Three-Dollar Saw: Restored

Last month, I posted a picture of a Disston no. 8 handsaw I found for three dollars.  It took me some time to get the saw back in action, not because the work was difficult or time-consuming, but because other projects have been taking up my time.

Disassembling the saw was as easy as removing the nuts and sliding the handle off the saw plate.  The finish on the handle was nearly gone, so I sanded it down and applied a few coats of Danish oil.  These saws normally came with a film finish on the handles–shellac, I think–but I prefer an oil finish that doesn’t get slippery when my hands begin to sweat.

I Saw Sharpening Station Outdoors 2014cleaned the surface rust off the saw plate.  There was no pitting.  I decided not to try to restore the mirror-polish that the saw must originally have had.

The teeth were in decent shape, but it still took me a while to sharpen it.  It’s a 24″ long saw, and there are 9 points per inch.  (That’s nearly 200 teeth on this saw.)  To make the sharpening experience more pleasant, I brought the whole outfit outside into the shade of a big tree.  I clamped my little saw vise to one end of my sawbench and went to work with the files.  (I decided to touch up my big rip saw, too, as it was feeling a little dull.  It’s a Disston 12, which is the one in the vise above.)

Taking the saw for a test-drive in some soft pine, it left a pretty smooth surface, and the saw glided through the wood as if it were cutting nothing at all.  While the saw plate is bowed just a little along its length, it’s not kinked, and the saw tracks true to a line.  Testing a saw in softwood might seem like cheating, but it’s not.  For one, I work in softwoods a lot.  More importantly, the fibers in softwoods tend to tear and chip out when being sawn, especially across the grain, and that tends to leave a ragged surface.  If your tool can cut cleanly across the grain of a pine board, it’s plenty sharp for the work it needs to do, even in hardwoods.

Three-Dollar Saw 7-2014 - 1

This saw is a keeper, at least for now.

Three-Dollar Saw 7-2014 - 2


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8 Responses to Three-Dollar Saw: Restored

  1. Jonathan says:

    Great post! That’s got to be one of the the best $3 you ever spent. I am a big fan of Danish Oil as a saw tote finish, but I like to finish up with a coat of wax. I think it makes the tote a little grippy-er.

    What angles did you use for the rake and fleam?



    • I didn’t measure the filing angles precisely. I sharpen almost entirely freehand. I do have a little wooden block that goes on the end of the file to help me get a consistent fleam angle, which is probably something like 15*, but I don’t remember. The saw cuts smoothly, and that’s the important part.

  2. Elizabeth Anne says:

    I’m sorry to bother you on this post but I have a question about a post you wrote a couple of years ago about your push mower (and I can’t leave a comment there)…I have a lot of grass growing in my gravel driveway and I’m wondering if a push mower would work well on that. What do you think? Weed-eating it is killing my back because it’s a long drive, there’s too much gravel for my gas mower, and there’s too much grass to try to kill it.

    Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated! BTW, I love the pic of your children mowing with you! 🙂

    • If you don’t let the grass get too high, a reel mower would probably work as well as anything. You just need to make sure the height is set high enough that it doesn’t hit any of the stones.

  3. Elizabeth Anne says:

    That’s what I was hoping to hear – thank you!

  4. Elizabeth Anne says:

    After thinking it over a bit, I’m wondering what would happen if I hit a stone – do you think the mower would fling it, or would the stone jam the blade?

    • Usually it just kicks the stone out of the way. I’ve never had the mower throw debris up at me. It would have to be a stone projecting right up out of the ground in order to jam the blades, so I don’t think there’s much of a danger either to you or to the mower.

  5. Elizabeth Anne says:

    Great! Thanks again.

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