A new saw plate and spine for a vintage handle

In the previous post I described a damaged Disston handsaw I have with only the handle and nuts that could be saved. The handle was given a sanding and 3 coats of tung oil. It now has an orange colour and looks great. The nuts got an overnight soak in vinegar to remove the gunk that was on them. I received a new 14″ sawplate and spine from Ron Bontz and went ahead making a crosscut saw.

One thought – when is a Disston no longer a Disston? There is a scene from the old British sit-com ‘Only Fools and Horses’ where Trigger, a road-sweeper, wins an award for using the same broom for 20 years, but in his acceptance speech he mentions that it has had 17 new heads and 14 new handles! I hope I am not going down this slippery path…

Before I started, I read a great deal about saw making on the web. One of the most relevant videos I saw relating to saw assembly was this one on the Logan Cabinet Shoppe.

Firstly, I used the old saw plate to mark the hole locations and the shape of the taper under the handle with a sharpie. I used a file to shape the new saw plate. The holes were an animal! I started by using an automatic center punch to dent the middle of the hole – this prevents any drill bit wandering. I tried to use small drill bits in my hand drill to start the holes, but they refused to go through. I then tried using the full size 3/16 bit and this worked well for two of the holes. The third did not want to go through. I tried a new bit but still no luck. I must have heated and hardened the metal by pressing down too hard. In the end I managed to make a tiny hole in the plate, then widened the hole using modeler’s files.

Next I attached the handle and dry fit the spine. I marked where the spine needed to be trimmed and cut it with a hacksaw. Ron suggested using some Loctite 242 (blue) in the spine to ensure the blade stays put. Once the spine slotted onto the blade, I wiped up the excess with a cloth.

The blade was given a rub with some wax and then sharpened crosscut. I had a problem with a little curve in the blade at the heel, but figured out it was because the holes in the blade are not perfectly aligned with those in the handle. The pressure from the nuts against the holes were warping the blade. I took my modeler’s round file to two of the holes to relieve the tension and when reassembled, the blade was straight.


4 thoughts on “A new saw plate and spine for a vintage handle

  1. Having just taken Matt Cianci’s class where we made a backsaw, I can tell you the problem with drilling through your saw plate. You need a carbide drill bit to easily get through that material. We didn’t have one and had trouble getting through using a drill press. I watched some of the others struggle with trying to punch through using a bigger bit right off the bat and had an easier time by making the initial hole with a very small bit and working my way up with two or three size changes until I got to the final size I wanted.

    But using a carbide bit is the recommended method.

    Saw looks great, by the way!



    • Thanks for the advice! Yeah, I was using good-but-not-brilliant drill bits. I’ll be making another saw by the end of the year, so I’ll be sure to invest in some better quality bits!

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