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Another hand saw restoration thread

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M_Chavez

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Hi All,

So far I have been a happy user of Japanese pull saws, however, every cool kid on the block seems to have an old restored hand saw, so I thought I'd join the club, attempt to restore a couple saws and learn to sharpen them properly.

A quick browse through ebay, and I got myself a cheapo Taylor Brothers Mowbray dovetail saw. 10 in long, brass back, blade slightly rusty, but no major pitting. The remains of the etching looks like a sheep with a flag (?). A quick google suggests it's about 100 years old - perhaps, not the best candidate for learning sharpening, so I also got an old Spear & Jackson to try my restoration skills on.

A couple (potentially daft) questions:
1) Some people seem to treat rust with vinegar or citric acid - is this necessary to prevent any further rusting, or is it OK to just give the blade a light sand with 320 grit & WD40, then soak it in Legia spray and make no further attempts at rust-proofing?
2) Any experience with Taylor Brothers saws? They must have been going for quite a few years, so the steel is, hopefully, good.
3) Is it possible to roughly date the S&J and are they any good? :oops:
4) Has anyone used Birchwood Perma Blue to restore etchings? A sheep with a flag would look pretty good on the side of the saw blade!

Here's a photo of S&J after a cleanup and the state of the blade of the Mowbray.

PS I have read that one can buy some spring steel to make their own saw. Can anyone suggest a supplier of such steel that would work well as a blade? Handle is easy enough to make, but what about the brass back? Is it reasonably straightforward to make the back, or am I better off buying a rusty old saw for a pound and using is as a brass back donor?

Thanks!
 

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Bod

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The S&P I would put at 1960s. The quality of the handle had gone down a bit, but the blade quality was still good.
I have one the same as my "go to" saw of preference.
Providing the blade is straight, I would just sharpen the teeth, then try the saw, before putting any set on the teeth, seeing how it works then putting on minimal set, as required.

Bod
 

Cheshirechappie

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Taylor Brothers, it seems from a quick look in Simon Barley's excellent "British Saws and Saw Makers", were one of the larger Sheffield saw makers, being in business from about 1837 to about 1971, one of their addresses being on Mowbray Street. It seems they produced more named product lines than any of their competitors, but I don't know where the Mowbray line came on their scale of quality. If the handle is comfortable, and the blade and back tight and straight, it should be a perfectly good to very good saw, though.

Cleaning rust off with fine abrasive and a lubricant (wet-and-dry, steel wool, white spirit, WD40) is quite quick and effective, and you don't even need to take the saw apart - indeed, it's better not to unless it's absolutely essential. A good follow-up is to rub the blade with scrunched-up kitchen foil and a dab of Autosol paste, this leaves the blade feeling smooth and polished, but not glaringly shiny.

Opinions vary with handles. Some people like to strip off all the old finish to bare wood, and refinish, sometimes with linseed oil or Danish oil, sometimes with French polish or lacquer. Others just clean off loose dirt. It really is a matter of personal preference - some want just clean and usable, others want 'exhibition' polish.

For saw blade steel in small quantities, the best bet is probably to buy an old saw a bit bigger than you plan to make, and trim the blade to the size you want. Making folded brass (or steel) backs from scratch is not easy, and saw blade steel is not easy to drill for handle fixing screws - it's hard enough to make a lasting saw blade, after all! By all means have a go making saws - could be good fun, and a bit of internet searching will pull up the experiences of others who have tried - but if you just want a few nice saws to work wood with, probably easier to buy them - either new or vintage.

On sharpening, the most comprehensive tutorial I know of is Andy Lovelock's magnum opus on YouTube - it's over two hours long, but covers pretty much everything anybody will ever need to know about the subject!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-_MF2Mnxwc

Saw sharpening is one of those things that seems pretty daunting at first, especially if you're not used to using files. However, there's no black magic or strange secrets involved, and the route to success is simply to just dive in, do an indifferent job first off, have another go, and quite quickly you'll get the hang of it.

Good luck with the Mowbray and the S&J, and have fun!
 

AndyT

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About the only thing I can add to CC's excellent answer is that brand names based on a maker's location (like Mowbray in this example) were generally on their second or third rate saws. That said, the differences were small and I've got some 'second quality' saws which I find excellent. I guess I'm not as discerning as an old professional. :)
 

ED65

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M_Chavez":8jctxu2z said:
A couple (potentially daft) questions:
1) Some people seem to treat rust with vinegar or citric acid - is this necessary to prevent any further rusting, or is it OK to just give the blade a light sand with 320 grit & WD40, then soak it in Legia spray and make no further attempts at rust-proofing?
In point of fact treatment with vinegar or citric acid will tend to make items more prone to further rusting. If you de-rust something with any acid, even the mild ones, and just rinse it off in water before putting it aside for a moment it can begin to rust again almost while you watch, a process called flash rusting.

Yes it's perfectly okay for any rusted surface to be just scraped or sanded a bit (especially if you're using an oily lubricant like WD-40) and then oil or wax it, many here do this as their routine method for cleaning old saws and the cheeks and soles of their planes.

M_Chavez":8jctxu2z said:
Is it reasonably straightforward to make the back, or am I better off buying a rusty old saw for a pound and using is as a brass back donor?
I think the latter, bending brass this thick is difficult to impossible without a suitable bending jig and that is assuming you can get the right type of brass to begin with.

Far more straightforward to get a wreck of a saw where the brass back is still in good shape (they usually are, even if the saw plate and handle are gonners) and as you say they might cost you just a quid or two. This is less than the brass would cost just as a raw material!
 

M_Chavez

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Thank you very much for all the advice.

Are there any reasons why something like this wouldn't work?
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Spring-steel ... SwLXxbLK~K


For example, Blackburn tools say "All blades are made from 1095 spring steel, hardened and tempered to Rc 48-51."

This one is high carbon spring steel that is CS95 (that's the "95" from 1095, right?) hardened to 480-530VPN, i.e. 48-51Rc...
 

Cheshirechappie

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That does indeed look like ideal material to make smaller backsaws - and well done for finding a supplier of flat, hardened and tempered, and polished spring steel in small quantities!

CS95 is the British Standard equivalent of the American 1095 - to all intents and purposes, it's the same stuff, namely a carbon steel with just under 1% carbon content and very little by way of other alloying elements. It is indeed what today's premium saw-makers use.
 

Benchwayze

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The Spear & Jackson is a twin of my S&J. Has been a good saw since the 60s when it was new. Sharpens easily and evenly (Well I know that's down to the sharpener!) Served me well, until I found my Wenzlof for which I waited a long time. Also a lovely saw. I might one day resharpen my S&J and bring it out of retirement. You have a useful, respectable saw.

Maybe you could make a pistol grip handle for it. Lots of workers do.

Luck

John (hammer)
 

M_Chavez

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Thank you very much - ordered the blades, just need to find a good donor for the brass strip.

Is there much point in trying out different rake (or progressive rake) and different TPI (or progressive TPI)?
Plan so far is for Rip 15TPI, 8 degree rake and minimal set, but I am hoping to have a few blades to play about with.
 

Cheshirechappie

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I don't think there's any harm at all in trying out different pitches and rakes, but at the risk of sounding a wee bit cynical, I'm not quite so sure about progressive pitches, except maybe on large rip saws. I think a simple pitch and good technique has worked very well indeed for many generations of sawyers, and fancy tooth configurations are maybe more a saw-seller's gimmick or an inexperienced sawyer's attempt to circumvent the development of a decent technique.

Talking of technique, again, like saw sharpening, it's not black magic, but there are a few points that will make a big difference. Matt Eastlea does a pretty good job of covering the basics here;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5OzZNVGnXQ

Shannon Rogers - the Renaissance Woodworker - does a better job of explaining body position;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMKseOkhcqg

One other thing worth a mention is that when starting the cut, it's worth 'taking the weight off' - supporting the saw so that the teeth just glide gently across the work, rather than dropping the full weight of the saw onto the job and have the teeth 'dig in'. Once the cut is established, the saw hand can be relaxed to allow the full weight of the saw to do the work.

Trying out a few different saw configurations could really be good fun, but do that only after spending some time getting comfortable with a decent sawing technique, or any differences will be masked by possible 'sawyer error'. I suspect (being a bit of an old cynic!) that the one thing that will make the most difference to accuracy and productivity is developing good technique with a saw having a fairly standard tooth configuration.

No harm in experimenting, though!
 

M_Chavez

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Thank you.

Well, it's been over a week and my axminster order with files has not been delivered yet. Just as I was about to write them a stiff letter, I realised that I forgot to click the "complete order" button. Great. No progress on sharpening.

The attempt to highlight/restore the etching had partial success. The etching is now visible, but not as much as I'd like it to be. Nevertheless, you can now see the sheep.
The mowbray blade has a nasty kink about 1/8in from the teeth - perhaps, previous owner was too hard on setting the kerf. I guess I'll need to file all this away.

The blades from ebay have arrived, however, there is a slight bend to them - I guess they were coming off a roll and not perfectly straight.
The solution suggested by google is a slip roller, but I don't have that equipment. I guess I'll try to bend/hammer one of the plates straight. Failing that, I'll be happy to swap 4 cupped blades for two straight ones if anyone has the facilities to flatten them out.

Not much luck looking for a donor brass back for under a fiver, but I did pick up a steel-backed saw - Disston seems to be well regarded and the blade condition is very reasonable. I've got to stop buying saws and start sharpening!
 

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M_Chavez

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Very helpful - I have been following your advice when taking the saws apart and cleaning them. Thank you very much.
 

M_Chavez

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Well, I have managed to re-tooth the S&P. Made a bit of a pig's ear out of the setting and sharpening, but I'll write it off as learning experience. I went for 14 PPI, 8 degree rake.
The saw cuts well - not quite as clean as my japs, but a lot faster, which is a very fair trade-off. I am more tempted to pick up the S&P than the japs now.
A re-sharpening job should improve the performance.

One thing I did not realise, is just how hard this stuff is on the eyesight! Next time I'll be taking breaks after each pass heel to toe.

The Mowbray handle is too small for my hands, but the Disston feels nice (albeit not quite as nicely balanced as the brass-backed S&P). I'll give 15PPI a try.

Thank you very much for the advice!
 

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