Questions and answers from the saw shop: chip breakers, crosscut saw value, cleaning handles.

Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, Maine

Hey everyone! It’s time to answer your questions! I’ve picked these questions from the search terms I see coming to both this blog and the service web site.

1. (question regarding sharpening hand plane chip breakers).

The chip breakers on hand planes are NOT “sharpened” persay. When a chip breaker is screwed to a cutting iron, the front edge should sit flat against the cutting iron. If a chip breaker is badly worn, it may be necessary to regrind the front edge straight (otherwise, shavings can catch between the cutting iron and the chip breaker).

2. (question regarding the value of 1 and 2 man crosscut saws)

Valuing a vintage crosscut saw has a number of considerations:

1. Blade condition. Is the blade smooth, lightly pitted, or deeply pitted? Is it straight, bent, or warped? Does it have a readable etch?

2. Handles. Are all the handles present? Is the wood intact? Is the wood solid or cracked? Is all the handle hardware (such as screws) present? Is there a good original finish left on the handle?

3. Teeth. Are the teeth intact or are any missing? Are the teeth profiles still correct or are the teeth eroded or mis-sharpened? Is there good length left on the teeth?

I can’t value any crosscut saw sight unseen, but generally any saw with more than one broken tooth, badly damaged handles, or severely rust pitted is a candidate for the trash.

3. (question about cleaning saw handles)

Presuming you intend to retain the factory finish, the best thing to clean a vintage saw handle is Old English lemon oil furniture polish. In cases where I have saws with the super rare rosewood handles, I only treat them with lemon oil (never refinish a rosewood handle!). An old toothbrush works great for cleaning the wheat carving.


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