Dovetail Saw Handle

Originally written May 9, 2021

Finished dovetail saw with cherry handle, right side

Finished dovetail saw with cherry handle, left side

I bought a beat up dovetail saw on eBay. Put a fairly minimal bid on it (it was $25 with free shipping) and won. It's shown below. My goal was to have a saw I could practice sharpening and other saw maintenance tasks on, and not feel too bad if I screwed it up.

Saw, as bought

When it arrived, almost a year ago, the handle was even worse than it had looked in the photos, and was just too small for my hands, so I set the saw aside for a while and got on with other projects. Recently, I got “stuck” during my build for the plane swap and needed to work on something else while I thought about how to get past the problem I had created for myself.

I sat down and tried to unscrew the saw nuts on the saw I'd bought. Turned out they were rivets. I ended up destroying the handle I order to get it off, and the holes in the plate were pretty nasty looking. I filed the holes flat (they looked like they'd been punched through the metal, rather than drilled) and started shaping a new handle.

Rough-cut saw handle with the layout lines still visible

I traced the handle on a Bad Axe saw I bought, which fits me pretty well, onto a piece of 5/4 curly cherry I had. There was a knot in it, but I put that in the section that would end up “inside” the handle.

Then I did some shaping with files and such while I waited for new steel saw nuts to arrive in the mail, and then again while I waited for a 3/16 carbide drill bit to arrive after I'd mistakenly ordered a 3/32 bit.

Saw handle partially shaped

Saw handle more shaped, with a coat of oil on it, right view

Saw handle more shaped, with a coat of oil on it, left view

I also pulled the back off the saw plate and cleaned up both the back and the plate. There was a fairly generic “Warranted Superior, Sheffield” etch that was almost gone (or had been etched lightly to begin with). I sanded it away, rather than trying to preserve it. I'm pretty sure this was a post-WWII saw, and nothing special, given the red plastic washer in place of a medallion and the riveted saw nuts.

I got the handle mostly shaped by the time the new saw nuts and drill bit arrived, so I was excited to get things put together. But I'd finished the handle at about an inch thick, which fits my big hands pretty well, but didn't fit the ⅞” long saw nuts I'd bought. D'Ohh!

So I took the handle to the belt sander and thinned it up a little. Which turned out to be good, since when I sawed the slot in it, I'd gotten it a little bit off, and it was off-center and aimed the blade a little to the right. Sanding the handle down let me fix that.

Saw handle, after sanding it thinner, left view

Saw handle, after sanding it thinner, right view, which is now completely flat again

Then I had to reshape and re-oil the handle, but I did that with it on the saw. That let me test it as I went, making sure that it pointed straight and felt right. Last step was cutting chamfers at the top of the handle where the back went into the wood.

A couple coats of BLO later, and the saw is in use in my collection. And I learned quite a bit along the way, and have a saw I can practice sharpening on without worrying about destroying an expensive saw.

Handy Tools #woodworking #saw #handyTools #tools

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