Making Two Sets of Matching Heirloom Saws #2: The 12" Carcase Saw

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Blog entry by summerfi posted 02-14-2018 08:24 PM 4447 reads 1 time favorited 18 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: The 10" Dovetail Saw Part 2 of Making Two Sets of Matching Heirloom Saws series no next part

This is the third in a series of articles on making two matching sets of heirloom saws. The first article was on making gent’s saws and table saws. It can be found here:
The second was on making 10” dovetail saws, and it can be found here:
If you’re wondering what these sets are all about, please see the first article in the series where that is explained in detail.

It has been two full years since I made the last saws in these matching sets. I didn’t anticipate this delay, but there are good reasons for it. I began accepting orders for custom made saws, as well as a lot of saw restoration and sharpening jobs. I never would have thought the demand for good saws would be so great. I’ve sent my custom saws throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, England, and Australia. Restoration and sharpening work also included Canada and literally every corner of the U.S. What began as a hobby turned into a full time job, leaving no time for anything else. Since I’m supposed to be retired, I decided to cut back. I’m no longer taking on custom saw orders, but I still offer saw restoration and sharpening. This gives me a little more time, and finally I’m able to proceed with these sets of heirloom saws.

12” Carcase Saws
A carcase saw is a backsaw with a plate of about 12 inches in length that is traditionally used for making the joinery in the interior framework or body of a piece of furniture. The first thing we should establish is whether this type of saw should accurately be called a carcase saw or a carcass saw. The fact is, the terms are used interchangeably, and either one is fine to use. Carcase is an older form of the word, originating in England and used in the King James Bible. Carcass is probably the more common form today, especially in the U.S. I personally prefer carcase because, first of all, I am a traditionalist, and secondly, I prefer to think of the saw being used on the case of a piece of furniture rather than on the dead body of an animal. If you prefer carcass, however, I will not object.

Within the family of saws, the carcase saw is a sort of transitional tool. The shorter dovetail saw almost always has an open handle. The longer sash saw almost always has a closed handle. The carcase saw, intermediate between the two, can have either, but it is most often a closed handle for added strength. The carcase saw is usually 12 inches in length and usually filed 13 ppi crosscut. I am throwing a lot of “almosts” and “usuallies” out because when it comes to saws, there are always (usually?) exceptions.

I’ve pretty much covered the process of making a saw in the previous blog entries, so there’s no need to repeat that here. There was nothing out of the ordinary about making these two saws. The backs are folded brass and the handles are figured walnut like the other saws in the sets. The plates on these saws are 0.020” spring steel. So now I’ll just jump right to the pictures of these two completed 12” carcase saws that will go in my two sets of heirloom saws.

Thanks for reading my blog. The next saws to be built will be the 14” sash saws. I’m hoping that won’t take another two years.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

18 comments so far

View AgentTwitch's profile


631 posts in 4507 days

#1 posted 02-14-2018 08:34 PM

Bob, those are some real beautiful saws! The bevel on the bottom of the clip is very graceful. Very impressive work, sir!

-- Regards, Norm

View darsonb's profile


1 post in 1153 days

#2 posted 02-14-2018 08:39 PM

Extremely elegant and brilliant Bob!

View Slyy's profile


2840 posts in 2666 days

#3 posted 02-14-2018 08:41 PM

Outstanding as always Bob. Beautiful.

-- Jake -- "Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us." - Neil Degrasse Tyson

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


17231 posts in 3629 days

#4 posted 02-14-2018 08:42 PM

Positively stunning.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

View duckmilk's profile


4453 posts in 2335 days

#5 posted 02-14-2018 09:54 PM

What can I say? Just..beautiful! How much plate is there under the back?
Can’t wait to see the sash saws…in a couple of years ;-)

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View summerfi's profile


4383 posts in 2698 days

#6 posted 02-14-2018 10:00 PM

Duck, there’s 3-1/2” under the spine. I’d probably reduce that by 1/4” if I was doing it again.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View Don W's profile

Don W

19890 posts in 3578 days

#7 posted 02-14-2018 11:09 PM


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

View RPhillips's profile


1317 posts in 2847 days

#8 posted 02-14-2018 11:14 PM

Masterpieces… absolutely beautiful.

I hope that I can one day make handles as purty as those are.

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View bearkatwood's profile


1833 posts in 2022 days

#9 posted 02-14-2018 11:48 PM

Some great photos of absolutely beautiful work Bob. Those are very classy looking saws.

-- Brian Noel

View TheTurtleCarpenter's profile


1053 posts in 2077 days

#10 posted 02-15-2018 01:38 AM

Beautiful work Bob !! If Studley was still around he would swap you some older ones and put those in his tool cabinet.

-- "Tying shoelaces was way harder than learning to Whistle"

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2497 days

#11 posted 02-15-2018 01:56 AM

You can adopt me anytime. Just throwing that out there.

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

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Dave Polaschek

6868 posts in 1593 days

#12 posted 02-15-2018 01:56 AM

They’re beauties alright.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

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12457 posts in 3462 days

#13 posted 02-15-2018 02:23 AM

My god, you even clocked the screws! Just when we thought you couldn’t get any better you do these. Well, we’ll done.

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

View FoundSheep's profile


196 posts in 1467 days

#14 posted 02-15-2018 03:17 AM

Incredible work Bob, you have a skilled hand and eye. You said you chose the closed handle for added strength, how often do/did open carcass handles break (all things considered)?

-- -Will, FoundSheep Designs

View summerfi's profile


4383 posts in 2698 days

#15 posted 02-15-2018 04:10 AM

Will, as backsaws get bigger, the tooth pitch gets lower and they are used for bigger stock. Therefore, it takes more force to push a bigger saw through the wood. At some point the force is too much for an open handle to withstand. Whether or not an individual saw would break depends on a lot of factors, including the type and potential defects in the wood, the sawing habits of the owner, how often it gets dropped on the handle, and probably other things. Open handles on 12 inch saws are not terribly uncommon, but less common than closed handles, especially on American saws. I’ve rarely seen open handles on 14 inch backsaws, and never on backsaws longer than that. How often do open handles break? I don’t know, but it does happen. I have a 12” open handle table saw that was broken and pieced back together with brass plates on each side. I occasionally see saws on eBay with broken handles. It does happen, but I can’t say how often. The old saw makers knew their craft well and made closed handles for all but the smaller saws for good reason. The American makers seemed to move to mostly closed handles sooner than the British. After a certain time point, Disston, for example, used exclusively closed handles even on their smallest backsaws.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

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