Atkins Saws


Disston Saws


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Tools and Woods with Bob Smalser


 
  New Life for an Old Saw Ė Advanced Filing and Restoration 1 of 7  

A 6-dollar flea market beater?

Yes, but this one is a Disston Acme 120, originally a cabinetmakerís finish saw tapered...

... and hardened to run without set, and one of Disstonís finest. You can't buy a new hand saw today of anywhere near this quality at any price. So letís see if it can be given another lifetime of use in a slightly different form.

Old saws filed so many times their tips resemble pencil-points usually arenít worth the trouble, as when they get that thin and narrow they are too easily kinked, and this oneís no exception. 

Restoring this in its original 26-inch length isnít a good option for it to survive another generation of use.  So Iíll shorten it to panel saw length to make it useful again, but thatís not as straightforward as it seems if the saw is to please the eye and hand. 

Panel saws had smaller handles than their full-sized counterparts, and their blades were uniformly contoured to match their smaller proportions; they werenít just stubby versions of full-sized saws.

I donít have a small #120 handle, but I do have an extra Keen Kutter panel saw handle and another complete matching saw to use as a pattern.  These Keen Kutter #88 skewback saws were made by Disston using #16 handles and probably P26 blades from the Harvey Peace factory they bought out, for which Disston offered custom etching in hardware store logos like EC Simmons. 

 Mr. Simmons knew his saws.  These are not only excellent, taper ground saws, their profile pleases my eye.  I scribe the new profile onto the #120 blade, and use the bevel gage to duplicate the tip angle.  Iíll make the #120 a 22-inch saw based on the amount of blade remaining.

Saw steel grinds quickly and relatively cool using a coarse, 8Ē wheel, with the occasional water dip as the wheel gets close enough to burn what will be the final profile.  Here I donít just grind up to the scribed line, I take the line.

I fair the curves by drawfiling using 2d-cut and smoother 1st-cut single-cut files.  This is done largely by feel.  When I feel a bump I alter the file angle for a more aggressive cut, and finish using my finest single-cut file straight across. 

The files are chalked and frequently brushed both to keep them from clogging and to prevent stray filings from causing scratches during finishing.  I rarely use chalk when jointing and sharpening however, as it often masks what Iím trying to see.

After failing I ease the sharp edges slightly using the fine file in the drawfile mode.


 
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