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  1. #1
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    Default Disston Brass Back Saw - Restoration

    Hi Guys,

    amongst a couple of saws I am trying to bring back to life, I have also this Disston brass back saw.

    20200218_200507.jpg


    It is 10" long with about 15tpi and with the medallion it puts it somewhere between 1878 and 1888, if I did my research correctly. I think it would be a #4.


    20200218_200424.jpg20200218_181619.jpg


    Before I fully attack it here are some issues I have found.

    1. Most obvious is that the handle is broken and I do not believe I can fix this by adding some other wood and shape. I will have to make a new one and have already found other photos on the net from which I made myself a template.

    2. The brass back. It is not straight. You see the picture withe the ruler and the straight piece of wood. It is bend upwards towards the heel of the blade. With that the blade is also not sitting very far inside the brass back. (see second photo)
    However if I assume the blade is fully rectangular and would sit equally inside the back then the back would actually cover one of the screw holes at least partially. Also the handle would not have fit then as there are only a couple of mm left for the back to go deeper.

    20200220_062506.jpg20200218_181128.jpg20200219_200924.jpg

    So I am not sure what happened to it. I don't believe Disston delivered the saw that way. Maybe had it disassembled before and didn't get it back together anymore. Or the blade is not the original one. I cleaned it carefully where an etching might have been, but couldn't find anything.

    I am a bit anxious to take the back off and put it back on again, but I guess I will have to do it if I want it to be straight again. With making a new handle I can then cater of any differences.

    Are there any thoughts and pieces of advise, which might help me with this one?

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  3. #2
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    Default

    Cklett

    I think your saw is a No.5 (brass back).

    The back is probably sitting too low at the toe.

    The back can be tapped off with a block of wood that is slotted to sit either side of the blade. When re-assembling smear a little grease along the very top of the blade and tap on in a longituinal direction. This tensions the blade and keeps it straight. If the back is bent the blade will follow suit. Be careful straightening the back not to close up the kerf. An old piece of saw plate can assist with this or mabe do it with theplae still in place.

    Regards
    Paul
    Bushmiller;

    "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"

  4. #3
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    Default

    Hi there. A bit jealous of your project. I would make a new handle (Blackburn Tools has great templates) so you can move brass down and then drill a new hole. Interestingly I just restored a Disston and it also had the stiffener (steel not brass) pushed up to accommodate the handle. I made an open handle, moved the steel back down, ignored the now covered hole and used two nuts only. But remember I am not a collector but a user.

  5. #4
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    Default

    Thanks for your comments. I wasn't sure if it was a #4 or #5. So thanks.

    The brass back came off very easy and I carefully straightened it out a bit. Still a slight bend in it, but not a banana anymore. Good enough for me. The blade was fairly clean under the back. Does it look like it's very old or is it likely someone replaced the blade?



    Anyway the metal work is done now. Everything clean and shiny again.



    Now off to make a handle. I had a look at Blackburn, but found at TGIAG a template closer to the original. A bit bigger at the front bit, but that is easily adjusted. Luckily I have a piece of offcut timber which I think will suit well. Although I do not know what wood it might be. I might post an identification query in the timber section.





    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

  6. #5
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    Default

    Do not force the brass back so far down the blade that it covers a screw hole. That is not how it was designed and made. You can see from the as-found condition of your saw that the brass back has been displaced with it driven down too low at the toe and lifted up at the handle. Originally the brass would have been filling the slot in the handle and you would not have that 3mm gap below it as shown in your picture. Only the edge of the blade needs to be inside the brass back to provide sufficient stiffening.
    It would probably be much easier to repair the existing handle by adding a chunk of wood to the 70% of original handle (I use epoxy glue), and you would then only have to re-shape the 30% of new handle and not have to fuss with screw holes and blade/back slots. But making a whole new handle is also a worthwhile exercise.
    Good luck on refurbishing your saw (It's a good one!)

  7. #6
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    Default

    Hi Kwigly. For the purposes of my ongoing education, if one was cutting a new handle, would it matter if the brass was driven down at the handle end? I get it would reduce cutting depth but are there any other concerns you would have?

  8. #7
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    My guess as to why the backsaw is designed with the blade inserted part way into the back (and not buried to the max) is so that the blade can "float" its position a little to relieve any blade stresses, or so an Owner can readily adjust the back to relieve plate stresses.
    Sometimes when I receive a backsaw with a wavy saw plate, a simple whack of the saw back onto the bench top will move the back slightly and the blade wave magically disappears (maybe that procedure is what produces all those saws, like yours, with the back pushed down the blade at the toe?). If that doesn't work, taking the back off, and then re-seating it, often fixes a wavy blade (unless the blade is still all wavy/warped even when the back is removed).
    The traditional method of partial insertion of the blade into the back is probably the result of many years of manufacturing experience, so if it works, I haven't tried to change that. Maybe my guess is wrong as to the reason behind the traditional construction, and if you want to experiment with alternatives on your saw there's nothing "wrong" with that (after all, some modern Sawmakers fix their backs rigidly to their saw plates with rivets and/or epoxy)

  9. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by kwigly View Post
    My guess as to why the backsaw is designed with the blade inserted part way into the back (and not buried to the max) is so that the blade can "float" its position a little to relieve any blade stresses, or so an Owner can readily adjust the back to relieve plate stresses.
    Sometimes when I receive a backsaw with a wavy saw plate, a simple whack of the saw back onto the bench top will move the back slightly and the blade wave magically disappears (maybe that procedure is what produces all those saws, like yours, with the back pushed down the blade at the toe?). If that doesn't work, taking the back off, and then re-seating it, often fixes a wavy blade (unless the blade is still all wavy/warped even when the back is removed).
    The traditional method of partial insertion of the blade into the back is probably the result of many years of manufacturing experience, so if it works, I haven't tried to change that. Maybe my guess is wrong as to the reason behind the traditional construction, and if you want to experiment with alternatives on your saw there's nothing "wrong" with that (after all, some modern Sawmakers fix their backs rigidly to their saw plates with rivets and/or epoxy)
    kwigly

    I suspect that the "partial" insertion of the plate into the back is as much to do with "leeway" as anything. The back stiffens what is often quite a thin blade and that is it's purpose, but the back saw was a production made tool. The parts of the saw did not have to be so precise. Aesthetically the back just protruding from the handle appeals to us or "looks right," but it could sit up or sit right down.

    Just out of interest, a few manufacturers did produce saws that had the top saw screw penetrating the back:

    Richardson Bros:

    P1050977 (2).JPG

    Harvey W. Peace

    P1050978 (2).JPG

    Both these pages are taken from an 1895 catalogue by which time those firms (together with Woodrough McParlin and Wheeler Madden and Clemson) had been absorbed into the National Saw Company which had been created by and was owned by Disston.

    I don't think the top screw went all the way through, but not absolutely sure on that aspect.


    Regards
    Paul
    Bushmiller;

    "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"

  10. #9
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    Default

    Finally finished the saw. Ok it still needs sharpening....

    It was really fun making a new handle and although jot absolutely perfect it turned put quite well. At least I am happy with it. I won't go into too much detail how I made it as there are heaps of videos etc online to how to make a handle.

    Only two things which I found helpful. First I did not cut out the entire handle in one go, but only the back part first. This left me with a lot of wood at the front amd so I could easily hold it in the vice amd shape the majority of the handle that way. Only when the most part was done I finished by cutting out the front.



    Further to saw the slot to receive the blade I saw someone to clamp down a saw at the exact height of half the handle width and this way sawing the majority of it perfectly straight. I liked that as I did not trust my straight sawing skills yet.



    From then it was shaping and sanding until I was happy. Here you see the finished parts and also how deep I have placed the brass back over the blade.



    And finally the fully assembled saw. I hope I did her justice, but I leave that to the audience to judge.



    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

  11. #10
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    Cklett

    Excellent job and I see you worked out the relative position of the brass back and the handle. I wish my first effort had been as good as that. I was going to ask if you have sharpened it, but I see that was the first thing you mentioned and it is still to be done.

    Regards
    Paul
    Bushmiller;

    "Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"

  12. #11
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    Default

    I was reading your thread , thinking no do the saw blade slot first, that’s the most important part,
    Then you showed me ,to be patient and read everything before casting judgment,
    I really like the little jig for cutting the saw slot “simplicity” lol.

    Fantastic job on the saw.

    Cheers Matt.

  13. #12
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    Default

    My congrats too Cklett. Great job. I have had my eye on a blade on ebay. It has been re listed twice and not sold. I have put it progressively bigger offers but been knocked back or ignored each time. I do wonder how much the buyer thinks it is worth. Oh well , I'll keep looking.

  14. #13
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    Hi,

    I somehow feel this story is not finished unless the saw is sharpened and the teeth set.

    For my current mini bench build I am now trying to do as much with hand tools as I cam amd try things out.

    And for that I used the saw after sharpening. It does good and more importantly straight cuts. I am pretty happy about that.

    The cut on the right was dead straight on the line...



    Sent from my SM-G950F using Tapatalk

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