Saw 4: The Handle


After a little nudging from Bob Rozaieski, I’m convinced the original handle is made from beech. I love everything about it too; the patina, the size, the feel. It is an awesome handle other than it’s soft. I’m going to hold on to it (seriously, no pun intended) for use as a model, but it has fulfilled its purpose for this saw.


There didn’t seem to be any point in making this more difficult than it had to be, so I simply traced the shape of the original handle onto a piece of card stock. I like to do this for anything that I may want to reuse in the future. It’s easy to make copies to use in the shop.


I used the saw plate to line up the handle and mark the holes for the saw nuts. You can see how the original shape was left on the saw plate. I still don’t know what the fourth hole (the bottom left one) or the cutouts at the back of the plate were for. Manufacturing? If any of you saw gurus have details, I’m all ears!


I had some walnut leftover from making the Danish Lounge Chairs. One piece had a little figure in it that I thought would make a good and aesthetically pleasing handle. I used hand planes to flatten one side and ran the other side through the planer.


Using the template, I marked where the kerf for the saw plate would go and marked off a line 90 deg. to the kerf. This way I could set the blank on the table of the bandsaw.


Then I cut out the overall shape on the scroll saw and drilled the holes for the saw nuts.




The rest was just a matter of shaping with chisels and rasps until I got the shape I wanted.


I followed the advice of Joshua Farnsworth (who got it from Bill Anderson) and finished the handle with Minwax Antique Oil. After the finish dried, I finished the finish with a coat of wax.


And the takeaway?

I have a saw handle that will last the rest of my life. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be more complex than that.


14 Comments Add yours

  1. Bob Barnett says:

    Simply beautiful


  2. meanmna says:

    Given the additional holes in the plate, I would wager that this is not the first handle it had, or perhaps it was redone at the manufacture (perhaps the intended design was cut back a bit). I said this on IG but that is some nice grain in your new walnut handle. I saved all my penny’s this year and got a 3 backsaw set from BadAxe and chose walnut for the handles. Love them with the brass.


    1. Eric Key says:

      Do you use the same handle on IG? It gets confusing when everyone has different names. LOL. I think you’re right about the holes in the saw plate. Little things like that always make me wonder about the life of a tool. BadAxe makes some beautiful saws and the best thing is one day someone will be wondering about the life of yours.


      1. meanmna1 says:

        I am DR_Woodshop (Derrick Russ) on IG. I wish there was an easy way to link accounts and avatars to make that linkage easier for others.


      2. Eric Key says:

        Well hello, DR_Woodshop! I agree. What is even worse is when you meet people in person and you have to introduce yourself by your handle. I used to be envious of others with cool names. Now I’m glad that I was unoriginal.


      3. Todd Reid says:

        Come to think of it Eric it doesn’t have any wheat on the old one either that you so commonly see on Western saw handles. That may be another sign that it was a replacement handle.


      4. Eric Key says:

        I’m so glad there was no wheat. Now a panther head…that would’ve been cool.


      5. meanmna says:

        I personally like it without the wheat carving. That said, that is not necessarily an indication the handle was replaced. The wheat carving was not done on many western saws and typically saved for more premium saw handles (at least with Atkins and Disston). I have a few carved and non-carved and always like the look of the plain handles better. I know it doesn’t make sense, but I always thought the “premium wheat carved” handles looked rather cheesy. My favorite has always been the ones that were shaped with more elaborate carved lamb’s tongues on the lower portion of the tote. This was typical in the older saws and I really like how they look.


      6. Eric Key says:

        You sir are full of good information! I agree with you…don’t like the wheat. I found one in “The Art of Fine Tools” by Sandor Nagyszalanczy that had a panther head that was awesome. I could go for that but other than that I’ll stick with a plain look.


  3. Todd Reid says:

    It will last the rest of your life if it doesn’t get pulled toward your shop floor by gravity! LOL. But, that’s why you put the original on the wall as a template right? Looks great does it still have the same feel as the old one?


    1. Eric Key says:

      It does. In some ways it is even better because I could test it out as I was shaping it and tweak the feel if I wanted to.


  4. Mike Siemsen says:

    Saw handles are typically quartersawn. This make sense when you figure the across the grain expansion is less so the handle is less likely to split, the other reason is that plain sawn wood cups, if your handle cups so does your saw plate.
    This is not a review of your handle but merely some information that might be “handy” in the future.


    1. Eric Key says:

      Very handy as a matter of fact! Thank you for sharing. I’m going to be filing that away for sure.


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