RESTORING ANTIQUE HAND SAWS
After you’ve purchased your antique hand saw or back saw, it’s time to start breaking down the saw. But first, you’ll need to make sure you have a few simple tools and supplies:
MATERIALS & TOOLS NEEDED FOR HAND SAW RESTORATION
- Roll of Plastic sheet or garbage bag (to cover your workbench or table)
- Flat head screwdriver (find a snug fitting size for your saw nuts to prevent stripping). If you have an old split nut style, you can file a notch in a screw driver to fit into the split screw nut.
- Mineral Spirits
- #0000 Steel Wool
- 400 grit Wet Dry Sandpaper
- Brass polish (I use this kind)
- Paste Wax
- I’ll include saw sharpening supplies in the following article on hand saw sharpening.
STEP 1: DISASSEMBLE THE HAND SAW
Start disassembling the hand saw by removing the hand saw nuts and medallion. These are usually made with soft brass metal, so be careful when removing the hand saw nuts and medallion from the hand saw because you can easily strip the nut’s slot. Use a flat head screwdriver that is not too big or too small. Carefully unscrew the nuts, and then use a pencil or some sort of rod to push the other half of the nut out the back. From personal experience with rehabbing a lot of hand saws, it’s a good idea to keep track of which nuts belong to which holes. Over the decades, the handle holes came to be custom shaped around the square part of each particular saw nuts. Next pull the handle off of the saw plate. If you are restoring a back saw, make sure that you do not remove the saw plate from the saw back, as the saw plate will kink, and you will likely never be able to get it straight again.
STEP 2: CLEAN & SAND THE HAND SAW PLATE
Using 400 grit wet & dry sandpaper as an abrasive and mineral spirits as a lubricant, sand the rusted saw plate and brass or steel saw back lengthwise. Don’t worry about sanding until you get a shiny surface, as this will just likely remove the beautiful saw etching. After wiping the rust slurry off with a towel, check for remaining rust, and continue until it’s gone.
STEP 3: CLEAN THE SAW HANDLE
Next move onto cleaning the saw handle. Unless your hand saw handle is quite damaged, I would strongly encourage you to not sand it as it would remove the lovely and comfortable patina finish that has built up over 100+ years. If you want a new-looking saw, then buy a new saw. I love using antique hand saws that show a lot of use. These antique hand saws were used by amazing craftsmen to build incredible furniture. These saws may just contain mystical powers that help you become a better woodworker! Use #0000 steel wool and mineral spirits to lightly clean the wooden saw handle. If you rub too hard, the patina will come off, so be careful. Repairing or replacing broken handles is beyond the scope of this tutorial, but Tom teaches how to make a hand saw handle in the above-mentioned DVD that I’ll be releasing soon. That would be a great solution for a hand saw that has a broken handle.
STEP 4: CLEAN & POLISH THE HAND SAW NUTS AND MEDALLION
The most rewarding step, in my opinion, is to clean and polish the hand saw medallion and saw nuts. I personally prefer using a brass polish (like Brasso) and #0000 steel wool. I’d recommend wearing rubber gloves to do this. Within seconds lovely gold-colored brass shines through the dark hand saw medallion’s surface. After the hand saw medallion and hand saw nuts reach your prefered level of shininess, wipe them off with a clean towel and set them aside.
STEP 5: WAX EVERYTHING
To prevent future rust and to improve the performance of the newly refurbished hand saw, apply a coating of some mild wax or paste wax of some kind to the handle and saw plate. The saw hand saw nuts and medallion are usually brass, so they won’t rust.
STEP 6: REASSEMBLE THE HAND SAW
Once all the rust & grime is removed and the hand saw medallion and saw nuts are polished, it’s time to reassemble the hand saw. At this stage you could also choose to sharpen the hand saw. But for simplicity’s sake I’m saving that for the future tutorial. Reassembling the hand saw is essentially repeating step one in reverse. As I mentioned above, try to put the hand saw nuts and medallions back in their handle holes just as they came out. It’ll make for a tighter fit. Make sure you don’t hammer the saw nuts or medallion back in their hole, or you’ll strip the hole and screw threads. Don’t under tighten or over tighten the screw nuts while attempting to “clock” (align) the screw side of the nuts.
After we turned off the lights and cameras, Tom ran my back saw’s plate through his Foley Automatic Retoother (find them on ebay here) and gave me a fresh set of teeth in preparation for sharpening. This was really exciting for me!
In the near future I’ll release the next video of Tom Calisto teaching how to sharpen hand saws. That topic has so much information that it would be difficult to include it in one tutorial alongside restoring hand saws. Make sure to subscribe below to be notified when it’s released, and also share your comments below!