How to choose a handsaw or crosscut saw for restoration.


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works
Biddeford, Maine

Recovering and Restoring Old Hand and Crosscut Saws

How To Tell If The Old Saw Is Worth Restoring!

So, you have a family heirloom handsaw or crosscut saw, or maybe you’ve been eyeing the tools at the local flea market looking for a great vintage saw for your workshop. Vintage handsaws and crosscut saws are usually superior tools to most anything being made new today.
In this guide, I’m going to show you how to determine if the old saw is worth restoring for use.

Blade condition:

Vintage handsaw and crosscut saw blades are usually high carbon steel. These saw blades are tougher, more flexible, and hold an edge far better than anything being made today. Unfortunately, high carbon steel also has little to no rust resistance. This usually results in very ugly blades coated with a layer of surface rust or worse.

If the rust layer is even, without signs of deep pitting, it’s probably just surface rust and can easily be cleaned. Heavy pitting may be a disqualifier for heavier crosscut blades, but it’s an absolute disqualifier or thinner handsaw blades. Black residue from rust and old pitch from green wood can typically be cleaned off fairly easily.

Pitting on the teeth means more effort getting them back to sharp and heavy pitting on handsaw teeth can lead to the teeth snapping off when they’re set. Crosscut blades can be recovered with pitting on the teeth as long as the tooth shape isn’t eroded. Handsaws with missing teeth can be re-toothed but in most cases, it isn’t practical.

Handsaws and crosscut saws with bends or kinks can usually be straightened enough to work satisfactorily. Even the dreaded end to end twist can usually be straightened. Blades with sharp bends, cracks, or other obvious visible damage should be discarded as unsafe.

Handles:

Loss of one or both of the horns from the handle is not uncommon and usually not a disqualifier for a andsaw or a crosscut saw. Cracks from the wood getting wet and drying out repeatedly can often be glued satisfactorily. Intact handles that are missing their finish may be perfectly usable as is and are generally an easy fix if not.

Missing saw nuts may or may not be a problem. Many saw and handle combinations will work just fine missing one or even two of the saw nuts. If more than two saw nuts are missing, pass it up.

On one man crosscut saws, the second, auxiliary, handle is a definite plus. Make sure the auxiliary handle is intact and that it screws down tight and solid against the top of the crosscut saw blade. The same goes for two man crosscut saws with loop style handles.

For crosscut saws with Climax or western type handles, as long as the hardware is intact, it’s easy to replace the wood so rotten or deteriorated wood handles aren’t a disqualifier.

Decoration:

Handles with wheat pattern carving or older handles with the thin “lamb’s tongue” underneath are always a plus on vintage handsaws and crosscut saws. Having an intact medallion saw nut is also a plus.

Many handsaw and crosscut blades are beautifully etched and that’s a big postive. Unfortunately,
many times the etch is hidden under the layer of rust and it’s impossible to tell it’s there without cleaning the blade. Sometimes the lower area inside the etch will cause a lower area in the rust, showing all or part of the etch before the blade in cleaned.

Disqualifiers:

  • Heavy pitting on handsaw blades making the teeth weak.
  • Eroded teeth that have lost their shape.
  • Broken or rotten handles.
  • Severely bent, visibly damaged or cracked blades.
  • More than 2 missing saw nuts.
  • Climax or western type crosscut saw handles with deteriorated hardware.
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