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  1. #1
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    Default Interestng Howel Dovetail Saw

    I'm currently in the UK, and on the weekend I went along to the Cotswold Old Oil Engine and Preservation Society's: Bring and Buy Sale.

    I arrived on my push bike at the Oakley Airfield one hour after the events opening time(6:30am) completely frozen! It was a cool -1 Celsius. But when I saw the airstrip packed with what I estimate to be a line over 300m of cars, van, trailers I quickly forgot how cold I was. Sellers brought along all kinds of bits and bobs including wood working tools!

    One of my purchases from the event was this very interesting dovetail saw. It is stamped with a name that looks like either I HOWEL, J HOWEL or L HOWEL. Below the HOWEL stamp you can just make out the word SPRING. This looks to be a very old saw. I'm guessing it was made sometime in the 1800's. This saw has an incredibly thin saw plate. I took some measurements today and did a sketch.
    IMG_0758.jpgIMG_0752.jpg IMG_0755.jpg IMG_0753.jpg


    IMG_0769 2.jpg

    Does anyone know more about this saw?

    Cheers,

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  3. #2
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    From Barley pp. 336 and 320. Howel(L) Joseph, London 1799-1828 of Chelsea. Listed in directory with two L's but markings always with a single. Later became Mary Howell (1832-34) and then J.V.Hill (1834-1909). Joseph Hill was foreman of Howel J. and presumably Mary.
    Innovations are those useful things that, by dint of chance, manage to survive the stupidity and destructive tendencies inherent in human nature.

  4. #3
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    Can't shed any light on that maker CB, but agree it is likely pre-1900 with the flush bolt heads (& presumably flushed split nuts on the other side?). The handle looks very similar to a Kenyon handle from the late 1700s to early 1800s (see RayG's scan of an original & his elegant 'interpretation' here). Your saw looks in remarkably good condition for something that's probably at least 150 years old, or maybe quite a bit more.

    And at 0.32mm, that certainly is a thin plate! That corresponds to 0.0126" which would be the thinnest saw plate I've ever encountered other than on a 'razor saw'.

    I've made a few saws about the same size as that one, to use up scraps of 15 thou plate that were too small for my 'regular' sized D/T saws. Mine gets a lot of use for all sorts of small jobs apart from cutting small D/Ts - I call it my 'little nipper'.

    Cheers,
    IW

  5. #4
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    Rob posted while I was typing, and confirmed my suspicion you scored a pretty ancient saw, alright. If they were marked with a different name after 1834, it has to have turned at least 185!!
    IW

  6. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by rob streeper View Post
    From Barley pp. 336 and 320. Howel(L) Joseph, London 1799-1828 of Chelsea. Listed in directory with two L's but markings always with a single. Later became Mary Howell (1832-34) and then J.V.Hill (1834-1909). Joseph Hill was foreman of Howel J. and presumably Mary.

    Thanks Rob, looks like this is the oldest tool I own then. I will have to get my hands on a copy of that book!




    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    Can't shed any light on that maker CB, but agree it is likely pre-1900 with the flush bolt heads (& presumably flushed split nuts on the other side?). The handle looks very similar to a Kenyon handle from the late 1700s to early 1800s (see RayG's scan of an original & his elegant 'interpretation' here). Your saw looks in remarkably good condition for something that's probably at least 150 years old, or maybe quite a bit more.

    And at 0.32mm, that certainly is a thin plate! That corresponds to 0.0126" which would be the thinnest saw plate I've ever encountered other than on a 'razor saw'.

    I've made a few saws about the same size as that one, to use up scraps of 15 thou plate that were too small for my 'regular' sized D/T saws. Mine gets a lot of use for all sorts of small jobs apart from cutting small D/Ts - I call it my 'little nipper'.

    Cheers,
    IMG_0770.jpg

    I am surprised with the condition also Ian. I found it at the bottom of a box surrounded by other rusty tools. The handle looks great other than two cracks in the timber - one at the end of the brass backs mortise continuing along the handle and the other at the back of the plates kerf. The plate has some pitting which I would say on any other saw would be considered insignificant but because of the plate thickness being so fine, the pitting has had some affect along the tooth-line.

    All of those measurements were taken with a cheap set of digital calipers so may not be super precise, but should be fairly close.

    Hahaha 'little nipper' what a great name.

  7. #6
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    I forgot to add - I counted 21 PPI. Not sure if I even own a file possible of sharpening teeth this fine.

  8. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBaulds View Post
    I forgot to add - I counted 21 PPI. Not sure if I even own a file possible of sharpening teeth this fine.
    You almost certainly won't! Although a 4" DEST is supposed to do the job, modern files just don't have fine enough corners to suit me, you end up with teeny tiny teeth & wide gullets. In any case, the best files around in that size are Swiss needle files. Get yourself a 150mm #4 from a jewellers supply mob (both Gemcuts & Aus. Jewellers Supplies carry them). Not cheap at around $16 each but they are excellent files & outlast anything else you are likely to find by a factor of 3 or more. They are a bit short for comfort, and those needle sharp points can bite careless fingers, but you get used to them.

    Hardest part of the job for me is seeing those darn miniature teeth! I have to use a head loupe, & end up cross-eyed by the end of each side. I have to concentrate like crazy to move to the next tooth without skipping or back-tracking (please don't ever speak to me while I'm in the middle of a side!). The good news is that small teeth are in some ways more forgiving than large ones, you can do a less than perfect job & the saw will still cut ok & fairly smoothly. I started my saw-sharpening career with my then cherished 18tpi saw after having it utterly botched by a commercial sharpener, I reckoned I could do better. I did, but only marginally at first, so that's how I know...

    You can set fine teeth by the Tage Frid method of twisting a small screwdriver in ever 2nd gullet. It works, but I'm a bit inconsistent & soon gave up on that method. I guess if you do it for 50 years you get very good at it, but instead, I bought myself a "blue" Somax saw set. These are a Japanese copy of the old Eclipse 77, with a fine plunger. Even so, you'll find it a bit generous for 20tpi-sized fangs - I slimmed mine down a wee bit more, which helps.

    I reckon your ancient little gem is in amazingly good nick for its age, & what surprises me most is that the woodwork is almost intact. Besides the slings & arrows of general maltreatment breaking bits off here & there, Beech wood seems to be a magnet for pin-hole borers. I've come across old Beech plane bodies that were more hole than wood. I can see what look like a few exit holes on your handle, but nothing remotely serious.

    I also see another potential sawaholic teetering on the verge....

    Cheers,
    IW

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    You almost certainly won't! Although a 4" DEST is supposed to do the job, modern files just don't have fine enough corners to suit me, you end up with teeny tiny teeth & wide gullets. In any case, the best files around in that size are Swiss needle files. Get yourself a 150mm #4 from a jewellers supply mob (both Gemcuts & Aus. Jewellers Supplies carry them). Not cheap at around $16 each but they are excellent files & outlast anything else you are likely to find by a factor of 3 or more. They are a bit short for comfort, and those needle sharp points can bite careless fingers, but you get used to them.
    Cheers,
    Thanks Ian, I will look into getting one of those files. Although, this saw is so old I don't know If I will use it. I normally buy tools to use them (and not just to look at) but I don't want to ruin this saw. I think, due to some pitting I would need to do a bit of jointing on the teeth to get back to fresh metal and this would take away a couple of mm on the plate when the depth of the plate is limited as it is. However, I do like the idea of making a replica and hence filing some very fine teeth anyway. I find $16 to be about the ball park price for a saw file when I have bought them.

    I was lucky enough to also buy some new old stock files about $2 each. These a double slim tapered 4" files but like you say these are still too large.

    IMG_0741 2.jpg IMG_0742.jpg

    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    Hardest part of the job for me is seeing those darn miniature teeth! I have to use a head loupe, & end up cross-eyed by the end of each side. I have to concentrate like crazy to move to the next tooth without skipping or back-tracking (please don't ever speak to me while I'm in the middle of a side!). The good news is that small teeth are in some ways more forgiving than large ones, you can do a less than perfect job & the saw will still cut ok & fairly smoothly. I started my saw-sharpening career with my then cherished 18tpi saw after having it utterly botched by a commercial sharpener, I reckoned I could do better. I did, but only marginally at first, so that's how I know...
    Cheers,
    Sharpening saws can be such a eye dazzling experience. It is so easy to get lost and make a mistake. I can't imagine what it would be like to sharpen 21 PPI. I have fairly decent eye sight but I know I will definitely need a magnifying head loupe.

    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    You can set fine teeth by the Tage Frid method of twisting a small screwdriver in ever 2nd gullet. It works, but I'm a bit inconsistent & soon gave up on that method. I guess if you do it for 50 years you get very good at it, but instead, I bought myself a "blue" Somax saw set. These are a Japanese copy of the old Eclipse 77, with a fine plunger. Even so, you'll find it a bit generous for 20tpi-sized fangs - I slimmed mine down a wee bit more, which helps.
    Cheers,
    I think I will alter the plunger in an old eclipse saw set. I'll file the plunger down to make thinner and then possibly shim it also in order to not over-set the teeth.

    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    I reckon your ancient little gem is in amazingly good nick for its age, & what surprises me most is that the woodwork is almost intact. Besides the slings & arrows of general maltreatment breaking bits off here & there, Beech wood seems to be a magnet for pin-hole borers. I've come across old Beech plane bodies that were more hole than wood. I can see what look like a few exit holes on your handle, but nothing remotely serious.
    Cheers,
    I'm particularly amazed at how little damage their is on the horns of the handle. I had a really good look at the handle and I don't think I can see any borer holes, It looks like some of the dots are tines dents. This is unlike an old pad saw I bought a while back. I obviously didn't have a good look when I bought, on closer inspection at home I realised the handle more closely resembled a piece of Swiss Cheese.

    padsaw.jpg

    Quote Originally Posted by IanW View Post
    I also see another potential sawaholic teetering on the verge....

    Cheers,
    Hahaha I hope I don't get too addicted. I've got planes,marking gauges and marking knives to make!

    Cheers,

    CB

  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by CBaulds View Post
    .......I was lucky enough to also buy some new old stock files about $2 each. These a double slim tapered 4" files but like you say these are still too large.....
    Those files look like NOS, from an age when QC was a bit more rigorous, and they may may have finer corners than more recently-made files of that size. It can be hard to judge by just eyeballing the corners if you're not used to files. I think the best way to find out would be to make some 20tpi teeth on a bit of scrap plate & see what they look like. In any case, it appears you've got a box of good files which will probably be perfect for 14-15tpi, at least, and at $2 each, I'm envious!

    Cheers,
    IW

  11. #10
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    Ian,

    could you please tell me, which cut (cut 0 - cut 4) needle file is it that you have used???

    Graham

  12. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by macg View Post
    Ian,

    could you please tell me, which cut (cut 0 - cut 4) needle file is it that you have used???

    Graham
    I mostly use 4-cut, Graham. If you are only sharpening & lightly re-forming teeth, i.e. just regular saw maintenance, I reckon the finer 6-cut is better but the jeweller suppliers don't always have 6s available. The #4 cuts pretty quickly, and just one stroke takes off a lot of metal. A #6 cuts less aggressively, but you might find it a bit more controllable, particularly if you've not sharpened tiny teeth before. It also leaves a slightly cleaner surface than the 4, but you need to look awfully hard to see the difference, & I don't think it improves the quality of cut or longevity of the edge in any meaningful way..

    Cheers,
    IW

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