Restoring a $3.00 garage sale backsaw find

The Craig’s List ad said there were some old woodworking tools. That’s it. No pictures, no heart-throbbing prose. Still, the garage sale was in an older neighborhood. And close by in case it was a bust. So I fired up my Chili-Red Mini and motored on over.

Five minutes and $5.00 later I walked to my car clutching a Disston 16″ backsaw, some brass screws and brass l-reinforcing thingies. The saw cost me 300 pennies. A bit of sleuthing on the Disstonian Institutes’ Website revealed that the saw was born between 1878-1888 per its medallion.

P14-Disston and Sons Backsaw Medallion

Here’s the prize of my quest:

P2-BEFORE collage

As grungy as it looked, I was very happy overall. The top horn was split off but I figured I could find some apple wood to mend it.

P1-horn chipped

A Horny Situation
In the interests of expanding my rehab skills, I decided to fix the horn. And to ensure an aesthetically-pleasing repair, I sought out two vintage handles. But that didn’t work out too well. The aged applewood didn’t pair well with either of the two donor handles. So I set them aside to wait for another handle repair. The horn would stay as it was.

 The Rehab
I gave the sawplate the usual rehab as I’ve detailed here and here.

After experiencing a “glassy” look from the use of polyurethane finishes I decided to go with BLO followed by wax. That’s it.

P8-finished handle

I like the natural feel of the wood in my hand. BLO + plus was works pretty well.

The original tooth line suffered from calves and cows so I had some evening out to do. I also tried adding some slope to my sharpening for the first time.

P4-Before-After Sharpening

Here’s the finished rehab.

P5-Before After Picture Comparisons

P7-Before-After saw spine

The Testing
This baby has some pleasing heft to it. I also like the longer, 16” length versus my 12” Disston backsaw. I find it easier to keep it true through the cut. And the longer length allows for a longer stroke through the work piece.

P10-test cut using bench stopP11-test cut using bench stop2P12-test cut quite square 

And here’s a look at the cut finish.

P13-test cut fairly smooth

So all it took to add a nice user to my saw next was a five-minute drive, three dollars and two fun-filled rehab hours.

P6-Added to Saw Nest

Not bad for a 125-year old saw. I wonder if 125 years from now (c 2138) some woodworker will get as much pleasure from finding this treasure as I did. I can see her driving up to the garage sale in her fusion-powered Mini Cooper (some things never go out of style.) “I found it among some other tools on a table,” she’ll say to her husband. “And I only had to hand over three $1,000 bills!” Her ever-supportive husband is sure to reply, “What a steal sweetie!”



About The Write Biz

By day, I'm a mild-mannered copywriter who harnesses frontal-lobe creativity (right brain) to help B2B marketers generate leads and sales. By night I pick up hand tools to create wooden masterpieces...and give my black lab Bella the "red dot" laser to chase after.
This entry was posted in Backsaws, Rehab, Saws, vintage tools and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Restoring a $3.00 garage sale backsaw find

  1. Brian Eve says:

    I love the way the spine looks now. How did you go about shining everything up?

    • Hi Brian,

      I used sanding blocks on all the steel surfaces (with the grain,)progressing from 120, 220, 320, 400, 600 grits. Then, for the spine, I polished it on my buffing wheel using white rouge. I use sanding blocks to preserve the etch and to keep an even polished surface.

  2. Pottsvillain says:

    Nice job! I found a similar 12″ Disston that I restored. You did a much better job though. It was my first saw restoration and first sharpening. Now its my go to saw, guess I should sharpen my others. Good work.

  3. Gary Cook says:

    Really nice job. Keeping the tools alive!

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