The Big Tillotson…

Last year, after I rehabbed a LittleTillotson saw that I found in an old barn,  JoshClark emailed me and said that he had the saw’s big brother for me. So, more than a little intrigued, the next time I saw Josh at a local antique tool auction, he presented me with said ‘big brother’ and I quickly understood why Josh had referred to it as such.

Here she is as found and delivered from Josh…

18 inches of pure, refined Sheffield cast steel a fixed to the most gorgeous saw tote I have ever laid eyes on!!!! 

Here’s a shot of the makers mark…

Sure, she was beat up as all hell….and the saw plate was as crooked as a mobster…but I was in love!

I thanked Josh profusely and upon returning home, hung her in a place of honor in my shop along with the dozens of other saws on my Waiting to Be Rehabbed wall. The next several months passed and every few weeks I would take down this big, beautiful British beast and caress her in my hands. Sometimes my wife would come down with a load of laundry and find me drooling, eyes glazed over and rocking back and forth with the saw in my arms. I cannot describe the look to you, but I’m sure you’ve seen it before.

Anyway, a few days ago, I figured her time had come to move from the Waiting to Be Rehabbed wall to the Tuned-Up and Ready to Be Used but Only on Special Occasions wall….a notably loftier location in the antique tool hierarchy.

My first step was to remove the handle and carefully mark the nuts with their placement in the handle…when I put her back together, I wanted every nut to go back in the original spot. Next, I gingerly removed the folded steel back from the saw plate.

Here she is disassembled…

You can see the line of crud and rust that marks where the back has been improperly resting for the last few decades or so…

See how the line from the back gradually angles downward towards the toe? That shouldn’t be like that, but is a very common occurence on old back saws, and is often the cause of a wave in the tooth line due to uneven tension along the spine. These waves then make the saw bind in the kerf and cause kinks. Thankfully, the fix is relatively simple….though sometimes a bit risky, as kinks require hammering out and this must be done delicately in such relatively thin steel.

But before getting to the smithing, I clean the plate thoroughly with rust remover and 400 grit paper. For old saws like this Brit, I have stopped going up to 600 grit and beyond…I’ve found that the polish is too garish. The dull sheen from 400 is a much nicer compliment to the saws natural patina and plenty fine enough a finish for the steel.

So now back to the hammering….the plate on this saw did have a very pronounced wave and two requisite kinks…one going in each direction. Thankfully I was able to remedy them with some judicious hammering on my little anvil…

As I’ve been teaching myself saw smithing over the last year, I keep the words of master smithers like Ron Hermann and Bob Smalser in my mind at all times…..you can never remove a kink fully, only compensate for it and correct 80 or 90% at best. I was actually very pleased with the result of this plate….I was able to remove most of the kink and straighten the toothline properly. Again, not 100%, but for 160 year old cast steel, I don’t need perfection anyway…just so long as I can sharpen her up and use her occasionally.

Now that the saw plate is all cleaned up and hammered true, I can re-install the folded back, and for this, I use my Moxon twin screw vise. I’ve found that clamping the saw plate in the vise jaws with the exact depth of plate I want buried in the back makes for a much easier task than the tap, tap, measure….tap, tap, measure….tap, tap, measure procedure that most employ.

Here’s the saw plate in the vise…

I like to use a small dead blow hammer to install saw backs…it makes for much more accurate and safe back installation. Plus, the one I use is coated in rubbery plastic, so there’s no risk of damaging the steel of the back. I rub a healthy amount of paraffin wax on the saw spine and tap away…

Here she is all reunited with her partner to a uniform depth…

On to the tote….which was in miraculously fine condition considering the age. I simply gave it a good scrubbing with mineral spirits to remove the crud from the crevices, then a light coat of dark brown Briwax…

And next, I reinstall the tote to the saw using my dandy little new split-nut driver (maybe I’ll post soon on how to make this very handy tool)….

Now I turn my attention to the teeth….which are quite coarse for a tenon saw…9ppi (or 8 tpi, I should say, as this is a British saw). This is certainly just about the coarsest tooth spacing you will find on a back saw….but they do make for great big cuts!!!

I use my Moxon vise once again with a saw vise carriage made for re-toothing. I’ve been using my Moxon vise more and more for saw filing lately…you just can’t beat the solidness of it…

It took two jointings and filings to correct the very misshapen teeth, but once completed, they look ready to chew lead and spit bullets. 😉 Given the coarse spacing, I filed them with 10 degrees of negative rake…

And here she is all tuned up and ready to fight…

Hardly able to contain myself at this point, I hastily chucked some 8/4 cherry into my leg vise and had at it with my new British blade…

Now I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much from this old girl…but when she flew through this cherry like a spring (steel) chicken, I nearly crapped myself…the old lady can cut!!!!!!! And the action was sweet right from the vise….dead nuts straight to boot!

How about some close-ups?

The mark all cleaned up…

The back side of the tote and split nuts…

And how about a reunion? Two saws…separated at birth for 160 years….two Tillotson’s together again…

Excuse me while I insert  myself into this little party….

😉

-Matt

Published in: on April 11, 2011 at 7:10 pm  Comments (18)  

Hand Saws: Not just for the shop….

Over the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have begun the first of many home remodeling projects on our modest two bedroom ranch. And like any willing woodworker, I relish the opportunity to take my hard-earned skills from the shop and apply them to the home and beyond. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to crack the whip on my new bride and flip the otherwise skewed power dynamic by playing foreman. 🙂

We decided that the first of our projects should be removing a section of the wall dividing our kitchen from our living room and installing a bar top style eating area.

So when I first told my wife that our goal was to complete this entire project —which includes building two temporary support walls, removing a large section of the main load bearing wall, and framing in a new header and rough opening for the bar top—with only the use of meat powered tools, she thought I was crazy. (Actually, my wife already thinks I’m crazy…but this further confirmed the previous assumption)

As demolition and framing got under way, however, she quickly saw (no pun intended) that I wasn’t completely off the reservation. And further, she even enjoyed some of the work.

I’m happy to report that the only use of a power tool was when I had to whip out the Sawzall to cut back about two dozen protruding nails from a stud that I couldn’t access. Not too bad!

Here’s a shot of me cutting down some studs (which will become cripples for the new half-wall) with my trusty 20 inch panel saw…

Anyway, the most fun part of this whole project was framing in the new wall…who doesn’t like cutting 2x4s with a hand saw?!?!?

If you’re new to hand saws and want to wade into the waters slowly, then I can think of no better first project then building with construction grade lumber. Soft, white pine boards cut like a song with even the worst tools…never mind if you’ve got a half-way decent cc saw and a proper saw bench. Pure Zen baby!

I know what you’re thinking…this sounds like real work man! And it is…but what sweet work, at that! The cool breeze….the soft zzzzzzzrrrrip, zzzzzzzrip, zzzzzzzzrip of the saw cutting through the pine….no cords, no 80 decibel squeal from a power saw, no cloud of dust blowing back into your face when the wind changes….just peaceful, satisfying work. And one of the coolest things about doing work like this with hand saws is that its like practice for your woodworking without the pressure of furniture grade accuracy.

So, I always mark my 2×4 cuts on two faces….it makes it much easier to ensure an accurate cross cut….square and plumb….

And you can see here how I brace the work with my body…the thrust of my downward stroke pushes the board into the kneecap of my right leg and my left knee and left hand hold the board down on the bench…

And here’s a shot halfway through the day…all that’s left is to double up the new cripple studs and the framing is done. You can also see the old fashioned balloon framing and brick and mortar fire blocking in the open stud walls….

Damn, this was a good day!

-Matt  🙂

Published in: on April 5, 2011 at 7:49 pm  Comments (2)  

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,

-Matt

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 (http://www.downesandreader.com/), 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! 🙂

-Matt

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

The Super Saw Bench finale….

So the Super Saw Bench is finally finished…..it was quite the project, but well worth it…I’m very pleased with the results.

I’ll walk you through the final construction details and then a couple money shots. 🙂

So if you read my last post ARecipeForBetterSawing then you got a peek at the supports that I cut for the leg assemblies. I realized as I was trestling up the bench, that I was going to have a hell of a time attaching the legs to the two top pieces, so I devised these side supports. The idea was, I could glue them to the cross members of the leg assemblies and drill through them to attach the top pieces with lag screws.

Take a look….you can see the side supports glued on. I used some yellow pine I had that fit the bill nicely…

This was my first time working with yellow pine…I pulled this sweet quarter sawn piece out of the trash somewhere. (Yes, I rescue wood from the trash. Doesn’t everyone?) 😉

After I glued on the side supports, I had to true up the two top pieces. I hadn’t touched these since cross cutting them way back when after I ripped the original 6 x 8 beam in half. Planing rough white oak is tough enough, but spotted with knots and reversing grain like these two beasts were, was no fun at all…

With the tops trued up I could lay up the legs and top and mark out the lag bolt holes. I went back and forth a lot about how to join these two together…I could have used massive oak dowels, ala timber framing, or cut dados into the cross members and just glued them. I voted down this last method because of concern for cross grain movement. In the end, I stayed true to my simple values and went with lag screws. Quick, tough, and easy.

Yes, I broke down here and used power tools…the only time in the whole project. Oh well….my arms and shoulders were killing from all that planing and I told myself it didn’t count as a power tool ’cause it doesn’t have a cord. 🙂

Anyway, the impact driver made quick work of the 6 inch lag screws…four in each leg assembly. And here she is….

As soon as she was done, I flipped her on her feet and grabbed the closest board at hand, slapped her on the top, and had at ‘er with my favorite crosscut #7.

All I can say is…..WOAH…she is STURDY!!!! Like a well bred Bavarian beer maid, this lil lady took all of my weight bearing down on her with nary a squeak!!! 😉

Say goodbye to my old saw bench (Sorry Chris!!!)…the Super Saw Bench is HERE!!!!

I’d say she weighs a good 125 to 150 lbs…hard to tell given the size. The bench is touch over 4 feet long and 12 inches wide. I left a space in between the two top beams to allow ripping down the center. The only thing left to do is bore the holes for the hold fasts…

Oh, and once I had the final assembly together, I did true up the top with my jointer plane. I started with diagonal strokes across the ripping trench, and finished up with the grain….just like truing up a bench top.

In an up-coming post, I’ll bore the holes for the hold fasts and show her in action.

Oh, and since this post was a little light on gratuitous saw action shots, I figured I share some pics of my latest saw rehab…I finally finished the handle on that Disston #12 from the  GramercyToolsSawHandleMakersRasp  post a little while back.

Here she is reunited with her other half….

I stained the patch with some red mahogany stain and finished with amber shellac rubbed out and waxed. I think the repair went well. I actually had to carve some wheat leaves in the bottom of the handle to blend the patch appropriately…that was a first! (Look Marv!!!)

Once I get her sharpened up, maybe I’ll break her in on my new saw bench. 🙂

-Matt

Published in: on January 27, 2011 at 10:09 pm  Comments (17)  

The super saw bench joinery…

It’s funny how life throws things at you sometimes….one minute you think you’re alright, and then SMACK…you’re knee deep in pucker-hole debris. This past Saturday was one such day….it began innocent enough…

After my ritual of morning coffee and saw literature review, I made my way down to the shop all ready to start chopping mortises for the super saw bench leg assemblies. A little while in, my mallet, which has served me well for 6 or 7 years, decided to spontaneously disintegrate. I spent the next three hours clawing through my scrap pile to find a chunk of suitable species, cut and dimension it, chop a mortise through it for the handle, shape said handle, assemble and wait for the glue to dry.

Have you ever chopped a three inch deep mortise in canary wood? without a mallet to drive your chisel???  Not Fun. Yup…that was about it for the day!

Anyway, on Sunday, with the mallet ready for action it was back to work. Finally!

So now that the stock is dimensioned, I set about laying out the leg joinery. The leg assemblies will each have two legs joined by a massive open mortise and tenon joint to the cross beam that the top will bear upon.

So at this point you’re probably wondering if I’m working from plans, or sketches, or some kind of visual guide, and the short answer to that question is, well, no. I don’t like plans, drafts, mock-ups, drawings and the like. I prefer to have a specific idea in my head and build to that….any changes I make along the way are a result of the process. Back to the bench…

Since the legs of the bench will splay out slightly to add stability, I start by making the angled cuts on the bottoms of the legs. I mark the cuts with a bevel gauge and use my trusty bench hook to make the cuts…

Next I stand the legs up and mark the finished height of the leg for the top cuts…

Once again to the bench hook, and here are the four legs at their finished dimensions…

Are you starting to get a visual? I am!

Next up, I lay out the shoulders of the tenons on the legs using the cross member as a guide. You can see how I lay set the legs upside down and against the cross beam…

Now its a simple matter of marking the width of the tenons. I don’t use any special formula here….I go for a tenon a little over an inch thick. Here’s a pic of the first leg tenon marked and ready for the saw…

…and the first cut…

…the results…

You can see my scribble lines to mark the waste area. Believe me…always mark your waste area!!! You don’t want to get halfway through cutting all of your tenons only to realize you’ve been cutting on the wrong side of a line. (DAMHIKT!!!)

Things are really getting exciting now! Cutting tenons this deep and thick in white oak is definitely work, but it is truly a pleasure. I absolutely LOVE my new tenon saw….I couldn’t even imagine sawing these monsters with a 12 inch saw. You can read all about my newest 16 inch spring steel companion here.

So, on with the work. Lots of tenon cheeks to cut….

If you’re very astute, you’ll notice that I changed the orientation of this leg in the vise…that’s because this is the first project I’ve done since I installed the leg vise in my Roubo workbench. I quickly realized that you should always clamp the work so that your thrust pushes directly perpendicular to the bench. Its funny how you read something somewhere and it doesn’t really stick until you learn it while working.

Anyway, I won’t go into the details of cutting all the cheeks. If you want the particulars, check out last weeks post on HowToSawATenon.

Here’s the first two finished…

After a break to re-fuel and hydrate, I polished off the last two leg tenons. I next use the tenons to mark out the open mortises on the cross members…

Rinse and repeat x4, and more sawing (this IS called the Saw Blog after all!)…

These cuts are a lot like the tenon cheek cuts because the mortises are open on the back, so its just like sawing a negative of the tenon. I do have to finish off the cut with a panel saw due to the depth…

And now for something completely different….chisels!!!! 🙂

After the cuts are made to define the width of the open mortises, I have to chisel out the waste. And for those of you following along at home, take my advise and don’t bother making four inch deep and one inch wide mortising cuts with a firmer or bevel edge chisel. Use a mortise chisel. And a big mallet…

Here’s a look inside…

Once again, repeat x4 and the hard part is over with!

At this point I could hardly wait to get the legs together…and I was surprised at how well they did fit. Here’s the first one dry fit…

I hope you can start to see what the final bench will look like. When I got this first assembly together it took my breath away….its pretty cool to take an idea in your head and just saw and chisel away until you reveal it in the wood…..Damn this is fun!

I dry fit the other assembly, tweaked one of the cheeks, and it was out with the glue bottle! I painted the cheeks of the tenons and inside the mortises and voila….

There’s nothing I hate in the world more than clamps, and I avoid them like the plague. Thankfully, these went together just snug enough to not need any extra security. Call me crazy.

They dried over night last night and look great today. I’ve got a few sharpening projects I need to do for a customer this week, but i should be able to finish up the bench this weekend and take her for her maiden rip!

Stay tuned!

-Matt

P.S…..and in case you’re interested, I added a pick of my new mallet. Its a canary wood head (reeeaally dense and heavy!) with a beefy cherry handle…

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 11:41 pm  Comments (6)  

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)  

The Big Rip…

So I’ve been in the shop every day this week moving from one side of the basement to the other and condensing and organizing in the process. Its been great to get rid of a lot of clutter and unused tools and make my shop more efficient and functional.

I mentioned a little while ago about my plans for this week, as I’m on vacation, and that I was going to be building a new Roubo bench using some reclaimed timbers (here). In the last few days however, I realized I don’t really need another work bench, but what I do need is a nice, massive saw bench. Don’t get me wrong, I love my current saw bench, ala Chris Schwartz, but I need something bigger, heavier and more stable. So, I devised (in my warped mind) a super saw bench using the 6 x 8 white oak timbers I referred to above. This new, super bench would be kind of a cross between a Japanese planing bench and a traditional western saw bench like I already have. The idea is it will be made with a top just like my Roubo so that I can use holdfasts and secure boards for heavy ripping. I’m thinking the top should be about 3 to 4 inches thick and about 20 to 24 inches high.

So, the first step in making this Super Saw Bench is ripping the 6 x 8 oak beam into two 4 x 6 slabs. These two pieces will then make the top of the bench.

Now, I know what you’re thinking….’This guy isn’t crazy or stupid enough to try and rip an 8 foot long, 6 inch thick white oak beam with a hand saw, is he?!?!?!’

The answer, of course, is yes, I am that crazy and stupid.

Here is the ominous beam in question…trestled up on my saw bench and ubiquitous Workmate…(you can also see my new shop layout)…

The first step in ripping this beast is marking the cut line, and since this oak has spent a good part of its life outside, its darkened and will need to be planed to remove the darkened skin and create a light background for my pencil mark. For this, I use my trusty Stanley #6 to roughly plane it down to fresh wood (Patrick Leach be damned, my #6 is the MOST useful plane in my shop!)

Planing at this height is surprisingly very comfortable (don’t I look like I’m having fun?)

The wood is much brighter now, and I mark out the cut line in the middle of the beam with a carpenter’s pencil. I make a series of hash marks 4 inches in from the edge and then connect them with a straight edge. You can use a panel gauge, marking gauge or other as well.

Now that the beam is marked, to start, I use my trusty Disston #7 (24 inches, 6ppi rip) to saw in the vertical kerf line on the end grain of the timber. The fine pitch of the #7 will help more easily cut the end grain here than a 4 or 5 point saw. This kerfed in vertical line will help me start the cut square as the saw will follow the kerf…

You can see the pith of the tree on the right side of the kerf as well. Once I finish the rip, I’ll evaluate if that half of the board is salvageable or not.

Now that the vertical cut line is kerfed in, I switch to my main rip saw. This saw is the latest addition to my stable…it’s a vintage Disston #9 handle mated with a replica saw plate that Mike Wenzloff made for me. The plate is 26 inches and 5 ppi filed rip with just a touch of negative rake…I figure its a perfect choice for this oak.

As I start the cut, I begin in the “corner” of the beam and lay the toothline at a very low angle to the wood sighting along the pencil line. At such a low angle, the saw is very easy to push (think low-angle planing) and establishes the kerf very cleanly. Now, its a simple matter of joining the vertical kerf line on the end grain with the horizontal kerf line on the face of the beam with even saw strokes. This is the slowest part of the rip, but the most critical….start square, end square! Check it out….

Now that our kerf is established, its go time!!!! Here’s where the real work starts, and boy is it fun! This is a real workout, no doubt, but I love this part! I keep my paraffin block handy and the plate waxed up, in addition to my water bottle…I’m defintiely gonna need it.

A foot or two into the cut I can really start to feel it in my shoulders and arms. I’m using a two hand grip here, and at this height, it’s very comfortable….great data for determining the height of the Super Saw Bench…

I keep my eye one the pencil line to ensure I’m staying true…..the saw tracks like a dream….a testament to Mike Wenzloff’s outstanding skill!

 I told myself when I started the cut, that I would take a break at the half way point, and I marked the pencil line four feet in so I’d know.

The fun thing about this rip is that it takes such a long time, that you can really experiment with different grips and body positions and immediately know if it works or not. I gave Schwartz’s Franco-Prussian seated rip style a go. And while I think he demonstrates it with the teeth facing away from you, I found it more comfortable with the teeth facing me and sawing directly towards me (though a comfortable few inches away!)…

I was surprised at how easy and efficient this method was….I ended up sawing like this for about two feet and it was much less tiring than sawing standing up.

So here’s the half way point…you can see the pencil line marking it and indicating to me i can take a break!!!!

Besides stopping a couple times to snap pictures and take a gulp of water I didn’t stop sawing until this point. I’d say that thus far, it took about 20 minutes or so. Like I said….a real workout, but very rewarding and fun!

After about a 5 minute break to rehydrate, it was back to work, and in addition to trying different sawing styles, I also switched saws at this point. I wanted to see how a saw with a more aggressive rake cut on this hard, thick oak, so I switched to my 5 and 1/2 point Pax rip saw with zero negative rake to the teeth. When I bought this saw, I immediately made a new handle for it out of some nice curly cherry, but I haven’t gotten a chance to really work it out. This was the perfect opportunity…

The saw definitely cut more aggressively….I could feel it being pulled into the cut much more than the Wenzloff, and it required a bit lower of an angle to cut smoothly. One of the reasons I love working with hand tools like this is for the feedback they give you about themselves and the wood….no power tool will ever offer you this kind of interface with your work.

Here’s a view from the kerf…It won’t be long now…

At this point I’m really sweating…you can see my shirt is drenched, but this beats the hell out of the treadmill at the gym!

You can also see that I switched back to the Wenzloff saw, and before I did, I had to switch the saw bench and Workmate. The jaws on the Workmate do a great job of securing the work, but its not exactly saw friendly with its wide footprint and steel body.

Here are the final strokes of the saw…at this point, I can’t tell if my heart is racing from the work or the thrill of almost being done!

With a few final thrusts, what was once one, now becomes two….

Voila! I can finally rest and behold the fruits of my labor. I’d say overall this probably took 30 to 40 minutes including my break and photo/water time. Not too shabby….I’m thinking with the second beam, I can improve on my time markedly. 🙂

This was definitely a do-able task for any able-bodied worker….while it was laborious, it was not difficult or requiring great skill. One saw, a little time, and a bottle of water….that’s about it. And once again, I can skip the gym!

Here are some more pics….

Published in: on November 27, 2010 at 12:05 pm  Comments (13)  

A little Tillotson saw…

A few months ago in the early summer I found a guy on craigslist getting rid of a bunch of old tools and decided to go check them out. I ended up getting a little cache of nice things, my favorite of which was a sweet gem of a saw that I noticed sticking out of the bottom of a box of rust. All I could make out in the darkness of this guys basement was the finely shaped upper horn of a small back saw….but that was enough for me. I quickly fell in love with it and took it home despite its sorry condition. Here she was as found…

As you can see, she is heavily rusted, the brass nuts are green with tarnish, and the saw plate was as winding as a New England country road. Miraculously, though, the handle is in very good shape, with only a small chunk missing out of the upper horn. You can see from the shape of the tote how I was immediately struck by this petite belle!

A quick cleaning of the steel back revealed the arching maker’s mark as “Thos Ti…..” and “Sheffield” which I soon deciphered into “Thomas Tillotson” thanks to my trusty copy of  ‘Handsaw Makers of Britain’ (a book I highly recommend to any and all saw nuts!  Get it here) It turns out this princess was over 150 years old…I can only wonder what she has seen in her long years, and how long she sat un-loved in that dark old basement box o rust.

Anyway, I set about fixing her up over the next few days and bringing her near as I could back to her original glory. I am very happy with how she turned out, and it was a challenging project…the saw plate was badly kinked and required hammering true, the spine needed straightening as well, and the original split nuts needed replacement (which I slyly refabricated from a pair of domed nuts cut down and flattened to look like split nuts). Here she is all fixed up…

I have been using this saw now for a couple months and really love the way it cuts and feels…it has a very delicate saw plate (0.02 thick) and since I found it with 14 points and filed with fleam, I kept it as such. I love filing up tiny little saws like this….the steel is so thin and they are a joy to tune. You can really make them fly through the wood with little tweaks! 

This saw has become my go to worker for my bench hook and its smooth as silk….very nice! However, I am very tempted to file the fleam out of this little lady and see how she does as a dovetail saw…her size would make her perfect for a ‘tweener of a true dovetail and small carcase rip saw. Plus, with such a thin saw plate and fine pitch, I doubt filing out the fleam would effect the cross cut quality noticeably. Anyway, we’ll see….she’s certainly doing well as is, but then again, in my shop, fleam is never safe for long!!!! Hehehehehehe…..

And in case you’re interested, here’s a pictorial of the full rehab. I posted this originally on Woodnet over the summer as well…

Removing the back.

Cleaning the plate and spine.

Reinstalling the spine.

Cutting the broken horn section away (you can see the hole where a previous owner had nailed the break in a repair attempt)

The beech handle patched and taped up while the glue dries.

The handle with the new horn sketched in.

Refining the new horn shape (yes, I use power tools when making or repairing hand tools…ironic, no?)

Shaping the new horn with rasps and files.

The new horn stained to match.

I used newer domed nuts with their heads lapped flat to mimic split nuts, and here I’ve chuck them into my drill press to turn them down to the required diameter (7/16 like most old back saws of this size)

The finished nuts.

A few coats of shellac for the tote…

…and a quick jointing and filing for the saw plate…

…And she’s back cuttin’ wood!

After I originally posted this on Woodnet, my buddy Josh Clark mentioned to me that he has this saw’s big brother….a gorgeous 18 inch Tillotson tenon saw with an equally beautiful tote. Coincidently enough, said saw is now in my possession and waiting for a similar rehabilitation!

To be continued….

:o)

Published in: on November 23, 2010 at 12:18 pm  Comments (5)  

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…

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