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Disston Saws


Tips from Old Millrat - James D. Thompson


Carving Saw Handle

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In response to a couple of questions I have done a quick wheat carving job on a D8 panel saw apple handle so everybody can see how it is done.

I knocked this one out on a beater saw solely for the purpose of making pictures.  It leaves a little to be desired.  When I do this on a keeper I always practice first so I can get the feel down correctly.

This one was a quickie, but it gives you the general idea.

The process is this: You need to remove the finish, and this has been discussed before.

Removing old finish

I would like to comment on the saw handle restoration questions. I have done about 50 of these handles, and have learned a little about doing them in the process.

First thing: sandpaper will ruin the arises, don't use sandpaper in the process until the very end, and then use only very fine paper and use it sparingly.

I use cabinet scrapers to remove the old finish. The scrapers will not hurt the arises provided that you pay attention to what you are doing.  I make smaller scrapers to fit into the openings in the handles. The scrapers have to be used with only a small amount of pressure. I don't try to remove any dents or defects in the wood, only the finish. The dents and defects are history, and they belong there.

After all the finish is removed using the scrapers, I then use 220 or finer paper to just barely smooth the surface. My finish of choice is a couple of coats of very thin garnet shellac for color, and then I shoot several thin coats of clear lacquer. When the lacquer is thoroughly dry I rub it out with #0000 steel wool, and then wax it.

With regard to the reworking of the wheat carving:  A couple of galoots can attest to the fact that I do a pretty good job of restoring the carving, and of carving entirely new wheat on handles. I was taught to do this with a very sharp vee tool, 60 degrees. You need to do a considerable amount of practicing before you attempt to do one for real.  Draw the wheat pattern and carve it on scrap until you can do a good job. I have found that when I don't do it for a while that I need to spend some time practicing or I will mess up a good handle.

Lay out the pattern with a pencil.

Cut the base line with a knife. You don't need to remove any material, just score a line that you can follow.

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