Tips on finding quality handsaws

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Forum topic by jtrz posted 05-17-2018 06:21 AM 1192 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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174 posts in 1945 days

05-17-2018 06:21 AM

I’ve been doing my usual lurking around online trying to find some good old hand tools that I can bring back in from the cold and lately I’ve been seeing lots of old handsaws that are usually in pretty bad shape but cheap. With 75 bucks I could easily bring home 15 saws. The problem is logistics really. It can be hard to set up a time to meet the seller, they’re 30 or more minutes away and the photos of the tools are usually bad and not very informative. Sometimes they’ll retake a few photos if I ask but even then they don’t get the angle or focus or whatever. And there’s no way I’m going to be able to read an etching on the blade of these guys even if the seller was a professional photographer with a stellar light setup. I know, 1st world problems.

I’m looking for a way to weed through some of these options and save a few afternoons wasted afternoons. And, very importantly, not end up with more tools that I don’t need or have room for. It’s easy to weed out hand planes for me now but with handsaws and the million different types and brands that have been made over the years, I’m in over my head.

So the shopping list is as follows:
- cross cut saw
- rip saw
- backsaw
- miter box (I think I found one but it is going to need some major work)

Not sure about what a good length would be for some of these so if anyone has recommendations on that I would be helpful.

So, are there any easily identifiable signs that tell you, no that’s not a sweet disston but some cheap knock off? Or maybe, that is a sweet disston but because of this or that it isn’t worth the time and probably won’t end up a good user? Any help as I delve into this ocean of handsaws? I’ll post some pics of some I think might be worth it in another post shortly but any thoughts in the meantime would be appreciated.

Thanks guys.

-- Jeff | Louisville, Ky

5 replies so far

View therealSteveN's profile


5760 posts in 1346 days

#1 posted 05-17-2018 07:08 AM

I’ll start you out with what may be very controversial in some folks eyes, but do one of 2 things.

Only buy saws you can sight down that blade to determine if it’s a crooked, kinked up old saw someone short stroked years ago. I haven;’t seen pics that could give me the line you take when you hold up a saw and sight it yourself. If possible use it, is it workable, or a shipwreck that needs a lot of saving.

The other is if have no saws available locally, and must venture out online, ONLY buy from people who are known, and trustworthy. Some of these guys handle a bunch of saws, so they know they aren’t going to just sell 3 or 4 saws. They may even be making their living doing that.

The ones with that experience also know a good reputation is money in the bank, so they will give VERY accurate appraisals of what they are selling, so when they sight it for you, they know if it’s a pretzel. They also know the saw, and how it should be set up. 1) Hand Saw Type, (2) Saw Tooth Shape, and (3) Saw Tooth Count are the 3 biggest things to know.

Some guys go years before they can tell you what saw is “choice” Downside to buying from that respected dealer/seller of fine tools is they will generally be more than low guy on a famous auction site. Unfortunately I haven’t needed a new hand saw in years. One of the absolute best guys for that died a few years ago, and a few of the guys drifting around I don’t have good contact info for them. That generally leaves Pat Leach in my library of sellers, he’s been at it a long time, and he has a reputation all right, some may not agree to how good it is, but I wouldn’t hesitate checking on him if I needed any old hand tool.

This would be The Superior Works, Pat''s digs

At the bottom of the page are links. “Patricks B&G” is his Blood and Gore site, it could possibly give you insights into some of the hand planes. He sells a LOT of saws, but most of them are via his monthly e-mailing, best to contact him directly to do that, and ask what he has that will do the type of sawing you want to do.

Good luck.

-- Think safe, be safe

View jtrz's profile


174 posts in 1945 days

#2 posted 05-17-2018 10:43 AM

Thanks for the reply therealSteveN
I’m definitely familiar with the reputable guys online and check there sites frequently but they’re out of my price range and I like going through the restoration process because it ends up teaching me a lot along the way.

You can see from the photos below that I’m not dealing with tool dealers just people trying to get rid of stuff. I’ll Jae to work bit harder for a good tool in the end but at 5 or 10 bucks a saw I’m more inclined to go at it the hard way.

I’ve got my eye on this guy:

And here are a few more

If anyone sees something that might be worth it or something to definitely stay away from let me know

-- Jeff | Louisville, Ky

View Robert's profile


3742 posts in 2252 days

#3 posted 05-17-2018 02:00 PM

BTDT. Biggest factors to me are not the name, but straighness of blade, amount of corrosion, and condition of handles, and all the screws are in place.

Beyond that, invest in a good quality nail set and files. Build a saw vice and off you go…

I’ve go several of my Dad’s old Disston saws from the 50’s once sharpened and set are a dream to use.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View CharlesNeil's profile


2501 posts in 4642 days

#4 posted 05-17-2018 02:13 PM

pm Bandit on here, i have bought some from him and they are great

View summerfi's profile


4379 posts in 2459 days

#5 posted 05-17-2018 02:44 PM

I only see about three saws in your pictures that I would even consider. Just like anything else, you have to put in the time to learn about saws in order to consistently buy good ones. Here are some links to get you started, but there are many good saw related resources online.

You should also follow the saw thread here on Lumberjocks. There is a world of good information and some very knowledgeable people there. Feel free to ask questions there any time.

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

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