Restoring a Hand Saw

A few weeks ago, while at the Tri-State Antique Show in Lawrenceburg, IN, I came across this old Disston saw. It was in decent shape barring a little rust but the blade was straight. The dealer was only asking $8.00 for it so I decided to buy it and see if I could bring it back to life.

Overall, the saw was in pretty good condition, it just had a few issues with the handle. The top of the tip was chewed up and a part of the side was busted on the other side. I grabbed a piece of beech scrap wood and cut out a couple of blanks to fix the handle. The beech came from an old jointer plane I bought decades ago. It was missing the blade so I ripped it straight down the body into 3/4″ planks and have been using it to repair other tools for years.

I could have cut off the entire tip of the saw and glued in a new piece of wood but I decided just to shave the worn area away with a chisel. This way, the other side of the handle would be left undisturbed.

After I carefully cut out a blank that matched the angle of the shaven off area, I glued it in place with some woodworkers glue.

After the blank was glued and had dried, I used files and rasps to bring it to final shape. I wanted to make sure the wood matched the original shape which was easy because the other side was still there.

Next I flipped over the handle and started working on the part that was missing from the front of the handle.

I cut another piece off my scrap beech and glued it to the handle then shaped and sanded the wood.

The handle came out well but the contrast between the old beech handle and the replaced beech was pronounced. I decided to darken the entire handle down so it would all match. The first thing I did was tone down the wood with walnut aniline dye. I rubbed a couple of coats on it with a sponge and let it dry. I then applied a light coat of dewaxed shellac so I could wipe on a couple of coats of General Finishes Walnut gel stain.

While the handle dried, I focused on the blade. This was the easy part. I simply soaked the blade in a citric acid/water solution for a couple of hours and wiped it clean.

After I wiped it off I used some fine grit sanding sponges and cleaned up blade a little bit more. I also cleaned up the saw nuts with some 000 steel wool.

The saw turned out really well. I just now need to sharpen the blade. I’m no expert on saw sharpening so there’s no sense showing you how I’ll sharpen the saw because I’ll just be following someone elses instructions. There are a bunch of videos on YouTube on saw sharpening so pick your favorite and have at it however, for the money, Ron Herman’s “Sharpen Your Saws” by Popular Woodworking is worth every penny. Ron is considered to be one of the foremost experts on hand saws in the country and his DVD showed me everything I needed to know how to make a saw sing.

7 thoughts on “Restoring a Hand Saw

  1. Nice work! I’ve sharpened a dozen saws with great results. The files tend to find their angle. It just takes patience and a saw vise. Like hand cut dovetails, saw sharpening was mysterious and a little scary. I practiced on crappy saws. A chimp could sharpen a rip saw.


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