Monday, June 15, 2009

Josh's Saw Rehab

Okay, so the other day I am over at my brother Josh's place and there is a saw hanging on the wall. I recognize this saw. I once tried to use it when I was helping him build a deck. It was awful. Dull to the extreme. I ask him "Hey, do you actually use that thing?"
"Yeah, why?"
I take it down. I touch the teeth. I run my finger down the teeth with more than a little pressure. Egads man! You'd have better luck trying to saw a board in half with a row of dimes!
"Do you want to sharpen it?" he asks.
"While you're at it, maybe you can make a nice wooden handle for it too," he suggests.
I'm thinking "No way do I have time for that!" But the seed is planted, and hey, he is my brother...

The saw:

It's a Sandvik - not much of the etch left, just part of the name, "ship point" and most of the image of a ship under sail.

When I removed the saw nuts (two were actually machine screws) I got a surprise - "Hidden Dragon!" What the? The metal plates are original, and the handle clearly has recesses made for them, but underneath are more dragon designs. Why?

I thought about changing the handle design to more of a Disston pattern, which I like better, but decided to just reproduce the existing handle. I dug up some 4/4 Alaskan birch and traced the handle. (That's not a crack in the wood, it's an old gauge line from some forgotten project...)

Using a brace and bits, I bored the holes for the saw nuts and removed most of the waste from the hand grip. I was really an idiot here, but I didn't know it yet...

Bow saw time!

I used a rip saw to cut the kerf that houses the blade in the handle. The original handle had a curved slot to fit the curved end of the blade. I just went ahead and cut a straight kerf that will show on the top edge of the handle for a few inches.

Shaping the handle was a bit of chore. One problem was finding a way to hold the work piece but still allow access for the rasps I was using. I think next time I will leave a long strip of wood attached to the handle for clamping purposes, and then cut it off when most of the handle has been shaped. For this go around, I dug up an old vise rig I used way back before I made my shavehorse. It's just a small bench vise mounted to a 2x4 that clamps into the face vise. It worked pretty well for this job.

Now back to the idiot part. When I bored the holes for the nuts, I used the wrong size auger bit. To fix this mistake I couldn't use another auger bit, as the lead screw would have nothing to hold it. So I rebored with a standard twist bit in the brace. This worked fine, but I made my second mistake and forgot to clamp a backing piece to the handle and as a result, I got some nasty tear-out. Arrgh!

Now I had to try to patch these. After crawling around on the shop floor and digging in the chips, I actually managed to sort out several of the missing chunks. For the others I cut small pieces from the cut-offs from shaping the handle. I glued these in place, clamped them up and put it aside to dry while I sharpened the saw.

I tried something new on this project. In the past, when I have sharpened saws and wanted to darken the teeth to more accurately see what is happening with the file on the teeth, I have used a magic marker. This never worked very well - it was slow, did not provide full coverage, and destroyed the marker tip. This time I used a much simpler technique that worked incredibly well. It was fast, provided full coverage and required only one special piece of equipment:

I couldn't believe I had never tried this before! So easy! It was great! Now, first I had to reshape the teeth, and for this operation I didn't need any blackening; the teeth were already very dark from age. But after shaping, when I wanted to sharpen the teeth, I really needed the blackening to help me see things. Here's a shot of the saw after reshaping the teeth, showing the difference between the unblackened shiny teeth and the blackened teeth after one pass through the candle flame.

And here's an end-on shot after sharpening one side. It is very easy to see which gullets/teeth have been sharpened and which have not. I will definitely be using this technique from now on.

Back to the handle. The patches had dried and I carefully reworked the openings with a sharp knife. Not too bad.

I decided to stain the handle dark - it just seemed like the right thing to do.

While that was drying, I made a blade guard. I ripped a kerf down a narrow piece of wood from the scrap bin. This saw has a pronounced belly to the blade - the edge with the teeth is convex. In order to keep the blade from rocking I needed the kerf in the guard to be deeper in the center. I achieved this by alternating cutting with the first couple of teeth at the toe of a saw, and scraping with the corner of a flat bladed screwdriver.

After the stain dried, I put on a coat of amber shellac...

...and then a liberal coating of my own mineral oil and beeswax mixture. The results were not too bad. I probably should have spent more time on final shaping, but I think the results are satisfactory.

I couldn't decide whether to reuse the metal plates or not. I decided to let Josh decide. I didn't have any true saw nuts, so I used some European cabinet fasteners. Not traditional, but they work. Here's the rehabbed saw without the metal plates:

And here it is with them:

Josh chose the "with" option. Here's one last comparison between the original plastic handle and the new wooden one:

A fun project. I enjoyed replacing the plastic with wood and bringing a tool back to life, and I added a new technique to my saw sharpening repertoire . Plus, it was for my brother, so it's all good!


  1. looks good! i like the new cabinet fastener nuts...if the color is accurate in the photos, they seem to compliment the wood well.

  2. Nicely done Dan! That's odd that the dragon detail would be hidden by the metal plate. Is it possible that the dragon was original but the plate was not? You mention the recess for the metal but could the recess be from the mold and not necessarily designed for the metal?

    I have a soft spot for saws and have made a few saw handles myself. My current project is a couple of larger backsaws I made recently. All they need now is handles.

    FWIW regarding the saw nuts, cobbling together makeshift split nuts is actually a pretty easy task. I followed Leif Hanson's (Norse Woodsmith) method for a couple of dovetail saws I made and basically made split nuts from a piece of 1/2" round brass rod and some 1" 10-32 threaded brass rod. I got them from McMaster Carr for a couple of bucks. One length of brass rod (1/2" round x 6") and one package of 1" threaded brass rods (qty. 25) is enough to make about 10-12 saw bolt/split nut sets. I bought 2 brass rods and a package of the brass threaded rods and keep them around in case I have to replace a missing saw nut on an old saw or for making new saws. Pretty easy to do with hacksaw, 10-32 tap and a file. Beware though, once you get started making your own saws, there's no turning back.

  3. Dan: Very nice project... I love it...

    What if the Handle was redone? Well not the handle, but what if someone replaced the rivets?

    is it possible that there were Screw Fasteners in it before? BUT what they did was remove them, cut 2 Identical Plates Put them over the Dragon when they put the Rivets in to Keep from Splitting the Plastic?

    Always different Verities to choose from of what may have happen or what has been changed.

    To me the Handle appears to have been original without the plates cause of the Recess of the Fastener indentations.


  4. Kerry - Thanks! The color is pretty close - and I thought the same thing. Great minds!

    Bob - I did some digging on Goggle and found several images and they all had the metal plates. Strange.

    Thanks for the information on making saw nuts - I'll have to give it a try next time.

    Handi - The mystery of the Plastic Dragon Handle continues! I hope I didn't just destroy a rare collector's item! Ha ha.

  5. Beautiful job, Dan! I have had that saw for 30 years since someone gave it to me. (yes, 30 years without sharpening! Maybe one of us is adopted...)

    It has always been just a saw. Now it hangs proudly on the INSIDE of my cabin, part tool, part decor. AND it has a story and a cool new name - The Hidden Dragon Saw.

    Next time you come over I will show you my "Crouching Tiger" dogsled.

  6. Yo, Google! Why did you make me sign in if you were gonna go and call me "Anonymous", you POC?

    Dan's Brother Josh

  7. Hey Josh - Glad you like the saw! Thirty years without sharpening! HCMB! That explains a lot!

  8. i have a old saw that has a wood handle with the dragons on it and writing i cant read its coveered in black type rust i was told that it could be very collectible wondering if u mite have any info on it my email is if u could send email that would be great

  9. Anonymous - I don't really know much about these saws, but if I find a good source, I'll send it your way.

  10. Update on the further adventures of the Hidden Dragon saw:

    The saw is now one of the key players in the ongoing construction of my cabin/home. It's off the grid, no electricity. Dan has done such a fabulous job on that saw that I don't even miss having power when it comes to cutting the wood. Well okay, 4-foot cuts in plywood are a bit slow - but anything else - 2x10's 4x6's it cuts like buttah.

    Hardly seems any different than using a circular saw..and if I had to power up a generator each time I wanted to cut, I think it would actually be slower than using the Dragon!

    This will be the second building for which that old saw has done all the cutting. And going strong, fast and straight. Thanks, Dan!!

  11. "Heh, heh, heh - well you know, Master says that the Kung-Fu of the Hidden Dragon is quite unstoppable! Unbeatable even!"

    Sorry, too much Saturday morning Black Belt Theater as a kid...

    I'm glad it's been working out Josh! Just let me know if it needs a touch up - I'd love to make a house call. And yes, I often think that in many situations the handsaw is faster.

    Thanks for the update!

  12. I know this post is very old now, but since I happened to stumble on this in an attempt to seek more information about Sandvik saws, I can add the following.

    Dan's brothers saw is a Sandvik no 277 saw with a breasted saw plate. Old versions of this saw had wooden handles, but the model was very popular and in fact a very good saw, so when Sandvik "modernized" things and introduced plastic handles, the model lived on and the plastic handle was shaped according to the wooden original. This model does NOT feature the metal plate. I know that another model from Sandvik (the no 288) had the metal plate, but not this one. Since the shape is the same, I think it's probably a loan. The handles on both saw models are identical with the exception of the dragon. The only reason I can think of why the plate was borrowed from another saw is that some of the saw nuts were lost and had to be replaced with something that didn't fit the holes in the handle. Another theory is that since the hollow plastic handle doesn't have a very good holding capacity, the plate could have been made to distribute an even the pressure from the screws, thus making it possible to tighten the screws more than the plastic handle itself would allow for. The problem with the metal plate solution is that if the screws are tightened too hard, the plastic handle can crack from a blow to the handle. I have seen a few of the no 288s and none of them had intact handles.

    This link will show the Sandvik no 277 in it's full, modernized glory. It's a very good saw, and even the plastic handle looks rather nice:

    And this one shows a no 288 in good condition:

  13. As a carpenter, I can tell you that the Sandvik black handled saw was one of the best saws ever made. In my opinion better than the Disston of which I also have a couple. I still have my redhandled sandviks however the plastic handle was prone to damage and eventual disintegration, no doubt the reason for the new handle.

    Hope this information is helpful.



    1. Thanks for the information Terry! I wonder how much cheaper the plastic handle was to produce - it sure doesn't seem like it would hold up as well as wood...

  14. Excellent work as far as I can see. One has to love these old tools to take the time to clean them up and give them new life. I love them.

  15. I am making a bowsaw and I can't find a good source for the blades. Can anyone help with this ?

    1. I just use bandsaw blades - not perfect, but they do work. You can find bowsaw blades online at Tools for Working Wood, Highland Hardware, etc.


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