandparent’s house to help them refinish the oak floors in their living room. While sanding and sanding and sanding and sanding hardwood floors is not the worst way I could imagine spending a beautiful day, it certainly isn’t at the top of my list either, but nonethless I was happy to help (if you’d tasted Nana’s strawberry pie, you’d wanna help too! :o) And most sincerely, strawberry pie was the most I was expecting in the way of gratitude…which would have been more than sufficient.

As I pulled up to the house, I was greeted by Pa in his customarily friendly, “Hi” followed by, “I’ve got something to show you.” Okay I though, not knowing what I was about to behold. As Pa shuffled into the garage and returned with hands full, he said that he had just come home and passed by a yard sale around the corner. At this yard sale, as he continued, the elderly gentleman was selling a lot of old rusty saws and was asking 25 cents a piece for each. Now, Pa, being the astute kind of guy he is, and knowing of my aforementioned disease, takes the whole lot of 5 or 6 saws for the hearty sum of $1.50….and this is the bounty which he lays at my feet upon my arrival. “Here….” he says “I got these for you.” As I begin to exclaim how kind and thoughtful it was of Pa to buy the saws for me, I quickly realize that this was no ordinary lot of rust from the neighborhood yard sale…these were some premium saws. And the pick of the litter? That was a hand saw of 26 inches or so with a characteristic nib and London pattern handle that caught my eye immediately. While there was no etch to identify the saw, there was instead a stamped makers mark spelling out K-E-N-Y-O-N.

My heart stopped. Then it started racing. Then my voice cracked. Then my palms got sweaty…it felt  like junior high when I asked Kara Aucella to dance with me all over again!!!!

“Pa!” I said, “This one is special!!!” And special it was. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to finish sanding to get home to inspect my new prize. And Pa was plenty proud of himself for the score, and very glad that my “payment” for the floor was up to snuff.

So, as soon as I got home, I laid her out on my bench and beheld her….


Yes, she was badly beaten and broken. Yes, she was duller than a bread hammer.  And yes, her teeth were as crooked as an Irish pollster….but she was mine! I stood there drooling over her and in awe of her very presence! And much UN-like Kara Aucella in junior high, this little lady let me inspect her every conrner and crevice to my heart’s content! My findings were numerous….the odd chamfering along the top of the handle, the shape of the nib, the break in the lower swoop of the handle, the initials scratched into the underside of the flat handle return…I took in every detail and relished every sense of her.

Upon further inspection, the makers mark read fully “Kenyon Sykes & Co” and she the plate was indeed 26 inches in length.

Now, for those of you who are unaware, John Kenyon is perhaps the most notable British saw maker of the colonial era, due in part to his crafting of the legendary Benjamin Seaton chest of saws. These saws, locked away in a museum in the Old Country, are practically priceless, and origianl Kenyon saws in the wild are rare and valuable. Kenyon, in addition to his solo work, also had a number of partnerships throughout his career. In this case, the partnership of Kenyon and Sykes lasted for a handful of years around 1815 and THIS saw was one of their offspring…now in my noted possesion!

So, how frickin’ psyched was I!?! I was the proud owner of a piece of history!!! A legendary saw from the most legendary maker of British saws!!! After having the saw appraised (its worth a snot load more than the 0.25 cents Pa paid for it), the appraiser, Pete Tarran actually THANKED me for showing it to him!!!!! Just like they do on Antiques Road Show!!!! How cool is that!!!! Pete further counciled me to NOT restore it and bring it back to useable condition (as is my liking with antique tools, ’cause I likes to use ’em!) as he stated it was indeed a piece of history and should remain in its historical condition.

I can only imagine what history this saw has beheld….who elsed owned it, used it…what perhaps famous homestead or building had it helped create? What young apprentice slaved over sharpening its teeth….what noted craftsman labored within its grasp? History indeed!!! This is why I love old tools…because forever locked within their rusty and burnished souls are the tales of so many hardy men passed before me…some greater, some not so great, but all lovers of the craft and true men nonetheless!

Well, every tool collector has one of these stories….the Big One…the Big Score…the Monster Gloat….the greatest and coolest find in their tool collection. Odd that I should have mine so early in the onset of my disease…most old coots have to wallow around in rust for decades before they score a saw like this. The again, I guess Pa did the wallowing!!!!

Thanks Pa! ;o)

And here are some more shots of the jewel of my collection…

Published in: on October 21, 2010 at 11:13 am  Comments (5)