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An Unusual Harvey W. Peace Handsaw

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Blog entry by summerfi posted 01-07-2019 08:13 PM 1502 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

An Unusual Harvey W. Peace Handsaw

I knew there was something different about this saw the moment I found it listed in the “Art” section of eBay. But it isn’t different because of the brightly colored farm scene painted on it; I’ve seen a lot of those. I could tell it was an old saw by its general shape, by the lamb’s tongue on the handle, and by the nib located near the end of the blade. The real oddity of this saw, though, is the fasteners that attach the handle to the blade. They are six brass raised-head screws commonly known among saw enthusiasts as “cone nuts”. Cone nuts were used by various American and British saw makers in and around the 1870s, so they are not all that uncommon. I’ve seen many saws with four, or even five, cone nut fasteners. But this is the one and only saw I’ve ever seen with six. There is a rule of thumb in the saw world that the more fasteners a saw has, the higher the quality of the saw. Based on the number and type of fasteners, I figured this saw would be a good acquisition, even though I had no clue who the maker of the saw was. I negotiated a “Make Offer” price with the seller, and the saw was soon on its way to my home.


Photos: The saw as it was purchased, showing details of the six cone nuts.


Initial Impressions
Once the saw arrived, I gave it a good inspection. Buying a painted saw is somewhat risky because it is difficult to assess the condition of the metal underneath the paint. On this saw I could see no signs of serious pitting under the paint or the black primer on the back side of the saw. The blade was pretty straight, and the teeth were in reasonable shape for an old saw.

The handle was partially covered by yellow varnish, and where the varnish was worn away the underlying wood was a dark brown. From the pictures I thought perhaps the handle was mahogany, a wood sometimes used on high quality saws. But once in hand I could see the wood was not mahogany, but more likely a fruitwood of some sort. There was a chip out of the upper horn and the tip of the lamb’s tongue was broken. There were no cracks or other defects in the handle.

The brass cone nut fasteners were worn from age, and someone had cut a slot in one of the screw heads. Presumably this was because the screw was turning in the handle when they tried to remove it.


The Restoration
It was my intention to return this saw to a respectable condition as a vintage tool rather than a questionable piece of folk art. The first step in this process was to remove the handle. In doing so, I discovered that not only were the shafts of the cone nut screws of thin diameter (9/64”—an indication of an old saw), but one was broken inside the saw handle. I would have to make a replacement for that one, and also decided to replace the one that had a slot cut in it.

After the handle was removed, it was reassuring to see there were no extra screw holes in the blade. That would have been an indication that the handle was a replacement. I am confident that the handle and fasteners are original to the saw. However, I was not the first to remove them from the blade. Under the handle was a layer of black primer put there by the saw-painting artist.

Photo: Saw plate with handle removed, showing six original screw holes. Broken screw shown on bottom right with an intact screw shown center right. Note that the four screws shown above may appear broken, but are just passing through the piece of paper to keep them in order.


The next step in the restoration was to remove the paint and try to reveal a name stamp or etch to discover who made the saw. This was accomplished by applying a liberal coat of paint stripper. After the paint was gone, I could see the blade was covered in a light layer of brown oxide, i.e. rust. Seeing no name stamp, I lightly sanded the center area of the saw to see if there was an etch. Gradually, an etch appeared bearing the name Harvey W. Peace. I now knew the maker of my saw! Also revealed in the etch was the number 48. Now I also knew the saw’s model number.

Photo: Saw plate with paint removed and etch area lightly sanded.


Knowing the saw’s maker and model number, I hit the Internet looking for other examples of saws like mine. What I found was interesting to say the least. First, I found an 1869 Harvey Peace catalog. It contained models No. 45 and 50, but no No. 48. This told me that my saw probably dated later than 1869. Next, I went to Joshua Clark’s Hyperkitten Tool Co website. Josh is a collector of Harvey Peace saws, and his website is the Internet’s best information source on the history of Peace’s Vulcan Saw Works of Brooklyn, NY and the many saw models they produced. There I found information on the No. 48, including a drawing of the saw from Peace’s 1884 catalog and pictures of one actual example of the No. 48. That example saw is the only actual No. 48 Josh has been able to track down, and it appears to be identical to the one in the catalog drawing.


Photo: Drawing of the Harvey W. Peace No. 48 handsaw from Peace’s 1884 catalog.


So, I had found my saw model, but it was obvious that my saw didn’t look like the one in the catalog or the real-life example. The most significant difference is the handle. The catalog and example saws have 3-lobed handles similar to the Disston No. 12, while my saw has a traditional handle shape with a lamb’s tongue. Also, the other saws have four normal saw screws plus a medallion, while my saw has the six raised brass cone nuts and no medallion. The catalog says the No. 48 has an apple handle, which is exactly what mine turned out to be, so no difference there.

The saws have other differences as well. The catalog and example saw’s blades have a rounded heel profile, while my saw’s is straight. In my experience, a straight heel profile usually means an older saw. All three saws have a similar etch that is a little fancier than the etches found on any other Peace saw model. But my saw’s etch has additional words compared to the saw in the catalog drawing or compared to a picture Josh posted of the etch of the example saw. I am posting a picture of that saw’s etch here because it is a much stronger etch than found on my saw, which is only partially readable.

Photo: Etch from the Peace No. 48 saw found on the hyperkitten website. My etch is identical except with additional wording below.


The additional words on my etch are directly beneath the words “Patent Ground”. They are hard to read because they are so faint. As best as I can decipher them, they say something like this:



This statement is very similar to language some other tool makers of that period either placed on their tools or stated in their literature, such as Sargent, Richardson Brothers, and C.E. Jennings.

The differences between my No. 48 and the No. 48 shown in the 1884 catalog, as well as the one known example that is identical to the catalog, make me wonder just what is the story behind my saw. I’ll discuss that more in the Conclusion, but first let me finish the restoration story.

I’ll not go into detail on the restoration procedures because I’ve talked about the techniques of saw restoration in other articles and forum posts. Briefly, though, the blade was cleaned up with appropriate abrasives while carefully protecting the etch as much as possible. The etch is weak on this saw, and though I would have liked to clean it further, doing so would have risked losing the etch entirely. The saw was then sharpened crosscut at 10 ppi which is the original pitch as stamped on the saw’s heel. The residual varnish was scraped from the handle, the wood was cleaned, and repairs were made to the upper horn and lamb’s tongue with scraps of apple wood. The handle was then sanded and multiple coats of finish were applied. Two new cone nut screws were made from brass rod, but the original nuts for those screws were saved. The remaining screws were straightened as needed and made ready for reuse. The saw was reassembled and now appears as shown in these photos.


Photo: I would have liked to clean up the etch a little more, but I could see I would lose it if I went further.


Conclusion

What, exactly, my saw is remains somewhat of a mystery to me. I’ve searched the internet extensively for other examples like mine and come up empty. I do believe my saw is original; nevertheless, it is different than the one known example of a Harvey W. Peace No. 48 and the drawing of that saw in the 1884 catalog. I’ve considered these possibilities for my saw:

- It could be a one-off saw made for some special purpose by Vulcan Saw Works.
- It could be an early prototype of the model No. 48.
- It could be the way the No. 48 was made during the early days of its production, and production was so limited that no other known survivors exist.

Production of the No. 48 must never have been great to begin with, since there are so few known examples.

If anyone reading this has additional information that may be helpful to solving this mystery, please leave a comment to that effect. I’ll update this article if more information becomes known.

Thanks for reading.


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



12 comments so far

View Andre's profile (online now)

Andre

2740 posts in 2282 days


#1 posted 01-07-2019 10:12 PM

Very nice restoration, have to look more carefully at them folk art saws?

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View Don W's profile

Don W

19314 posts in 3043 days


#2 posted 01-07-2019 10:43 PM

Nice write up Bob. And a very nice saw.

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

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

10856 posts in 2927 days


#3 posted 01-07-2019 11:43 PM

Fine restoration and research Bob.

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

View duckmilk's profile

duckmilk

3719 posts in 1800 days


#4 posted 01-08-2019 01:09 AM

Great find Bob, and very nice restoration. I enjoyed reading the sleuthing you did.

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

View Dave Polaschek's profile

Dave Polaschek

4110 posts in 1058 days


#5 posted 01-08-2019 02:16 AM

Thanks for the essay, Bob. Interesting sleuthing!

-- Dave - Minneapolis

View sras's profile

sras

5154 posts in 3605 days


#6 posted 01-08-2019 03:53 AM

Thanks for a fun story!

-- Steve - Impatience is Expensive

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16179 posts in 3094 days


#7 posted 01-08-2019 05:44 AM

Great story, teriffic restore. Very nice!

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

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

10856 posts in 2927 days


#8 posted 01-09-2019 07:18 PM

^ Flagged as spam

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

View Don W's profile

Don W

19314 posts in 3043 days


#9 posted 01-09-2019 09:50 PM



^ Flagged as spam

- theoldfart

Smitty, Spam?? :-)

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

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

10856 posts in 2927 days


#10 posted 01-09-2019 10:26 PM

Good, she got him. Smitty is classy vintage spam, he can stay.

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

View Brandon 's profile

Brandon

57 posts in 303 days


#11 posted 01-12-2019 07:19 AM

Could the saw have been drilled out and the cone nuts installed sometime through out its life???

View summerfi's profile

summerfi

4294 posts in 2163 days


#12 posted 01-12-2019 03:36 PM

Brandon, I considered that possibility, but the pattern of holes in the plate don’t match the hole pattern in a normal Peace No. 48. If it had been drilled out, there would be extra holes.

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

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