Somedays you’re a historian, others a surgeon.

When you take the plunge into restoring old tools, there are some days that you feel a bit like a historian and a conservator, and there are others when you feel like a surgeon in a field hospital.

It’s inevitable in the hunt for fine tools at flea markets, that you will sometimes run into tools that have lived a hard life. Tools that have suffered unmentionable and unfathomable indignities at the hands of previous owners. These tools will look up at you with their sad tool eyes and beg to be taken home with you.

Sometimes, despite your better judgement, you do, and then you have to figure out what in the world to do with them.

Such is the case with this guy:

It evidently started out life as a Disston no.4 mitre box saw, probably included with a small Millers Falls, Langon, or Stanley set. From there on out, it’s hard to tell what happened.

The first thing that catches your eye is that someone decided to hack off about 1/5 of the steel back, and I do mean hack.

I can only assume this was because of some other trauma or problem the saw had. Maybe a kinked plate at the tip? Maybe some other bend or damage? The plate in there now is straight as an arrow which makes me wonder if the front wasn’t bent, and a replacement plate installed. Maybe they had to cut the front off because of the damage?

Who knows really. All I could tell is that the missing back made use in a mitre box more difficult (it would catch in the guides) and the teeth looked like someone had attempted to sharpen them once and poorly and gave up. They were as dull as I’ve ever encountered.

Here’s my conjecture. Someone damaged the tip, ordered a new plate, couldn’t get the old back straight (off, etc) so they went at it with a hacksaw and stuck the new 24″ plate in the truncated back and tried to get it all back together.

The back was unevenly set on the plate too which makes me think that’s all the more likely.

As a mitre saw it’s a bust. As a bench saw it’s way too heavy and awkward. With triage complete, this $6.50 saw seemed like a good candidate for exploratory surgery.

First order, removing the back (without bending the saw):


I removed the handle and started taking some measurements. If I centered the Disston stamp on the back, and cut the rest to size, I realized I’d end up with about a 13″ saw. That’s not a bad size for a sash/carcass saw for the bench, so I took the back to the bandsaw and came back with this.


Laying this out with the saw plate, something nice was starting to emerge:


I had to cut the plate down with a dremel because it wouldn’t clear the arm on my bandsaw, which just meant I had to watch the heat on the plate.

I sanded down the plate to get under the rust, and frankly, to taper the width of the plate some. It was pretty thick.

After a good wet sanding with WD-40 and 600 grit paper I polished everything up and put it back together.

Jointing and filing is still to come, but I have hope.




5 Comments Add yours

  1. Randall says:

    Nice save. I passed up on a similar saw but if it’s there when I return then I’ll pick it up


    1. Thanks. It’s certainly got some potential. I still have a long way to go in learning to be a proper saw doctor, but each one is a new lesson.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Paleotool's Weblog and commented:
    A nice second-chance given to an abused tool. I love seeing this.


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