I bought a Disston backsaw through Craigslist. $20. I was very excited.
I cleaned the rust off with some fine sandpaper – and found hammer marks on the spine directly above a curve in the saw plate. The user had tried to hammer a bent blade straight and failed. And I had failed to notice the problems before handing the money over. Lesson learned.
All that I could salvage was the handle and the nuts. So I thought I would simply buy a 14″ saw plate and a spine to create a relatively low-cost backsaw.
Turns out that, even though saw plates can be bought at low cost (try TGIAG or Wenzloff & Sons), folded saw backs (spines) are commercially unobtainable. Making one at home would involve purchasing a metalworking vise, metal brake, hammers et cetera and the cost suddenly spirals out of control. Slotted backs are a viable option, but the only online source is Wenzloff and he no longer seems sell them as separate parts.
Next stop – metal shops. I emailed maybe 15 local metal shops with a diagram of a folded and a slotted back to see if they could manufacture one. The larger shops didn’t email back, the smaller ones said they couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. I became tempted to make my own, but I don’t want to go on a metal working side-track when I have woodworking skills to hone.
This was all some time ago, and I was very close to giving in and buying a nice 14″ crosscut Lie-Neilson. Then in April, Shannon Rogers on WoodTalk Online (episode 127) mentioned an unknown-to-me saw maker who makes some stunning pieces – Ron Bontz. On his Ron’s website he lists saw parts including the availability of milled brass backs! This is the only source I’ve managed to find after months of intense research. But now I can continue to sprout a saw from my salvaged handle and keep the cost under $100 in total.
After some email exchanges with Ron, he sent me a 14″, 0.025″ thick saw plate (measurements taken from the abused vintage one) and a slotted brass spine. The next post will be about the assembly of the saw.
***Update: check out this post on the Saw Blog for more saw-part supplier information***