Dovetail saw handle

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Project by Dave Polaschek posted 05-09-2021 10:22 PM 698 views 0 times favorited 25 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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 in picture 3. 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.

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.

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.

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 7/8” 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.

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.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

25 comments so far

View oldrivers's profile


2593 posts in 2690 days

#1 posted 05-09-2021 10:24 PM

Good resteration job Dave.

-- Soli Deo gloria!

View pottz's profile


17668 posts in 2107 days

#2 posted 05-09-2021 11:21 PM

nice work my friend.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View Oldtool's profile


3249 posts in 3314 days

#3 posted 05-10-2021 12:35 AM

Very nice restoration Dave, I like the new cherry handle. I’ve also tried sharpening hand saws, found it much easier than I originally thought. I suppose you have the instructions for saw filing, but if not you can find an excellent tutorial on Vintage Saws, web address is :

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View Eric's profile


1552 posts in 996 days

#4 posted 05-10-2021 01:06 AM

Great job on the restoration. Handel looks really comfortable.

I have a few flea market finds that I need to work on. 14” and a 10” hand planes. I am going to try to do electrolysis for cleaning up the rust. I do not want to remove any etching to determine what the brands are.

-- Eric, building the dream

View BB1's profile


2223 posts in 1971 days

#5 posted 05-10-2021 01:19 AM

Nice job. Thanks for sharing the process pictures too.

View swirt's profile


6277 posts in 4095 days

#6 posted 05-10-2021 01:23 AM

Nice saw rescue.

-- Galootish log blog,

View Andre's profile


4585 posts in 2929 days

#7 posted 05-10-2021 02:03 AM

Nice job, reminds me I still need to make a new handle for a 2 Cherries blade I bought a while back:)

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View doubleDD's profile


10438 posts in 3166 days

#8 posted 05-10-2021 03:14 AM

This looks much better than a quick restore job Dave, basically a new saw. Good luck with your sharpening techniques. I bought a couple 2 man saws awhile back and restored them for display. I sharpened them myself and they cut decent but nowhere near professional quality. Just wall hangers.

-- Dave, Downers Grove, Il. -------- When you run out of ideas, start building your dreams.

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7745 posts in 1705 days

#9 posted 05-10-2021 03:22 AM

Thanks, Oldrivers!

Thanks, Pottz!

Thanks, Tom! When I bought that board of cherry, I was planning to use the end with the knot for a handle or tote or something. For sharpening, I’ve watched Andy’s videos, and read up plenty. Just need room to set up my saw vise and the time to practice.

Thanks, Eric. I basically took one that I knew worked for me, then copied it and shaped it to make it comfortable. And yeah, I would’ve worked more to preserve the etch if it hadn’t been a cheap saw.

Thanks, Barb! Glad to! I take a lot of pictures on most projects to help me remember what I did along the way.

Thanks, swirt!

Thanks, Andre! I’ve got a gent saw I was thinking of rehandling, but I find that the way I use it, the stock handle might be fine. Horses for courses…

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7745 posts in 1705 days

#10 posted 05-10-2021 03:24 AM

Thanks, Dave! It’s hard to say exactly how much time went into it, as it was sitting in a corner of the bench for almost a year. I’d fiddle with it now and again while waiting for glue to dry or when I needed to think. But yeah, it’s gone from a basket case on eBay to a great user. And I won’t hesitate to sharpen it myself when it quits cutting well. Worst case, I can always move the handle to a new saw plate.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View crowie's profile


4675 posts in 3074 days

#11 posted 05-10-2021 04:59 AM

Very nice replacement handle and great that now it’s a good useable hand tool.

-- Lifes good, Enjoy each new day...... Cheers from "On Top DownUnder" Crowie

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

7745 posts in 1705 days

#12 posted 05-10-2021 11:37 AM

Thanks, Peter!

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View MikeB_UK's profile


457 posts in 2158 days

#13 posted 05-10-2021 01:11 PM

Nice job Dave.

I’d practice sharpening on a saw with bigger teeth, anything above 13 tpi is a PITA (although, that’s probably at least partly my eyesight) :-)

-- Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

View recycle1943's profile


5495 posts in 2745 days

#14 posted 05-10-2021 01:19 PM

being an underacheiver, I would hire the sharpening but there are people like you Dave that challenge themselves at every turn and I do admire that. Great job on the handle !

-- Dick, Malvern Ohio - my biggest fear is that when I die, my wife sells my toys for what I told her I paid for them

View splintergroup's profile


5306 posts in 2345 days

#15 posted 05-10-2021 01:39 PM

Fine work Dave! Anything to rescue an old tool it a worthy goal in my mind, gives you some insight into the design and construction. Double points for getting to make a part to fit your hand!

Just wait until you get that saw perfectly sharpened, and the word gets out, and all your neighbors bring by their saws and garden tools for the “Dave” treatment! 8^)

Only one year of sitting in the corner? She’s barely had any time to acclimatize to your shop! I like to work in units of decades.

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