Sunday, May 22, 2011

A bargain box of saws!!

I had a few good wins at the local markets this morning. An English made Stanley No.5 for $30 in good condition, a nice old metal drill box (1/16 - 1/4" in 1/16th increments) for $1, a beautiful English made "Whitmore" 6" wood vice for $18 (I am always on the hunt for these vices - great for kids' benches), plus a few other goodies. However the bargain of the day was a plywood toolbox full of saws. Nine saws, in fact. The box and contents for the princely sum of $20. Even if only 3 of the saws were any good, it was still the bargain of the day.

The toolbox with the 3 saws worth using. Minus the other 6 more dodgy saws.
Of the 9 saws which came in the beaut tool box, 6 had plastic handles and were of very low quality. Scraper material if I'm lucky. However, the remaining 3 saws are worth putting back into service. Here's the specs of these 3 saws:
  1. Disston tenon saw, more modern type. 10 inch blade, 13 point. Good condition.
  2. Small panel saw. 13 3/4 inch blade, 10 point. Just needs cleaning up.
  3. Big rip saw. 26 inch blade, 5 point. It's had a hard life, but is restorable for use.
Help with identification and information, please!
I would really value input from any saw buffs out there who are reading this blog post.

The small panel saw.
This one is a mystery, but will be very useful to me. Small, the blade is only 13 3/4" long. It looks like a beech handle, but the medallion is interesting... it has the Disston symbol, but no wording on it. Well, not all the Disston symbol. The border only to the familiar "Scales" picture, the round circle of dots, but that's it...

The beech handle of the small panel saw. 

The small saw's Medallion has a version of the Disston symbol, but no text.

What's that interesting "tooth" on the back of the blade near the toe?
 OK, all you saw experts out there... maybe you can help me out. I would love to know more about this saw. Please feel free to post a comment with any info you can offer about this nice little saw.

The Big Rip Saw.
Yes, it's had a hard life, as evidenced by the handle. But the blade is in quite OK condition.

The big saw's original nuts are missing ... so is this the original handle?

The big saw's medallion. Interesting!
 "Warranted Superior" is a common name on many older saws. The thing I note about this one is the coat of arms, which includes a crown, a lion and what looks like a gazelle. It also has a latin inscription. Does the crown indicate that it is English made?

Once again, any information or suggestions about these two saws will be most appreciated. Please feel free to offer info via a Comment.

So why bother about the details on these saws?
These saws will be cleaned up, repaired where necessary, sharpened, and put back into service. So what's the big deal to me about the background on the saws? The most important thing is that they cut well. I am not a collector, but a user. The many people I teach woodworking hand skills to will be using these saws. It is the history which fascinates me, and I find lots of people are interested in the history of the saws they use with me.
I resist the terrible "throw away saw" mentality which seems to prevail in the timber trades today. These plastic handles things are made of inferior steel with hardpoint teeth which cannot be sharpened. Sure, they are cheap and they cut like champions while sharp - but are discarded into the skip bin when dull. Crazy, eh?
Instead I encourage the cleaning up and putting back into service good quality saws which have been made to last for generations. It's much better for the planet and better stewardship of the original craftsmanship which went into the design and production of these saws originally. 
Call me a tool nerd, but old tools are much more interesting than those shiny plastic handled things, which are better used as "burger flippers". Call me a weird tool nerd, but I also feel a sense of connectedness with the tradesmen who used the old saws before me. I'm part of a succession of people who have had the privilege of using these beautiful tools to craft wonderful things with timber. These saws have soul. Feel the vibe... 

I look forward to receiving any thoughts and input about these two saws.

Meanwhile, I'll be cleaning up that nice toolbox ready to put it back into use. I can't believe it came full of saws for the total of $20. Bargain! Yep, I'm still smiling... 


  1. Greg-

    The small panel saw was made by Disston. It's hard to tell exactly what model it is without seeing any remaining etch. Disston made many different lines of saws from cheap low-end to the beautiful and expensive. Their low-end saws were not marked with the Disston name. Some have the keystone medallion like yours. Others, like Disston's American Boy line of saws have an etch that reads something like "Made by the world's largest saw manufacturer in Phila. PA, USA." It's obviously Disston, but they didn't want to use the Disston name. It's not to say it's a poor quality saw, it just doesn't have all the bells whistles, fit, and finish of a "proper" Disston.

    The other saw has a generic British medallion. The coat of arms says "Dieu et Mon Droit" which is the motto of the British monarchy. A number of British sawmakers used this logo- it's hard to tell exactly who made your saw.

    Hope this helps,


  2. Thanks for your input, Josh. Most appreciated. I understand many Disston saws of lower quality were produced, especially by the many smaller saw manufacturers who were swallowed up by Disston over the years. However, I reckon an old "low grade" saw made by Disston in the US or an old saw made in Sheffield, England, would still be a far superior thing to those cheap and nasty plastic handled hardpoint "disposable" things sold these days in the hardware stores. I love these old saws!

  3. I can tell you what the tooth is for as I have saws with these and have seen in old carpentry books that it was common to protect the teeth of saws with a battern with a saw cut, the battern was drilled with one or two holes, string passed through the hole nearest the tooth on the back which helped to stop it slipping off, I do the same for my old saws, regards Andy in the uk

  4. FWIW the keystone is a common symbol for Pennsylvania. It is called the "Keystone State" and they use the symbol on state road signs. So that would be why Disston would use it...