a funeral and a resurrection story

Things wear out. That’s the course of matter and time and space. Entropy rules the day. Objects are forged and used until they have given their atoms back to the universe and are then reformed into something else.

But sometimes, if you are attentive and patient, you can forestall the inevitable and find a second life under the rust. At least for a little while.

Over the past few weeks I have been spending most of my shop time working carefully and methodically on the guitar build.  In the margins I have also managed to sneak in a side project or two rescuing wayward tools (or at least trying to.)  Recently I took a chance at a rusty old Stanley Bailey no.3 plane on eBay and a Disston no.7 panel saw at the local flea market. Their stories couldn’t be any more different.

I don’t even have a proper picture of the plane, but here’s one from the auction.


It came as a lot with another similarly sized plane of unknown pedigree. Ironically, the other plane isn’t in terrible condition. It’s not made to anywhere near the standard of the bailey though, so it will probably just end up as a “practice” tool in my daughter’s tool collection. Blade dull and retracted of course. The Bailey was a heartbreak. Just crusted in rust with a significant crack in the casting that wasn’t apparent in the auction pictures. Caveat emptor indeed.

I ended up stripping the Bailey down to it’s component parts and rescuing what I could. I saved the frog (which ended up cleaning up nicely) the blade (which is so pitted it’s a decoration now), the lever cap, a few brass nuts and the tote. The tote was cracked in half, dried out and in bad shape but came around with some TLC.


The tote was so nice it found a new home on my no.4. The lever cap will soon have a new home on another project. The frog and nuts went back on eBay to re-coup on the original purchase. The casting went in the trash.

Sad story, but at least there were a few survivors.

On the other hand, the local flea market has been good to me lately and a few weeks ago I bought an old Disston panel saw for a couple of bucks.

When I began cleaning that one up I could get enough of a read on the original etching to see that it was a Disston no.7 (pre D-7) and the medallion placed it somewhere in the 1878-1888 era of manufacturing. I stood there for a little while just considering the weight of the fact that the saw in my hands was 130 years old. In a culture where things are designed to be disposable, it felt like an absolute act of rebellion to hold that saw. I considered the craftsmanship of the handle and wondered at the decorative nib. And then I got to work.

I took the plate of and soaked it in vinegar just long enough to bust the rust. After rinsing it off I spent some time on it with a scotchbrite pad and WD-40 and the plate came out great. It wanted for sharpening, but it would make a fine saw again.

The handle was another question. The wood itself was starting to get a little brittle. The handle was intact, but there were structural cracks through the nuts. It was also a little small for my 20th century mitts, so I made a bold choice and decided to shape a new handle for the saw.

I started with a 4/4 board of tiger maple that has been sitting in my wood stacks for a while. I traced the old handle as best as I could, trying to stay faithful to the detail of the original. I cut it out with a band saw and roughed in the curves with forstner bits on the drill press. To make a full confession to the hand tool crowd, I even used a 1/2″ roundover bit in my router to start some of the shaping.


But trust me, there was also plenty of handwork on this.


I still had to shape the majority of the handle with file and rasp and I carved the tongue out freehand.


The teeth were evidently filed cross-cut which seems perfectly good on a 22″ panel saw, but I already have a cross-cut panel saw and I wanted this to be an “all-rounder” that I could throw in my tool chest so I converted it to 8 tpi rip. That meant jointing the saw, shaping the teeth, jointing again, a little more shaping and then finally I lightly jointed it one last time and filed the teeth sharp, setting them just enough not to bind in the kerf.


I didn’t “need” another saw, but after that mess with the no.3 plane I sure am glad I found this one and was able to give it a proper resurrection.

Hopefully, I’ll have some grandkids to pass it down to someday.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Brian Clites says:

    This handle is beautiful James. I have four of these I’ve been meaning to make for months. Thanks for the inspiration to get to it


    1. Thanks Brian. It was my first go at making a saw handle and although it took a while it has given me the courage to do another if the situation ever presents itself.

      You’ve got your work cut out for you with four in the queue!😊

      Liked by 1 person

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