7th Aug 2016, 11:03 AM #1
Anatomy, Functional Analysis and Reproduction of the Disston Joiners Saw
Much discussion has been made here and other places on the net about the Disston Joiners saw (Disston Joiners Saw)(Disston Joiner Saw). There's also one for sale on eBay Australia if you're interested (Premium Quality Saw Vintage RARE Disston Joiners Saw Antique Old Handsaw 11 | eBay).
Little is apparently known of the uses to which it was put and the purposes for which it was designed. We have some company literature but as yet no first hand testimony as to its intended or best uses. Other manufacturers also made saws of this configuration and apparently relatively few of them survive.
Recently I managed to acquire one on eBay. It was mis-listed as a dovetail saw. Though the price wasn't low it certainly wasn't as high as most of this type have been advertised for lately.
My intention here is first to describe to a reasonable level of detail the physical characteristics of this particular saw. Then, in no particular order, I'll try to find some uses for the saw and make a reproduction.
Here's the saw as it arrived.
Disston Joiners Saw LHS before cleaning 080616a.jpg
Disston Joiners Saw RHS before cleaning 080616a.jpg
And the medallion from the 1917-1940 period.
Disston Joiners Saw medallion before cleaning 080616a.jpg
Removing the handle revealed no surprises.
Disston Joiners Saw handle LHS before cleaning 080616a.jpg
And the screws proved to be of standard configuration.
Disston Joiners Saw screws berfore cleaning 080616c.jpg
The teeth were set at about 0.059" at the heel.
Disston Joiners Saw blade detail showing full set at heel before cleaning 080616a.jpg
At about the midpoint of the blade and continuing to the toe there was effectively no set. It looks like this is due to wear.
Disston Joiners Saw blade detail showing no set in middle before cleaning 080616a.jpg
The blade is bright under the handle and is 0.042" thick just above the toothline for its entire length. 1.5 cm up from the toothline the blade shows about 0.005" to 0.009" or so reduction in thickness and near the back its typically under 0.030" thick.
thickness map of Disston joiners saw.jpg
The saw has a mass of 243.6 gm and is 525 mm OAL. The toothline is 396 mm. The blade is 26 mm deep at the toe and 54 mm deep at the heel.Innovations are those useful things that, by dint of chance, manage to survive the stupidity and destructive tendencies inherent in human nature.
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7th Aug 2016, 11:25 AM #2
Cleaning and more measurements.
I disassembled the saw to clean it and while there I took some hardness measurements. In the area of the blade covered by the handle the average of 5 measurements came out HRC 52.5. These measurements were taken using the 150kgf instrument I have.
Disston Joiners Saw hardness test points 080616a.jpg
Using solvents and non-ionic detergent cleaner (Tween 80 in hexane/ethanol) I then proceeded to clean up the handle. The blade was cleaned using 280 gr W&D with Rustoleum Rust Inhibitor for lubricant. There was scant remaining lacquer on the handle so I just applied a little BLO after cleaning and reassembled.
Disston Joiners Saw full length after cleaning and shaping 080616a.jpg
Disston Joiners Saw handle right after cleaning and shaping 080616a.jpg
Surprisingly I was able to raise the etch.
Disston Joiners Saw blade etch after cleaning and shaping 080616c.jpg
I also started shaping the teeth ( 25o fleam, 8o rake) with a #00 Corinox needle file. Much more to be done here of course.
Zombetetchki.jpgInnovations are those useful things that, by dint of chance, manage to survive the stupidity and destructive tendencies inherent in human nature.
8th Aug 2016, 01:37 PM #3
After trimming, straightening and profiling my latest batch of saw backs I had a little time to work on the reproduction. Plus, I'm really tired of working and wanted to do something just for fun so I moved this project along too.
I had this offcut of 0.042" 1095 left over from making handsaws and it was just perfect size for a joiners saw blade.
Joiner saw blade on 1095 plate.jpg
Trim to length on the Beverly shear.
Beverly shear snipping.jpg
Cut the profile.
cutting steel for joiners saw.jpg
Shaping the nib and toe using an 8" Corinox three-square.
shaping the nib of joiners saw.jpg
This is the blade part way through the taper grinding, note that I bias the pressure toward the back of the blade away from the teeth.
partially ground joiners saw blade.jpg
After taper grinding this is what the tooth edge profile looks like.
joiners saw blade tooth edge view.jpg
And this is the narrower back edge.
ground joiners saw blade back edge view.jpg
And the thickness profile of the toe
joiners saw blade toe edge view.jpg
compares favorably to the original.
disston joiners toe edge view.jpg
The original next to the reproduction.
new joiners saw blade next to original.jpg
And the original on top of the reproduction. The extra depth of steel at the bottom of the reproduction is an allowance for toothing.
old joiners saw blade on top of original.jpg
I had a few minutes before dinner so I also knocked up a handle blank from some mahogany.
old joiners saw with new blade and handle.jpgInnovations are those useful things that, by dint of chance, manage to survive the stupidity and destructive tendencies inherent in human nature.
9th Aug 2016, 07:25 AM #4
No progress today, too hot @ 10:30 a.m.
Hot today 080816.jpg
15th Aug 2016, 11:46 AM #5
A hurricane made landfall on the Gulf Coast recently and our daytime temperatures have fallen facilitating progress on this saw.
One of the things I've noticed about several of the Disston saws in my collection that date from the 1865-1920 era is that they have tapered handles, i.e. the grips are thicker at the top of the handles and they taper slightly toward the butt. I've been doing this to my saws, particularly the open handled ones, since I created saw #34. The original Joiners saw also has a tapered grip.
This is how I prefer to shape them. The tapering makes a significant difference in how the saw handles - they feel much more natural in the hand.
Tapering handle joiners saw.jpg
With a blade this long, lacking a back and with only two screws, close fitting of the handle bushings is essential for a click-free fit.
Bushing shot joiners saw.jpg
Here's the saw with the handle and screws fitted.
joiners saw fitted up.jpg
And after shaping smoothing and oiling the handle, toothing, forming the teeth, setting, tensioning and lapping the blade.
joiners saw semi finished.jpg
15 PPI, 10o rake, 25o fleam, 0o slope. Honduran Mahogany handle, 0.042" 1095 steel blade taper ground and set in stainless steel bushings. Mass 254 gm., 431 mm toothline, 532 mm OAL.
Final shaping and smoothing, finishing and laser engraving later.
A quick test of the saw revealed it to be quite handy.
15th Aug 2016, 04:41 PM #6
How do you find the bodymans file work on wood.(I think that's what you guys call them.
In oz there called a body file I used to use one nearly every day for over 15 years.
But only ever on metal .
Body filler some times.
15th Aug 2016, 10:39 PM #7
Here they're called Flexi-Files and are or were also used for shaping polyester body filler compound. My dad had one with a wooden handle and until the Stanley Sureform came out he used Flexi-Files exclusively.
I use them a lot for planing flat surfaces, they work just like a float. I also use Nicholson Superior milled tooth files. Both also see use in shaping saw backs and plates. They don't produce as fine a surface finish as floats do but they're far tougher.
15th Aug 2016, 10:58 PM #8
Yes I used to have a wooden one and a flex one.
And the blades were double sided.
23rd Aug 2016, 01:41 PM #9
Now that the monsoon has abated I managed, among other things, to work on the joiners saw project some today. I set both saws so that they worked smoothly in some 2" pine I had laying around. Interestingly the old Disston required ~0.053" minimum total set width to avoid binding in the kerf. Given the 0.042" plate the Disston needed 0.0055" set per side. My saw, with it's more tapered blade only required 0.045", it also has a 0.042" plate and only needed 0.0015" set per side.
I also started finishing the handle. Engraving soon.
Some reports have been made of saws of this type with 0.052" plates. Jim Bode told me that one he had for sale was so dimensioned and I think somebody on eBay also put that number up for the plate thickness. Are there thick and thin bladed versions of the Disston Joiners saw? Another question, has anybody ever seen a number assigned to this style saw? It seems to be one of a few Disstons that don't have number designations.
I also I discovered that the Disston saw is not properly tensioned. The blade is straight but the saw wants to kink to one side in use. Given its value and the fact that I've made my own I'm not going to mess with it further so it goes on the shelf for posterity. Mine doesn't have that problem.
First impressions are that this is a very handy saw for shop or field use. It seems that it has a natural utility for trim work, crown mouldings, baseboards, door and window casings, flooring etc. but it's also very clear that it can cut tenon cheeks and maybe even dovetails as well. 15 PPI is too fine for this type of saw for trim cutting. It makes very smooth cut faces but it's too slow for my taste. The next I make will be 13 PPI for crosscut and 11 PPI for rip for trim work, 15 PPI is likely only useful for medium to large dovetails.
joiners saws, old and new 082216.jpg
4th Nov 2017, 11:08 AM #10
I remember a time when it was claimed that only three Disston Joiners saws were known...
I've since seen a few Disstons listed and presumably sold and two by Atkins. Above are pictured an Atkins, a Simonds, a Disston and the saw I made and have yet to get engraved.
25th Apr 2019, 08:59 AM #11
Don't know if this is what they were used for but this is what I use it for.
I haven't heard, beyond the Disston catalog descriptions, what these joiners saws were originally used for. I have however found that they're very handy for finishing out cuts made with circular saws, particularly where two cuts form a corner.
This is a farm or apron sink. Pretty popular in these parts at the moment.
Apron or farm sink.jpg
The convex face of the sink projects through the front of the cabinet that supports it necessitating that the cabinet face be cut out to fit. Since this is a presented face I use my Festool track saw to keep the cuts as pretty as I can.
After carefully laying out the cuts I typically cut the sides first.
set up the side cuts.jpg
Then I do the bottom cut.
set up the bottom cut.jpg
Using the joiners saw.
ATW Joiners saw.jpg
I complete the cuts to make nice sharp corners.
finishing out the corners.jpg
And after framing in the supports the sink is snugly and presentably set.
With 16 TPI I have never had a problem with tear outs or ragged edges with this saw.
25th Apr 2019, 12:27 PM #12
This is a very topical subject for me as I recently acquired a Simonds No.14, of which I have not yet taken delivery as it is still in the States. Both Disston and Simonds describe this saw as a Joiner's or Bench Saw. As you mentioned, Atkins had the same saw and I discovered recently so did Richardson. Not that surprising as Richardson was absorbed by Disston.
This is the Richardson version from 1895:
In the 1899 catalogue the Atkins saw is listed within the Sheffield section despite clearly having the Atkins etch and as you can see was referred to as a Carpenter's Handy Saw, which ironically is how you have described your version, which I have to say looks even better than the originals.
This is the Simonds version from the 1903 catalogue with the Crescent Moon and Star logo (but no medallion at all).
P1040916 (2) (Medium).JPG
My own saw is from the later period with the Manufacturing logo, but there is another Simonds No.14 currently for sale on Ebay with the CM & S medallion, if you have US$375 to spare. That's a lot of money for a saw where the medallion and logo don't match, but the etch on the blade is early so it is possible, just, that the medallions were being used up. I have seen one other instance of this happening, but it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine if the saw left the factory this way:
Simonds No.14 mismatch 1.jpgSimonds No.14 mismatch 2.jpgSimonds No.14 mismatch 3.jpg
One other strange point with these saws is that the Disston is 16" long (according to the catalogue) while the others are all 17" long including the Richardson saw. This from the 1919 Disston catalogue.
Also the Disston is less "fussy" in that it has no wheat carving while all the other version do have that. Indeed it seems it may have sold for a little less money than it's rivals. However I am not comparing catalogues from the same years so I cannot categorically say that.
In fitting out the laundry sink I think you have found the typical use for such a saw: As in poking it into nooks and crannies where the spine of a back saw would prevent access. However, a small panel saw might do the same job. The anomaly for me is that this type of saw was available for a long time and features prominently in the promotional literature of the era and yet they are not commonly found. This would seem to indicate that they were not good sellers. Nevertheless they did not get the chop.
"Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"
25th Apr 2019, 12:42 PM #13
Thanks Paul, now I've got to find a Richardson so my set is more representative.
Handy saw is a good name, I find the one I made to be just right for poking into confined areas to make a fine cut. The blade is pretty thick at the toothline (0.042") with a rapid taper to the spine (0.024") The set gives a kerf of around 0.048". These factors also allow for altering the path of the cut if needed.
25th Apr 2019, 12:48 PM #14
I had trouble posting as the internet keeps crashing It may be under fire from the celebration of Anzac Day . I have added in the Richardson version.
"Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely!"
1st Jun 2020, 08:01 PM #15Member
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- Dec 2011
I have a Canadian Disston Joiners Saw 16.5 inch;15tpi; 44thou along the toothline.
The nose flares upward slightly towards the tip.
Some pics enclosed.
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