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The French Mitre Saw -- Scie à Recaler

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Project by summerfi posted 02-18-2019 02:53 AM 1254 views 5 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch

The French Mitre Saw—Scie à Recaler

Lumberjock theoldfart, aka Kevin, recently sent me his French mitre saw, or scie à recaler in French, for restoration. His saw is old, and it rightly has the appearance of a beautiful antique. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to make one. I ended up making three, and two of them are now listed for sale on my website. Below is a photo of Kevin’s antique saw.




When it comes to woodworking, the French have traditionally done things a bit different than their British or American counterparts. The standard use of frame saws rather than handsaws is one example. For cutting miters, instead of a miter saw and miter box they adopted the scie à recaler and the boite à recaler, literally the saw to recalibrate and box to recalibrate. In that sense, recalibrate relates to sawing the desired angle. We call the boite à recaler a miter jack. This type of saw can also be used to make 90 degree cuts in a device known as a flat jack. In the drawing below, the flat jack is on top and the miter jack is on the bottom. Both are called boites à recaler.

In researching scies à recaler, I found they were all very similar with a few minor differences. Some have a handle profile like Kevin’s, and some have a little fancier handle profile like the example pictured below. Also, some are single sided and some are double sided, with two toothed cutting edges, as shown in this picture.




The three saws I made are all single sided with the slightly more elaborate handle profile. I made the saws in two lengths, two at 20” and one at 18”. The 18” saw has a slightly thinner and narrower saw plate and handle than its brothers. By comparison, Kevin’s saw is 55cm or about 21-5/8” in length.

A scie à recaler has five components:

1. handle – Kevin’s handle, and probably most French-made handles, are of European beech. I made mine from cherry and applied a dark antique stain.

2. saw plate – For the 20” saws I used 0.028” spring steel 5” wide, same as on Kevin’s saw. I used 0.025” steel 4-1/2” wide on the 18” saw.

3. backing plate – I’m not sure of the correct name of this component, so I’m calling it the backing plate. It is a strip of spring steel the same width as the handle, and the saw plate is sandwiched between it and the handle. I used 0.032” spring steel, which is the same as Kevin’s saw.

4. flat head screws – On Kevin’s saw, and on my 20” saws, 12 slotted flat head screws are used to secure the backing plate and saw plate to the handle. On my 18” saw I dropped the number to 10. These screws are countersunk into the backing plate. Originally on Kevin’s saw, the screws were ½” #4 steel screws. Some of the screws were missing, the threads on others were badly rusted, and the screw holes in the wood had become wallowed out over time. I replaced the screws with 5/8” #5 brass screws and used the same type brass screws in my saws.

5. eye screw for hanging – In looking at pictures of similar vintage saws, I noticed that many had steel eye screws in the end for hanging. I think hanging the saws is a good idea because they aren’t easily adaptable to a till, and if they’re just left laying around, they will be subject to dulling from banging into other objects. Kevin’s saw had three holes where the eye screw had been replaced at various times, but there was no screw present now. I replaced his eye screw and installed them on my saws, but I used brass because I thought it looked better.

I’m not aware of anyone else in the world currently making this type of saw, so a new one is probably a pretty rare thing. Antique ones are not very plentiful either. I hope my three scies à recaler remain attractive and useful for as long as Kevin’s antique one has.


-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works http://www.rmsaws.com/p/about-us.html -- ~Non multa sed multum~





23 comments so far

View JayT's profile

JayT

6106 posts in 2509 days


#1 posted 02-18-2019 03:49 AM

Beautiful work, Bob. I’ve never heard of these types of saws and boxes, but it does make sense.

So how are the teeth set so as not to mess up the box?

-- In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

10527 posts in 2749 days


#2 posted 02-18-2019 05:14 AM

Bob, good news is I’m in Hawaii, bad news is I have to wait to use the saw.
Your reproductions are beautiful, I’d say whoever buys the saws will have an heirloom of the highest quality.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View shipwright's profile

shipwright

8248 posts in 3095 days


#3 posted 02-18-2019 05:15 AM

Nice. Very similar to the french style veneer saw.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese! http://thecanadianschooloffrenchmarquetry.com/

View summerfi's profile

summerfi

4184 posts in 1985 days


#4 posted 02-18-2019 06:08 AM

Jay - the teeth have a very light set to minimize the potential for damage. In addition, the backing plate serves to space the saw plate off the jack or box just a bit. A plane is then used for final dressing of the sawn surface. In the event that the saw or plane did cause damage though, they would simply dress the surface down again. The jack would have a very long life this way, but likely it wouldn’t last forever, similar to a wooden mitre box. When it was completely worn out you would have to make a new one.

Kevin - I want to thank you for letting me work on and learn about your saw. Only by having something like that in your hands can you truly understand it. Your saw is a real treasure. I wish we knew its full history.

Paul - yes, there are some definite similarities. I’ve read about some people mistakenly assuming the mitre saw is a veneer saw. It is interesting how the French developed such different approaches and different tools for getting jobs done that we are so familiar with accomplishing with tools of English origin.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works http://www.rmsaws.com/p/about-us.html -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View Don W's profile

Don W

19106 posts in 2865 days


#5 posted 02-18-2019 11:06 AM

I love this project.

-- http://timetestedtools.net - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

3452 posts in 880 days


#6 posted 02-18-2019 11:52 AM

I was hoping you’d do this when Kevin said he was sending you his saw to get tuned up.

Order email sent!

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1075 posts in 2610 days


#7 posted 02-18-2019 11:55 AM

You description is very helpful and the saws look beautiful.
After viewing Kevin’s video I am going to try and make one of these using a repurposed dovetail saw blade. As a complete novice on saw making, can you tell me if there is a special technique for making holes in saw plate? Will a regular metal drill be up to the job?

Jim Rowe

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View HokieKen's profile

HokieKen

8631 posts in 1436 days


#8 posted 02-18-2019 01:31 PM

Beautiful work Bob and thanks for the background!

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View PaulDoug's profile

PaulDoug

1809 posts in 2001 days


#9 posted 02-18-2019 03:10 PM

Beautiful work and thanks for the info on it. Very interesting.

-- “We all die. The goal isn't to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” - Chuck Palahniuk

View summerfi's profile

summerfi

4184 posts in 1985 days


#10 posted 02-18-2019 03:38 PM

Thanks all for the nice comments.

Dave - got your order and your saw will soon be on its way. Thank you.

Jim - Neither a regular high speed drill bit nor countersink will be up to drilling through the spring steel saw plate. You’ll need carbide. If you’re using #5 screws, here is the drill bit you’ll need. It works great. And here is the carbide countersink I used. It works great too.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works http://www.rmsaws.com/p/about-us.html -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View bondogaposis's profile

bondogaposis

5255 posts in 2649 days


#11 posted 02-18-2019 03:58 PM

Those are beautiful saws. Great work.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View WayneC's profile

WayneC

14258 posts in 4395 days


#12 posted 02-18-2019 04:14 PM

Lovely work Bob.


Bob, good news is I’m in Hawaii, bad news is I have to wait to use the saw.
Your reproductions are beautiful, I’d say whoever buys the saws will have an heirloom of the highest quality.

- theoldfart

Kevin, Hawaii? You’ve missed all the snow. Your saw sounds like it might be worth a drive in the mountains to see it in person. :)

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View Jim Rowe's profile

Jim Rowe

1075 posts in 2610 days


#13 posted 02-18-2019 04:25 PM

Many thanks for the links Bob.
Jim Rowe

-- It always looks better when it's finished!

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

10527 posts in 2749 days


#14 posted 02-18-2019 05:30 PM

Wayne, we’ve been skiing up there when the highways been open.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View CampD's profile

CampD

1752 posts in 3784 days


#15 posted 02-18-2019 07:46 PM

Beautiful work Bob.

-- Doug...

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