While holding a hand saw is a very tactile action, there is something intangible in the way our hands interlock with the handles of these tools; something that transcends utility and approaches alchemy.
I am in awe because I have now tried to make two saw handles myself, and it is tedious, careful work.
The first was a tiger maple handle for my Disston no.7 restoration and the second is a handle for a dovetail saw in cherry. And while neither one is up to the standards of the aforementioned makers, both have taught me a great deal about what a good handle should feel like, and what it takes to get it there.
I love working with cherry. It reminds me of my home state, the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but this particular board is the last of some stock in my woodpile that was harvested on family land in southwestern Virginia. I intend to make this saw for use by my daughter, so drawing a connection to three other generations of her family is a nice touch.
I looked at a lot of saw handles for this project and ended up settling on the pattern that Gramercy tools supplies with their kits. This is a really classic look for a dovetail saw handle, and it is also on the smallish side which seemed perfect for the project.
I layed the pattern out with the grain on the cherry, drilled out the holes that gave me the major radius transitions and then took it to the bandsaw. Before doing any shaping I cleaned up the wings where it attaches to the saw, cut the kerf and put the whole thing together so that I could experiment with the hang of the handle before drilling the holes in the saw plate.
The float in question is a vintage Simonds Vixen, which they actually classify as a file, but it works like the Lie-Nielsen mortise float I tried a few weeks back. As this was my first project with the tool I was pleased with the crisp finish that it left behind and I will definitely be keeping it in rotation.
After the first handle I made I didn’t think I would be eager to do another one anytime soon, but these are addicting and I have a sneaking suspicion there’s at least one more derelict Disston or wayward Warranted Superior out there waiting.