There is a moment at the end of a long project that woodworkers live for: the last bit of hardware has been installed, the finish is wiped down for the last time, and the piece just sits there on the bench, surrounded by tools and debris. It is finished.
Take a deep breath: there is nothing more to do but put these away, where they await their first project.
Backtracking a little, one of my favorite parts of this project is that it forced me to get creative in order to solve little problems along the way. For example, the saw nuts I have are extra-long and need to be sawn off and filed so that they sit flush with the handle or slightly below it. Marking a screw to be cut short isn’t as easy as marking a piece of wood.
First, with the nut screwed all the way on, I set the assembled bolt on the saw handle with the head flush. I used a marker to color the screw where it needed to be cut.
I then put the whole thing into a machinist’s vise (protected with some brown paper), and sawed/filed it until the inked section was gone. Backing the nut off the sawn-off screw evens out any burrs left from the filing, ensuring that the nut will be able to thread back onto the bolt.
I opted to finish the handles with paste wax, and I’m happy with that decision. I sanded the handles lightly so as to smooth out any burrs left from the drilling. Sanding also packs the open pores of the pecan wood with sawdust, and when the finish is applied, the dust acts as a grain-filler. (Note: this works well with oil and wax finishes, but I wouldn’t try it with a film finish.) Then I rubbed a liberal amount of paste wax onto the handle, working it especially into the exposed end-grain. Then I heated it up with a hairdryer, which melted the wax into the wood. The wood absorbed more wax than I expected, so I applied two coats.
Then it was just a matter of straightening out the saw plates, sharpening the teeth, and testing them out. The dovetail saw, being new, required only a very light touch-up with a file, as well as setting the teeth. The panel saw, however, needed more work. The teeth were dull, uneven, and over-set. I jointed and filed the teeth, and then stoned them to remove some of the excess set.
I did opt to leave some of the patina on the saw plate, more out of laziness than anything else. The staining doesn’t affect how the saw cuts. I kind of hope that some saw expert picks up this saw in 100 years and puzzles over it. A skew-backed panel saw, split nuts, no medallion, and an extra-small tote made from figured hardwood. It should keep him guessing for a while.
The spalting is visible only on the show side of the handle, unfortunately. Fortunately, my kids do not care. I’ll get them to try it out soon.
The dovetail saw’s plate required a little straightening before it would track straight. Thanks to Isaac’s Smith’s advice on the subject, this operation was simple and relatively stress-free. Essentially, you find out where the plate is bent and use your hands to bend it in the opposite direction. Check it carefully each time, and it will eventually be straight. It worked so well that I immediately got out two older backsaws that didn’t track straight and straightened them out, too.
Now my dovetail saw is done. I could spend a lot of time pointing out the little aesthetic flaws. Should I make another backsaw, there are a few things I will take more care over, but on balance I am happy with the results of my work. It fits my hand perfectly, and it tracks true.
Now to start a project that requires dovetails–lots of dovetails!