Saw handle repairs

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Blog entry by need2boat posted 02-02-2012 05:32 AM 3676 reads 5 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So I’ve been working quite a bit on saw sharpening skills and for the most part its been going well. I’d say I’m learning with each saw I work on and getting better file angle control.

That said some of the nicest saws I have also have some handles in need of love. I recently took a second class with Matt of the saw blog on saw restoration and let’s face it were all wood workers so its back to basics.

Disston and son”s” No 7

Its important to note my ideal outcome is to do the minimum to the saw but still clean it for best use. Because some of these handles will require big sections of wood to be replaces I may completely sand them but that’s not really to my liking. When I get to the refinish part I plan to experiment water dyes from WD lockwood in NYC .

At this point I’m going to skip over the saw plate cleaning for now as that’s been covered by Brit and others who have great info already out there.

So to start I removed the handle. Be careful to cut around the nuts that have sunken into the wood or use mineral spirit to help soften rather the wood.

Once the nuts are removed its important with some saw, like split nuts to be mindful of pairs and where they were on the saw. You can use bags, tape, poke wholes in cardboard, or drill out a piece of scrap wood. If you go with a holder like wood it double as holder for polishing if you’ll be doing it by hand.

There are lots of things to keep in mind when grafting wood into place but the basic rules to follow are. Match wood type. Pay addition to grain direction.  Its best to slop the cuts of something like a horn so its easy to clean up with a plan or sander. Keep the cuts simple. Matching two angles without using a lot of filler is tricky. I’m sure there are lots more but wood type and grain are tops.

With something like a horn repair once you decide on the angle you have a good idea how much wood you will need. At this point I like to draw on paper what the finished horn will look like. I’m new to this so I’ve tried a few things plus every repair is a little different.

If I have most of the horn I will trace the handle draw in the new horn. If its completely gone I will search my other handles for something to look at or down load something from the internet. Either way I like to have something on paper. I can then mark where I will be cutting and have an idea how much and the size wood I will need plus can use it as a reference or template. How much time this part takes depends on how complicated the repair is.

Once I have selected the wood and know where I need to cut it I’ve used both the  mitre box or bench vise with good results . I then like to use a low angle block plane and if need clean up with sand paper on a flat plate.

Since I’ve taken the time to figure out what wood I need I locate a suitable piece size it, check for fit and glue up with wood glue. I friction fit it them use rubber bands or clear tap to hold it. Let dry over night.

At this point depending on the complexity of work your doing you can either go with a template you made early, applying it with spray glue. Also  tracing or freehand drawing it are other options depending on your skills.

I find this is where on the more complex fixes your research in find visuals will pay off. Most of my pitfalls I’ve had is in not recognizing the needed proportions and nuances of a handles design. When dealing with early handles no two are the same and you’ll find when your really start looking at them it pops out so take some time BEFORE you start cutting them up.

I created this from a handle image I found on the internet

Ok back to work. With the horn drawn in you can cut away any extra and start shaping it. Since most of us are wood workers I’m not going to school anyone on the best way rather I’ll tell you what’s worked for me thus far.

I rough shape it with a coping or jig saw and them do 95% of the rest with rasps. All the time I’m I keep top of mind the final shape. I may have a printouts or just use another saw for visual reference. On top of that I’ll draw reference line on the work piece as needed.

A few in progress. . .

I’m going end at this point and will talk about dyes, glazing and ways to match back to old finishes.

-- Second Chance Saw Works Blog: Positive Rake

9 comments so far

View Brit's profile


7801 posts in 3356 days

#1 posted 02-02-2012 10:54 AM

Brilliant post Joe. Definitely one for the favourites. Your’re so right about each handle being slightly different. Even handles on the same make and type of saw made around the same date are different in appearance and feel. You obviously have a very good eye for those subtle nuances. The reapairs look great. I’m looking forward to the next part on dyes and glazing.

I think it is great that a few of us are delving deeper into the various aspects of saw repair and restoration because between us we are creating a valuable resource for others who will undoubtedly follow.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Don W's profile

Don W

19341 posts in 3081 days

#2 posted 02-02-2012 02:40 PM

Great blog Joe.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 4317 days

#3 posted 02-02-2012 07:08 PM

Very very nice work. I would really value some detail around the finishing work – especially errors! I have never quite got the hang of matching a finish.

View bandit571's profile


23806 posts in 3196 days

#4 posted 02-02-2012 07:19 PM

I might be following you along, not so much as a repair, but as a replacement:

Interested in a finish for these handles….

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View need2boat's profile


544 posts in 3206 days

#5 posted 02-02-2012 09:04 PM

Guys I will for sure post wins and pit falls of matching the finish. As for the handles The first horn replacement I did. Upper left in the picture of 4, I got the end grains line up nice and forgot to check the side grains and glued it 180 to what I wanted. Oh well I think it well still match OK.

This week I’ve been collecting things and plan to start testing finishes. I spent an hour yesterday down at WD lockwood dyes. It’s a family run place and there Son Jessie was showing me samples and giving me tips. The place looks like a lab the thousands of plastic bottle holding power. Bottle line is, test, test, test, is what all of them say. Something I think most of us aren’t the best with. ;-)

I also want to talk a little about the shaping. I should have pointed out, the file from Tools for working wood, is really great for shaping handles. I was rushing a little to get this post up so I wasn’t having to go back and remember everything.


-- Second Chance Saw Works Blog: Positive Rake

View need2boat's profile


544 posts in 3206 days

#6 posted 02-02-2012 09:07 PM

Hey bandit571,

You know wenzloff and sons offers free templates for handles if you want to start from scratch


-- Second Chance Saw Works Blog: Positive Rake

View Johnnyblot's profile


319 posts in 2789 days

#7 posted 03-21-2012 06:35 PM

Great Work. Projects like this show us all not to be afraid to have a go ourselves. Brilliant, keep up the good work chaps!


-- Gossamer shavings just floating around the back yard….-Bandit

View CeeToo's profile


2 posts in 1381 days

#8 posted 01-29-2016 01:33 AM

Hi Need2boat,

What saw does this handle that you posted go to?


View TheFridge's profile


10859 posts in 1999 days

#9 posted 01-29-2016 03:11 AM

Good stuff. Not so patiently awaiting the next installment.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

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