By D. Greco
Every once in a while I come across a couple of old saws that just
beg to be cleaned up and put back into service. And since my older
brother and his son (my God son) both needed a good saw, I decided
that these two would be perfect
The top one is a Disston
D-8 whose etch indicates it's from prior to 1928. The bottom
one is a Disston No7
and if I'm not mistaken its etch (as well as the nib) indicates it
is from around 1840. Both handles were intact and the blades free
from kinks or bends. Aside from the surface rust, these both had
good solid bones
When I clean a saw plate I like to remove the handle. Also, these
saws were getting the full treatment which includes cleaning and
refinishing the handles. So they had to come off anyway. However,
once of the saws nuts on the D-8 would just spin when I tied to
unscrew it. So I dug into the archives and came up with this trick
passed along to me by several saw makers/restorers
You just need a wood clamp that you don't mind "customizing", some
leather, some glue (I like epoxy) and the appropriate sized
Forstner bit (I used 7/8"). After drilling a hole through (only)
the right face of the clamp, I cut the leather to size and then
glued it in place. After it was all dried I trimmed it to size and
then drilled through the leather.
The idea behind this is
when the clamp is used the leather pad will provide enough
friction so that you can you can grip the saw at the stubborn
nut. And with the hole in the clamp still have access to the
screw head on the opposite size
Now that the handle has been
removed we can pay attention to the saw plates themselves. And
no matter how you cut it, this is a messy job. I use a plastic
tray from an old Dog Crate to contain the mess. But several
other guys I know just use newspaper.
I used to just start with sandpaper but recently a friend of mine
Rich suggested that scraping with a razor blade was a better
option. The idea is to use this almost like a card scraper
(something I'm really familiar with) and scrape the rust right
off. Well, I'm here to report that this particular tip paid off in
spades! I was able to remove most of the rust while not ruining
the etch. Just take a look at the photos below. This is just after
about 10 to 15 minutes work on each saw plate.
Now that a good portion of the surface rust was removed it was
time to bring out the wet/dry sandpaper. I started with some 220
grit and lubed it with mineral spirits. Notice that I use a wooden
block to back up the sandpaper. The block reduces the chances that
the sandpaper will dig into the surface and further degrade the
etch. Using a sanding block will help to improve the chances that
you'll get a more even cleaning.
With this operation I broke out the rubber gloves. This makes
cleaning up my hands a bit easier. Plus mineral spirits dries my
hands out something fierce! So I want to try and minimize my
exposure if I can.
I like to work with one grit until I clean the one side. Once that
side is done I will wipe it off with a rag soaked in mineral
spirits and then do the other side. Once both sides are done I
wipe the saw plate down, move onto the next grit and repeat. For
restorations like this I really don't go any further than 600
grit. I'm not trying to make it a mirror surface. Just clean it.
Here's a little tip I picked up from Christian Castillo on
WoodNet. I use AutoSol metal polish with aluminum foil as
the "rag" to deliver the polish. The aluminum reacts with the rust
and polish and just leaves an amazing surface.
After polishing I like to buff the saw plate at the late using a
flannel buff charged with Tripoli. That further shines the plate
up and leaves a super nice finish. Before you go ANY further you
need to apply some wax to the saw plates because they will start
to rust immediately if left unattended. DAMHIKT
With the saw plates ready to go we turn to the handles. As I
mentioned previously, I am not going to strip these handles down
and refinish them. They are in great shape and the patina they
have is just too cool looking. All I want to do is remove the ever
-present paint splatters and grime. So I just give them a wipe
down with Lacquer thinner or Acetone.
Once the handles are cleaned off I gave them a chance to dry
overnight and then applied a coat of TruOil. I like TruOil because
it is easy to apply and protects the wood. You can even apply
multiple coats and buff in between to get more shine (something I
don't think is necessary here). After allowing the finish to dry
overnight, I buffed out the finish with wax and 0000 steel wool.
On a side note here; notice the nice clean saw nuts? I cleaned
them at the lathe using 400 to 1500 wet dry sandpaper followed by
AutoSol and Aluminum foil. The medallions were just cleaned with AutoSol and Aluminum foil
And now for the reveal.....
With the saws all cleaned up I spent a couple of evenings
sharpening them. I kept the original pitches as indicated on the
saw plate. The No8 was 8 PPI and the No7 was 9 PPI.
Now they are ready for their new owners.
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