Saw Restoration
By D. Greco
January 2015

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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