when it’s ok to play with your nuts

Screw_06One lesson any mechanic or handy man will clearly remember was the first time they snapped a bolt by over tightening it. This is often preceded or followed by stripping or cross threading. Mine was a reverse threaded peddle in a bike crank.  Lessons to this day I heed as I wade my way through life.

I think over time, for those of us who enjoyed turning wrenches, it started with bicycles, gravitated to dirt bikes, and eventually cars. Learn early the concept of torque; it’s a kin to heat in the kitchen. You want as much as possible but too much varies from problematic to deadly.

So my point with all this is PLEASE BE CAREFUL when working on these old saws. Consider that most splits are 100+ years old and it’s impressive they’ve held up so well.

Most of the threads would be made using a screw plate of hardened steel and the soft brass would be turned into the plate similarly to how a dowel plate works. The threads used were simpler than later Glover style saw screws.

screw_05With that in mind it’s important to use proper fitting drivers. This is preindustrial revolution hardware you’re dealing with. One size for sure will not fit all. For more information on making a split nut driver see previous post on making them.

So before you bear down on the next screws make sure the fit is good. When tightening, remember your goal is to prevent the handle from moving. Tighten it some, then check and tighten more if need be. If It loosens that’s not the end of the world. If it snaps, it might be…

However, if the latter just happened there is still hope. Been there, done that comes to mind. Provided the break is clean below the threads you’re looking more at a candidate to be silver soldered or brazed. The difference being is the metal used as the filler and the point at which it melts. Since brazing requires more heat than soldering, acetylene gas mixed with air is commonly used. However if you can use a butane torch this is a low cost alternative. That said, more research is recommended as this is not my area of expertise.

Screw_01That’s about as technical as I’ll get with it as I’m lucky enough to have a friend mentioned in earlier posts, David Latouche. He routinely brazes metal for work as well as teaches on the subject. Double bonuses, he agreed to help fix a few saw screws as well as go over the basics.

To start it’s important the area being brazed is clean. It’s also important to check or figure out how the two pieces properly fit back together. Good glasses or magnification can help. You’re looking to match the score marked on one side to the other. The better the fit the easier it will be to stabilize it when heated.

Because David routinely brazes he already has a work area set up with fire bricks used in ceramic kilns and a small container of mild acid/etch type cleaner called “pickle” that we used to submerge and clean the pieces before brazing. The solution was strong enough to clean the oxidation at the break but mild enough that it didn’t affect the patina on the outside. That said the heating process often results in raising the copper in the metals to the surface resulting in a pink hue around the area. The amount largely correlates to your skill and the break in general.

screw_02With the parts clean it’s time to get down to the business at hand. The breaks on mine were easy enough to line up. I then applied some flux and cut a very small piece of solder. David uses a simplified version of a Third hand tool to apply pressure and hold the parts together while applying heat.

After watching him fix one I was ready to try my hand. I’ve done my fair share of copper pipe repairs and soldering so it’s not completely foreign to me. The big difference being is how you heat the area and apply the flux. This was a bit trickier than soldering or sweating a pipe. Brazing done correctly uses the heat to wick the solder into the joint where the flux was applied. The flux attracts it and therefore the location and amount are more critical.

screw_03The goal is to get the area up to temp without heating the entire piece. Once the piece is done it’s dropped into water and checked. It’s still soft and if needed can be bent a little. Often you’ll find split nuts bend quite a bit as the plate shifts in the handle over time.

When done I’m happy to say we fixed all three, 2 label screws and a split nut, and they will now see a second chance in a future restoration. At this point the weather outside had turned a bit nasty with snow and ice on the roads so I gathered my things and headed home.

What we’ve learned:
• Always use the proper size driver when working with any fasteners.
• Apply enough pressure to tighten but not so much to strip or break.
• Always apply torque progressively smoothly.
• Fear not; often broken screws can be fixed.

Screw_04Next blog will be on my recent trip to Amish country and the nation’s capital.

Joe Federici— saw advocate

°Remember Jr. Sawyers, be mindful when playing with your nuts!

sometimes it take a village

Work in progressAs some of you may remember, over the summer I picked up a Noden Adjust-A-Bench at auction. After lugging it up 5 flights of stairs, it’s been sitting in my apartment, waiting for me to move things around and build the necessary jigs.

In short, inspiration or motivation was needed.

Motivation was found in the form of a friend coming to visit and the necessity to clean up and organize my apartment work space. Reassembling the table with a single person was a little troublesome righting it but the improvement over the old worktable was a welcomed improvement. I was really looking forward to the adjustability to file smaller backsaws higher than bigger panel saws.

Once upright, the first thing needed was a proper bracket to hold my vise. I wanted something sturdy but also removable as I use the space for other tasks as well. My solution was to dovetail a bracket and use 5/16th carriage bolts and wing nuts.

The next thing I needed was a vise. Not really concerned with heavy use for woodworking, I figured I’d pick up a Wilton 7″. I found a local listing and made plans to meet. As it turns out the seller, Hop Usner, was a retired printer who worked in offset and sheet-feed, a world I know as well.  He currently buys and resells mostly power tools for woodworking and just picked up some school shop equipment. Among them was a really cool complete miniature letterpress for cards and envelopes. I took a few minutes to check it out and see what fonts and other parts were included and while doing so a Wilton patternmakers vise caught my eye. The vise looked in really good shape for its years, and its ability to flip from a machinist jaw to a 7” parallel would make it a real space saver. So as they say, a deal was struck.

bench_07With some extra time off around the holiday it was time to get cranking on the necessary jigs and hardware needed. I started with the bracket for my trusty TFWW saw vice. Like most of the tools Joel has built it’s both indestructible and the Cadillac of its type.

bench_04I had some smaller pieces of 5 quarter maple that would work perfectly. Having a few saws, I decided to go with a traditional dovetail joint. These being bigger DT’s than I normally contend with, I decided to reduce the angle and widen the tails a bit. The end product is less than master craftsman but not too shabby. After a quick coat of oil, it was ready for installation.

I first learned about a Noden bench when taking a class at Philadelphia Furniture Workshop. Allen and Mario, the owners, use one to teach from as it works well for a variety of tasks. Thinking at that time it would work well as a saw bench, I looked into the company and found they were designed by a local furniture maker/tool designer, Geoffrey Noden in Trenton, NJ. The retail price is fair but more than my budget would allow for.

Fast forward and I guess the gods saw it differently. The point of this back story is to say once I got my table together, one of the breaks on a caster promptly broke. This would prove to be an issue as my floor is less than flat.

So knowing (see back story) Noden isn’t far from the shop, I figured I’d see if a replacement could be found. As it turned out Geoff said he had a bum batch of his casters a ways back and offered to replace it for free. Having the time and interest in seeing his shop, I decided I’d head over the following day and also stop by Willard Brothers to ogle over some fine woods and see what pear and apple he they had in stock.

Brainstorming the best way to mount the vise to the bracket, I must have missed a turn and I realized I was off track, but as often is the case with adventures, my detour in misdirection put me in front of a fasteners store Onyx Fasteners; as the name suggests it deals with all things fasteners. Karma really is your friend!

This being not such a great part of Trenton, after being buzzed in and wandering my way through a maze of boxes, bins, trays, and bags, the owner guessed,

“You must be lost. We don’t get much walk in business.” I explained it was his luck as I was both lost and in need of some threaded inserts. He brought me a few different styles from a large selection and after I picked a few, we moved on to directions. As it turned out he knew Geoff and explained I was just a little north of where I should have turned. Before leaving we exchanged cards and he even pulled a few old saws out of the back room he’s been meaning to list on Craigslist. I don’t currently deal with the larger cross cut saws but they do fit a need for many.

Back on route Geoff’s shop wasn’t far. When I saw a flitch of white oak in front of a non-descript building I had arrived. Once inside he gave me the caster and a quick tour of the place. His main business the last few years has been the benches and the Noden Inlay Razor that he demonstrated to me that allows you to create custom inlays of all type. After seeing it I’d say it’s quite an ingenious design. Like many designers and craftsmen, Noden has filled his shop with prototypes of the bench and other projects. Although these current designs are mostly metal much of the furniture he makes is traditional in nature. I marveled over a large slab table with joints that used 3″ plus mitered dovetails.

Of course we talked saws after that and I checked out his collection of golden aged Disston’s including an 18″ sash saw that was used for those mitered dovetail joints. He also had an interesting early production Lie Nielsen dovetail saw that was given out to a select few for feedback.  After finishing up with the saw talk it was time to hit the road.

From here it was a few miles through Trenton to the infamous and previously mentioned Willard Brothers mill and tree service. Although I left empty handed it’s always wonderful to check out the selections. In the past few years as the popularity of woodworking for hobbyists has grown so has WB.

The next day having the finished bracket and final plans for attachment I quickly made some plugs for the 5/16 carriage bolts, packed up the needed tools and headed to my apt. for installation. The plan was as follows: Mount the vise to the dovetailed bracket and leave the top two mounting points proud so they contacted the bench. I then used threaded inserts and screws for those two holes. The entire assembly was then attached with counter sunk carriage bolts and held fast with wing nuts. The through holes were then capped with maple plugs made from scrap wood.

I also used counter sunk carriage bolts and since these would not need to be removed, or so I thought, I used air-craft style nuts. About that not needing to be removed part, it would seem that once installed the turret wouldn’t lock in one position and caused the vise to spin. Hmm… maybe this wasn’t such a good deal. Investigating further I could tell the locking mechanism used a washer that looked like a replacement to cam itself against the turret. This is quite different than how most round objects are clamped. Most would use a pinch style clamp; think break levers on handlebars.

bench_05Knowing a solution wouldn’t be found in my apt., I gathered up my things and headed back to the shop. Luckily still having a few days off I could investigate and research the problem, hopefully figuring out a simple solution. I started by emailing Hop to see if he had any ideas and then hit the web. I found some good information about the vise

Universal Turret Vise-1

The early version with pinch clamp on left and later model with cam clamp right

In 1959 Wilton invented what they called the Wilton Universal Turret Vise. It has two jaws that swiveled into place on a turret that allows the user to hold large items for woodworking, or with a flip use a set of smaller jaws for working metal including pips. Even though it hit the market in ’59 the patent was granted in 1961. Looking over pictures I could tell they changed the design at some point changing from a clamp to this cam style lock. I was also lucky enough to find the patent online with pictures and, although I’m sure it’d be clear to an engineer, it was a bit hard to follow but confirmed my belief that the key was an offset washer that when tightened would cam and effectively jam the turret from spinning.

bench_06The next challenge would be figuring out the proper size and having it made! Lucky for me I have a friend who I knew the second I saw that aluminum washer would be the perfect person to help, Gabriel Romeu.

Without getting too side tracked, I’ll just say I first meet Gabriel about 10 years ago. In that time I’ve learned how to do a multitude of things that span rolling a kayak to operating a Bridgeport lathe. In short some people answer questions and others teach you how to fish. Gman is the ladder and someone I always go to when I’m stuck on a problem.

So with vise and bits in hand I was off to his shop. Once there I caught up on his many recent projects including a recently built 3-d printer that I’ll say is just plain cool. After I explained my theory and we mulled it over, Gabriel quickly knocked out some test collars. As they say 3rd time’s a charm and within 20 minutes I had the needed part. I packed up the vises and 2 of his Sandvik saws in need of sharpening and headed back to the shop.

It wasn’t till later that week I got everything installed, holes plugged, and applied some finish. I’m happy to report all is working great. After working on a few saws I’m left wondering why I waited this long to upgrade. The only issue is that ugly ass handle on the vise.

So knowing the intended use for the vise is on the softer side of use, mostly knocking off backs or holding wood for test cuts, I decided a wood handle would be much nicer. The problem was that after checking the inside dimensions I needed a 7/8” shaft which excluded most commercially made replacement handles.

bench_03Lucky for me however a friend and customer Terry Rogan recently purchased a new lathe and offered to help, following up with the stipulation he would need to “test fit” so I should send the vice to him. Nice try Terry. The handle arrived shortly after and I can’t be happier with how it fits, works, and looks; it’s perfect. So with the holiday behind us and the new bench with vises ready to rock, the last piece of the kit was a plywood shelf utilizing the space under the top; I’m calling this complete.

bench_02I’d like to finish up by saying thanks to the many new friends who helped me out throughout the process. It’s proof positive it takes a village to keep this monger on track and I’ve often thought if you’re open to detours in life, life often provides some fun ones.

Joe Federici
sawyer with style

elephant tracks

finished plate_01

The finished two

In the week between holidays I took some well-deserved time off to enjoy the holidays and just be.  For me that included a list of random errands I normally can’t get to M-F, after which I headed back to my shop to get a little work done, starting off with some milling about before settling down to the task I felt most important at that time. This consisted of finishing up friends’ and customers’ saws for restoration, including some finish glazing, a plate replacement, and some sharpening as always.  I think sharpening and plate sanding are something I always have at the ready.

Plate replacement requires the use of the retoother most times, as well as setting up space for sanding, so I find it best to batch my work. I normally have a few backsaws of my own ready and depending on what’s in the shop or my mood I’ll process a few. In this case I had a really nice double eagle 14” that needed a new plate as well as an 18″ brass backsaw of my own that was waiting for a new plate after completing a handle repair.

So with that in mind I pulled out some of the plate I cut, or should I say I helped cut, a few weeks ago and got out some vinegar and a plastic tray.


The darker of the two plates is how the metal comes from the supplier blued to prevent rust.
The top plate is after soaking for a min or two.

I left off with the finished plate cut to size. The next process is removing the blueing that is applied to prevent the rust. This can be done a few ways but so far I’ve been following a process I got from Isaac of Blackburn Woodworking. First I degrease the metal with regular dish soap, then dry well. It’s important to get all the soap off and dry well. Next soak in regular white vinegar; the vinegar will do a good job of removing the blueing.

I’ve found a few best practices that help.

I use regular white vinegar I buy from the supermarket by the gallon. I pour this into a plastic container. The vinegar cleaning strength isn’t high and does seem to cut through the soap. Note: if you don’t clean or dry it well, you’ll get streaking causing a rainbow effect. This can’t be helped to some degree; you’ll be left with a blue haze that needs to be sanded off; your goal here is to reduce that work.

Another method that comes by way of Dominic Greco is citric acid powder. Dominic cuts and sells spring steel and his own share of plate clean up. He uses a 10% solution of powdered citric acid he buys in bulk on eBay and adds HOT water for maximum efficiency.  Footnote: use rubber gloves and for every 10 degrees of temp increase, the effectiveness of the solution increases accordingly. Once it starts to cool, you’ll see it’ll take longer to de-blue the steel.  Dominic also offers a number of free handle patterns for those interested in making their own. Check out his site for more info, Two Guys in a Garage. One last note: citric acid is also used when canning so you’ll find it where those supplies are sold.

Ok, back to the plates soaking in the container of vinegar. It’s important the liquid contacts the plate so try not to stack the plates; after a minute or two pull your plate out. I use a maroon medium grit scotch pad to rub it down. You can dunk it again for a little bit, then wipe off.  I’ve had some instances where leaving it in too long started turning the plate black so don’t go nuts watching a clock, but be mindful of the time.


Sanding through the grits. do your best to work clean and wear rubber gloves.

Because I do a few plates a month, I pour the vinegar back into a plastic bottle for future use. Next is the fun part; read between the lines, PITA, and for those of you with tennis elbow, something maybe not worth attempting. Sanding the metal plate follows many of the same best practices as sanding wood or anything for that matter. Work clean, don’t skip grades, and above all, apply even pressure. Work smart not hard.

Seems simple enough and it is; the work is just doing it. I normally start with 220 grit, then 320, 400, 600, 800, 1200, and finish with 1500. I’ve been known to go up to 2500 but that’s a lot of work and in the end I don’t find it’s worth the time or cost as sandpaper above 1200 gets pricey. Without getting off topic, I’ll just add that my goal is to try and match the plate to the restoration. If it’s an “all out polish the brass” restoration, then maybe go the extra distance. If you’re more for the au naturel look, then maybe stop round 600.

Just to reiterate about sanding, be mindful of keeping your area clean. I find laying down Kraft paper where I work makes it quick to note when things get dirty. I sand using a homemade wood block with cork applied to one side. With no etch to worry you, block sand both sides. Again, be mindful that the dust from a coarser grit will scratch the plate; watch out when flipping. Lastly, sand in one direction to avoid scratching as you sand. Before finishing with one grit, use a raking light or tilt the plate to the light to check for deeper scratches that need to be removed before switching to the next grit.


finished plate. The one on the left was used for the brass backsaw in the first image. The dark plate is the starting point.

So that’s about it on sanding. It’s a skill most of us don’t do well or appreciate enough. I think my first shop class in school was around 5th grade. I had already worked on stuff with my family but I remember in school that sanding was checked before you were allowed to apply finish. You presented the project to be checked and if areas needed work, the teacher would mark an X with pencil.  I could do another blog just on the direct correlation of pressure behind that pencil in proportion to the effort put forth; but suffice to say, I still think of elephant tracks and smiley faces whenever I sand something. Taking the time to check your work for marks, going slowly, along with working clean, all go a long way.

At this point you’re now ready to switch out the plate on your saw. I tend to redrill and tooth with the back on but that’s somewhat a personal preference along with installing the back. I’ll save that for another time.

Joe Federici
The fastest arm in the East!

Reference this!

Well, this past weekend was a little disappointing. I had hoped to make it to what’s been a rare Spicer auction and visit with some family, but it would seem that it just wasn’t in the cards.

I emailed with a friend to commiserate; knowing I’m a car guy, he said that also means you know when you’re screwed as well. I blew the low side power steering line, or lower pressure return line from the rack. I’d had the high side done a month or so ago, and the mechanic, a high school friend, warned me about old cars and hoses. My ‘98 Saab has been a flawless performer so I can’t really complain. I also got lucky; the distance was within the AAA tow range and by dealing with a friend, the repair was also completed by weekend’s end.

So I guess I’d better work on filling the karma tank back up and rest in the solace. There are always more tools at the next show.

With the holidays behind us and facing the winter stretch, I thought I’d recommend some good reference books. This by no means is complete and I welcome any recommendations. Most are reprints and can still be found online or at your local auction or tool reseller.

Simonds_1919First off is the nicely reprinted catalog: The Simonds Saws & Knives, 1919. Although the world loves Disston, like the Yankees or Cowboys, there are other quality makers. Simonds, being one, had the honor of besting Disston at sales of hand saws for a few years in the early 1900’s. The truth is the Simonds’ patented steel does have a wonderful feel. They also tend to be a better value than Disston. Keep an eye out for the No. 61 (straight back), 361 (skew back) or No. 5, just some of the more popular saws from their “Blue Ribbon” series. Also check out the Simonds Saw page by Brian Welch. The reprint and paper quality is much higher than normally used. They are still available and I’ll be offering them shortly along with the Disston 1876 price list. They do also pop up at auction on eBay.

HandsawCatalogAstragal Press offers a number of books for those of us interested in antique tools and early trades and technologies. For the saw lover they put together: The Handsaw Catalog Collection. It’s a 136 page collection of 4 popular saw makers’ catalogs.
Akins 1919
Disston 1918
Simonds 1910
Spear & Jackson 1915

The overall quality of reprint is quite good although I thought the images were a bit small. I don’t come across a lot of S&J saws but have used this a few times when identifying them.

TNSC_catalogIf you’re into the secondary makers (like me!) The National Saw Company, Newark, NJ is one of the best references out there. The National Saw Company was formed to market and sell the remaining inventories from Richardson Brothers, Wheeler, Madden & Clemson, Harvey W. Peace, and Woodrough & McFarland. All were once independent operations that Disston incorporated into their line. As the story goes, the NSC was formed to run out inventories of remaining stock. The 192 page reprint was published by the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association in 2006. Sadly the print quality is low but I’m sure that has to do with the orginal copy. These also pop up at auctions on eBay from time to time.

Disston the brand America loves, the Cowboys & Yankees embodied in steel, and as such there are a few reprints as well as free PDF’s downloadable on the Web.

Disston_19141914: Henry Disston & Sons Incorporated: This was reprinted in the late 70’s and if you can find a copy it’s quite nice to have as it covers most of the golden year models 7, 8, 12, 120 and so on as well as a wide variety of saws, squares, levels, gauges and so on. The 237 page orginal was pocket size but the reprint is larger, around 9” x 6”.

Disston_1876For the early years I really like Henry Disston & Sons’ Price-List, January 1st, 1876. The 6.5” x 10” 86 page softcover book was reprinted in 1994 and I thought until recently was out of print. It’s a great reference for the early golden years of saw making. This is just after split-nuts when the glover patent screws were in use. It also has examples of custom etch 200 series of saws that can be tricky to identify. I should have new copies to offer of this in the next few weeks but used copies pop up from time to time as well.

I’ll put this in the “if it’s free, it’s for me” column. Wheeler, Madden & Bakewell as well as the later Clemson were all part of Monhagen Saw Works 1860. The company in general was very incestuous with owners breaking off and starting other companies.  I defer to Mike Stemple on all matter Bakewell. 1860 – Monhagen Saw Works – Price List does cover most of their early saws pre-Clemson, who was brought in after Bakewell left. The overall quality is marginal but still helpful when researching. Download a free copy from the link here; then click on the adobe acrobat icon in the upper right.

MonhagenSawWorksAs far as compiled research on saw manufacturers, there are two definitive works by Erwin Schaffer. The first is entitled Hand-Saw Makers of North America. This is currently out of print but a PDF version can be ordered. I would however (in my opinion) say it’s WAY overpriced as the scan quality isn’t great, and after printing the PDF I found image quality hard to read.

HSMONA_Evr SchafferUsed copies are also getting out of hand with copies costing around $100. HOWEVER, and you read it here first, an updated version of the book is in the works. The publisher, after talking with yours truly, has been coerced into updating and reprinting. This is a joint effort that’s being headed up by members of the Mid-WTCA. Erwin Schaffer’s second book with the help from Don McConnell was entitled Hand-Saw Makers of Britain. Last time I checked this book was still available.  It’s also important to note that since the writing of both these books the popularity of saws has grown quite a bit, but neither of these books is the last word on the subject.

HSMOB_Erv SchafferI’ll hold off on internet resources as there are many great sites and collections. I’ll just add two that go along with this topic. Often my first stop when identifying British or non-US makers is backsaw.net. Ray, who started and runs the site, as well as the members are extremely helpful when flushing out dates and filling in the blanks on research. I’ll also add to check out his reference list and other articles in addition to the bulletin boards. The other useful reference is a list of reprints available online from Old Tool Heaven.

As always, thanks for reading. I’d like to wish everyone a Happy new! May all your dovetails turn out perfect in 2013. As I post this I just took delivery of some new old stock of both the 1876 price list and the Simonds 1919 catalog. check my website shortly if interested.

Joe Federici
Always buying, Always selling, and Always sharpening.