A Vintage English Hand Saw

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Forum topic by Brit posted 03-24-2011 08:45 PM 28644 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Brit's profile


8511 posts in 4304 days

03-24-2011 08:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: hand saw vintage hand tools crosscut saw

I recently acquired this wonderful piece of English heritage and thought I’d share it with you.

This is a vintage 8 PPI (7 TPI) 26” crosscut hand saw made by Spear & Jackson in Sheffield, England over 100 years ago when Spear & Jackson were at the forefront of saw manufacture. The saw plate is cast steel, taper ground and has a straight tooth line. There are no missing teeth and no kinks. The plate tapers from 0.036” just above the tooth line to 0.026” along the top edge. The plate measures 7 ½” at the heel and 2 ¼” at the toe.

The teeth have a gullet depth of 0.094” with 0.007” of set having been applied to the top third of the tooth only. Although in need of sharpening, the teeth have previously been sharpened with a 15˚ rake angle, 20˚ of fleam and minimal slope. For a great downloadable explanation of saw tooth design, click here.

I believe this saw pre-dates saw plate etching. Instead, the plate is stamped with the maker’s mark as shown below. If you look closely, you can just make out the last few letters of the words CAST STEEL below the word Sheffield.

The toe of the plate features a tiny delicate nib and it beggars belief how such a small piece of metal has stayed attached to the plate for so many years.

The saw handle is truly a hand-crafted work of art that just invites you to pick the saw up. When you do, you’re rewarded with a glove-like fit that leaves you in awe of the craftsman who fashioned it. It features a hound’s tooth in front of the upper horn and a lamb’s tongue in front of the lower horn. The hang of the handle is such that the saw feels wonderfully balanced in the hand. If I ever make my own saws, this handle will definitely be used as my template. The handle is secured to the plate by means of four brass split nuts, the topmost one being slightly smaller than the remaining three.

Split nuts are notoriously difficult to remove on old saws, partly because they are made of brass and partly because after securing them in place, the craftsmen would draw-file the nuts to be flush with the handle. If I was to try to remove them and one of them broke off, the chances of finding a matching replacement would be slim to none and I would have to get the existing one silver soldered. Also, it is not uncommon for small chips of wood to break off around the nuts as they are rotated. Since these split nuts show no signs of ever having been removed and the handle is still securely fitted to the plate, I will not be attempting to remove them in order to clean the saw plate. I will follow the tried and tested saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

The other side of the handle features a lovely Spear & Jackson medallion as shown in the inset above. The dark diagonal mark above the medallion is the name stamp of a previous owner. It also appears faintly on the other side of the handle. After carefully examining both stamps under a magnifying glass and identifying different letters from each side of the handle, I came up with the name of Mr W. JOHNSTON.

I feel immensely privileged to be a part of this saws history and a tremendous amount of responsibility when it comes to preserving/restoring it. The current state of the saw plate is typical of cast steel saws of this vintage. There are patches of black staining, some pitting and some rust.

The lighter horizontal streaks in the picture above are where the previous owner has cleaned the saw using some form of abrasive and this evidence can also be seen elsewhere on both sides of the plate. They then coated the plate with an excessive amount of what I assume to be paste wax, which is the usual means of protecting a saw plate after cleaning. Some people would argue that saws this old should not be cleaned and I have some sympathy with that view. However, since an attempt has previously been made to clean the plate and there is evidence of rust at present, I feel justified in cleaning the plate now, so that future generations can experience the same thrill that I felt when I picked up this saw for the first time.

I hope you enjoyed reading about this great saw. If you would like to see how the saw plate looked after cleaning it with Hammerite Rust Remover Gel, click here.

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

12 replies so far

View Gregn's profile


1642 posts in 4445 days

#1 posted 03-24-2011 11:54 PM

Neat, I just had read an article by Chris Schwarz on tapered saw plates and how smooth they cut dry wood once you get accustomed to using one. Also how rare they are to find these days. Good score you got my envy flowing.

-- I don't make mistakes, I have great learning lessons, Greg

View Brit's profile


8511 posts in 4304 days

#2 posted 03-25-2011 12:06 AM

Gregn, I bought this saw on because I wanted to learn how to sharpen saws before I order a Wenzloff (well I can dream can’t I?). Have you noticed how crappy a lot of photos are on eBay? When there is only one, you really don’t know what you’re getting because you can’t always rely on the knowledge of the seller. I’m sure when sellers upload their photos there must be a button that they press called ’Make my photo look fuzzy and blurred’. Anyhow, on this occasion I was pleasantly surprised when the saw arrived.

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

View SnowyRiver's profile


51456 posts in 4942 days

#3 posted 03-25-2011 12:08 AM

Thats great…very nice.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Brit's profile


8511 posts in 4304 days

#4 posted 03-25-2011 12:47 AM

Thanks Wayne. I can’t wait to use it once I’ve sharpened it.

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

View swirt's profile


7693 posts in 4434 days

#5 posted 03-25-2011 06:59 AM

Nice saw Brit. And yes it amazes me that more eBay sellers don’t understand that good photos selll better than bad ones. Even if quality of the product is bad, intentionally fuzzy photos hide that, but then it hurts their reputation which dmaages their long terms sales potential.

Glad it worked out in your favor this time.

-- Galootish log blog,

View gary351's profile


97 posts in 4258 days

#6 posted 03-25-2011 10:03 AM

I bet there’s a lot of history in that saw that you brought back to life.
I recently discovered a couple of antique hand saws my father left me that must have been my grandfathers, one was a H. Disston & Sons and the other was a Richardson.They have really grown on me, i cleaned them up with brass cleaner and will use when the weather gets warmer. I think these old hand saws connect me to the past, a simpler time in history. I like that your saw has etching on the blade/plate it gives it more character mine does not have that.

-- A poor man has poor way's

View Brit's profile


8511 posts in 4304 days

#7 posted 03-25-2011 03:45 PM

Gary I totally agree with you about connecting to a simpler time in history. We’ll never see the like of these great tools again.

Bertha, this one is for you. I know how you like a bit of sparkle. :-)

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

View mafe's profile


13872 posts in 4551 days

#8 posted 03-26-2011 11:53 AM

Andy that is one heck af a beautiful saw! I love it!!!
The patina on the metal is perfect, used but not misused, the curves on that handle are priceless.
I think you do the right thing to preserve it as much as possible.
That is a true beauty!
Congratulation on this wonderful tool,
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View Brit's profile


8511 posts in 4304 days

#9 posted 03-26-2011 11:19 PM

Swirt – Glad its not just me.
Gary – If only tools could speak and tell us their stories. I have been trying to research this saw. I have found some information on the history of Spear and Jackson and I have seen another example of this saw (although it was filed rip), but it is very difficult to date it accurately. All I know at the moment is that it was produced sometime between 1830 and 1910 at the Etna works in Sheffield. I’ll keep trying to narrow it down. Hope you enjoy your saws.
Mads – Glad you like my baby. The next step is to make a saw vise and purchase the tools needed to sharpen it.

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

View Gary Bonifas's profile

Gary Bonifas

1 post in 1457 days

#10 posted 06-01-2018 02:14 AM

Hi Brit, I have a question about your saw. Are you reasonably sure of the date of manufacture??? The reason I ask is that 41 years ago I was wreck diving on a wooden sailing schooner in Lake Michigan just off Milwaukee Wisconsin. While probing the cargo rubble with my gloved hands I could feel what was certainly 3 carpenters saw handles. Unfortunately I wrecklessly pulled on the handles and ultimately retrieved one intact handle and 3 saw blades bound together by heavy bailing wire. The medallion in the handle was heavily crusted over but a quick dip in Muratic acid and the crust popped off revealing a perfectly preserved, like new medallion identicle to the one in your saw. For the last 41 years I have often wondered how old the medallion (and saws) were. Seeing your saw I am eager to know what you know about the age. Thanks for your time…Gary Bonifas

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2948 days

#11 posted 06-01-2018 04:20 AM

Love those early lines and contours. Fantastic.

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

View Brit's profile


8511 posts in 4304 days

#12 posted 06-04-2018 02:14 PM

Hi Gary, great story! It is really hard to date this Spear and Jackson saw with any degree of accuracy. Having seen, handled, restored quite a few vintage saws, all I am going by is the shape of the handle and the patina of the saw. Spear & Jackson were formed in 1830, so it can’t be any earlier than that. From the condition of the saw though, I would say early 20th century. Just a guess.

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

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