Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Update on the 1880's Disston Panel Saw

Sometimes in our crazy world there are simple acts of kindness that make all the difference.  This is one such instance.

I wrote about this saw a couple of weeks ago here.  I had fixed up the saw and it cuts nicely, but there was one saw screw/nut missing and I had to use a current-day steel machine screw and nut as a replacement.

The lower screw is definitely not "period correct"

Here's the other side

Well, due to the incredible generosity of Kevin F., a reader of this blog, I got a replacement bolt/nut.  Not just one - he sent me several replacement bolts!

Three more recent (though still old) bolts top:
Two older bolts at bottom - just the right size I need!

One of the bolts was this medallion, which looks like it dates from 
1896-1917, according to the Disstonian Institute website

The bolts on my saw have 5/32" diameter on the threaded part.  This is thinner than every saw I've seen, probably because it's a bit older (1880's) and maybe because it's a smaller saw.  The two older bolts pictured above had that same diameter.

An original from my saw (bottom) and one just received (top)

You can see a slight difference in the two bolts above.  The original one has a much rougher brass shaft and the threaded portion of the shaft is shorter.  There is also a difference in the thread pitch.  The diameter of the nut was slightly larger than would fit into its hole in the handle, so I did a little filing - both of the nut and of the hole - to make it fit.  Now the saw is looking so much better!  And I didn't have to drill out the hole in the saw plate!

The lower bolt is the replacement

And the other side

Note the missing nut for the medallion.  Unfortunately that nut was long gone and the threaded part of the medallion's shaft had broken off.  But the medallion stays in place without a nut holding it in the saw.  The saw plate is held quite nicely with just two bolts, and I don't have the wherewithal to fix that broken shaft, so it'll stay as is.

While I was at it, I've had another Disston (a D-23), probably from the mid-1940's, that was missing a bolt.

D-23 with missing screw ...

... and with the replacement

Ahhh, so much better!!  And it's all thanks to the generosity of another woodwork enthusiast.  Thanks again, Kevin.  I hope I can return that kindness some day.  I really appreciate it and so do these two old saws!

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Spofford Patent Braces

At the recent PAST Tool Collectors show, I bid on and won a box of tools that included two Spofford patent braces.  I've known about this type of brace for a while, but have never had one.  Now I have two.

The two braces

The Spofford mechanism is very simple: the head is split
and a thumb screw tightens the two halves on an inserted bit.

Just insert the square, tapered shank of a bit ...

... and tighten the thumb screw and it holds very securely

The first of the two is a 10" sweep brace by Fray and Pigg.  According to a post on Sawmill Creek, this brace could date from 1859-1869!  It was in beautiful condition as found and I only needed to oil the rotating head (handle) to get it working perfectly.  It has rosewood handles.

The oil port

The crank handle is two pieces of rosewood, held together on the shaft by two wire springs housed in shallow grooves in the handle.  It's entirely possible that these springs are a replacement for what was originally pewter or something similar.

The two-piece crank handle

The second brace is an all-metal tool with 7" sweep from an unknown maker.  This one is in rougher condition, but only in terms of surface appearance.  After oiling the head (handle), it works perfectly.  I'm not going to try to shine it up.

Unknown maker Spofford's patent 7" brace

The swing handle is just a swelled part of the shaft

The head (handle) is metal and turns freely.
I don't know how to remove these, but fortunately don't really need to.

Underside of that handle: don't know if the "7" has to do with the
brace's size or simply a casting number for the handle.

The clamping mechanism

I saw a picture somewhere on the internet of a Fray and Pigg brace that looked just like this one.  So maybe it's another F&P, but there is no indication anywhere on the tool.

I love the simplicity of these braces.  There is no ratcheting mechanism like on newer braces, but in most cases I don't need that.  I'm really looking forward to using them.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Old (Very Old?) Disston Panel Saw

This saw was part of an auction lot that I bought at a recent tool meet by my local tool collectors organization, PAST Tool Collectors.  Before the auction, I had looked at this lot and spied a saw with a Disston medallion and relatively straight (though pretty grungy) plate.

The saw as found - a 20", 10 ppi crosscut panel saw

I think there once might have been a nib where the pencil is pointing

After some rust removal, found 10 ppi marked near the heel of the plate

Above the ppi mark was stamped a "3" or "8".  Anybody know what that represents?

The handle with medallion and only one other saw bolt

Other side: the medallion has no nut keeping it on (bummer!)

As found, I could only see a little bit of the original etch.  I could make out the keystone shape, a hint of the scale inside the keystone, and the first half of "PHILADELPHIA".  And in my imagination, I might have seen an "8" roughly where the "7" is in the photo below of an etch from the Disstonian Institute.  Unfortunately, as careful as I was in restoring it, I've lost most of what remained of that etch.  Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!

What was left of the etch before my "restoration": pencil pointing to the keystone,
red arrows pointing to the letters P H I L A D

From Erik von Sneidern's excellent Disstonian Institute website, it looks like this saw might date from the 1880's.  I believe the etch would have looked something like this one.

Photo from The Disstonian Institute

I think the etch originally looked like this one based on the relative sizes of the keystone and the lettering, as well as the lack of serifs on the letters.  If I'm reading the web page properly, that etch was used in the 1880s.

At least the medallion was in decent shape.  OK, the threaded part of the medallion's post had (probably long ago) broken off, but the medallion design itself looked fine.  Fortunately, the medallion stays in place with a friction fit in it's hole.

The medallion (under my thumb) is missing the threaded part.
Next to it is the only other saw bolt and nut - the third one is MIA.

The medallion is a bit more definitive for aging the saw.  The Disstonian page dealing with medallions shows some from the 1878 - 1888 time period and these most closely resemble mine.

The medallion on my saw

Photo from The Disstonian Institute

On mine, there appears to be a period after "SONS", whereas there isn't one on the Disstonian photo.  But everything else seems to be the same, down to the stars at each end of PHILADA and the double lines for the keystone shape.

The handle was quite dirty and sticky, but it fit my hand like a well worn glove.  I scraped and sanded it, and applied three coats of BLO/turps and now it feels much better.  I don't know the type of wood, but apple was used frequently back in those days.

The handle as found

I suspect this lamb's tongue was once a bit longer towards my thumb and had broken off

The arrow points to where I want a good fit.  This allows the heel of your hand
to support the weight of the saw so that a loose grip is all that is needed.

The back end scraped; it revealed nicely quartersawn wood

I'd like to get a replacement saw bolt for the missing one.  The holes in the saw plate are about 11/64" and the existing saw bolt has a 5/32" shaft.  I have a couple of saw bolts that I bought a few years ago (from Blackburn Tools, maybe?), but they have a shaft of 3/16".  Also, the old saw bolt and nut have domed heads, whereas the replacement ones are flat.

The original and a replacement for comparison

I know I could drill out the saw plate for the 3/16" replacement, but I'd rather not.  Does anybody out there know where one can find a 5/32" replacement bolt and nut?  Or an original?

In the meantime, I've used an extremely ugly (for this use) hardware store 8-32 bolt and hex nut with thin washers.  It fits well and the saw plate is held firmly, but I'd much rather get something proper.

My apologies to the gods of old saws

Yuck!  Just fugly!

For the saw plate, I used steel wool and sandpaper, avoiding the etch.  But then I gave it a citric acid bath, thinking that would just remove rust and leave the etch alone (I was wrong!).  More sanding, avoiding the etch, followed.  I stopped at 320 or 400 grit. I'll never be able to see the reflection of my workpiece on the side of the saw plate, but it's good enough for me.

Here it is all fixed up.  I took a LONG time sharpening it to get it right.  That took longer than it should have due to a filing blunder on my part badly misshaped some teeth.  I took it for a test drive and it cuts extremely well.  The plate is 0.031" just above the tooth line and is a little thinner at the top of the plate.  I set the teeth to about a total width of 0.038"-0.039".

The plate still looks rough, but it's actually pretty smooth.

Let me ask for help again.  Does anybody know where to get replacement saw bolts that are 5/32" shaft.  Domed heads would be nice, but probably not practical.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

E. C. Atkins Backsaw

Recently at a tool show put on by my local tool collectors group, PAST, there was an auction and I came home with a couple boxes of tools.  One of them was a box of old, rusty saws, but I saw an Atkins backsaw in there so I bid on and won that lot.

As found: looks neglected, but at least the plate was straight

Other side - there was no etch or identifying marks on either side

The medallion

This saw has 14" of tooth line, 11 tpi (12ppi), and was filed crosscut.

The saw came apart easily

I took a long time sanding the plate and spine with 220 grit, then 320

The plate measured about 0.035" thick, which is far thicker than I like, and it makes the saw fairly heavy.  Does anybody know what a 14" crosscut backsaw would be used for?

The handle was in pretty good shape, except that the top horn had been broken off.

The handle as found

Scraped and sanded - there was some film finish remaining

Clamped a straight piece of wood to pare away the uneven surface of the top horn

Then glued on a piece of cherry (closest match I could find) and sketched a new horn

When the glue was dry, the horn was shaped

I cleaned up the saw bolts with light sanding, but what really made them shine was rubbing the heads on my strop!  Holy mackerel, what a shine!  I had a bit more trouble with the medallion, as it is recessed.  It soaked in Brasso for a while, then I used a toothbrush to clean it up.  This worked pretty well - not perfect, but good enough.

These look great

The handle got three coats of BLO over three days and it looks and feels great.  The cherry upper horn doesn't match so well, but give it a few decades and maybe it will blend right in.

Handle reinstalled with shiny bolts and medallion

I sharpened it to the same tpi and tooth profile as I found it, 11 tpi crosscut, approx. 14° rake and 20° fleam.

Glamour shot #1

Glamour shot #2

I'm happy with how this saw turned out, but the upper horn still doesn't look quite right to me.  It's a little too bulbous.  Maybe I'll reshape it later.

All for now - got more tools to fix up.