H. M. Finch Founder’s Day Tribute to E.C. Simonds

Ok, it’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog, but with winter kicking and screaming its way out, we’re FINALLY seeing signs of spring.

In the Northeast many of the tool clubs and auction houses have tool sales. I’m a one-trick pony, mostly interested in saws; plus, this being a less than full time job, at least paywise, I don’t make all of them.

I did make Patina and the Horst auctions. Both are within a few hours. One thing you learn when buying for resale is you have to have a budget. Sometimes that affords you lots and other times you leave empty handed. So far my budget has left some nice ones slip though my fingers but I’ve also picked up some as well.

Every seller is different, but when I’m putting time into something, I get a little attached to it., regardless if it’s a customer sending a saw for repair or something I’m readying for ebay.

The attachment I think comes not just from time in hand but all the time spent researching the saw. Sometimes it might be easy due to the popularity of a maker; other times it can take a while. I’m a sucker for custom etches and the unusual. These saws often are passed over by resellers just looking for resell value.

One recent example is a saw I’ve owned for many years but had little luck finding information on. The plate etch was mostly gone but the label screw was in good condition and read:

M. Finch’s
St. Louis

E.C Simonds H.M Finch’s PDF

The only info I found was a notation on Eve’s book on US makers, which had it listed and said, “See Simonds”. I did some digging on the internet and emailed a few friends. Fast forward to last week when I happened onto an article in Hardware Digest from the 20s Founder’s Day—In Memory of E.C. Simonds. I’ve attached it below but I perked up when I read that one of the speakers was a former employee at H. M. Finch. Add to that, Simonds later lived in St. Louis. I think Eve was on to something in his book. It’s possible that these saws were made by Finch but I think it’s more likely due to the age of my saw that it was a limited run, maybe done custom for Finch by Simonds. The screw also uses the Glover’s screw patent: date Dec. 27, 1887 which Simonds would have used.

If anyone has information to add I’d love to hear it. The saw in question is for sale and you can get more information on that in my ebay store.

Happy spring hunting from the Saw Monger.

watery view of Keystone Saw Works

Some of you might be aware another love of mine is kayaking. Mostly white water but not having any close I also paddle the Delaware river near Philadelphia.

You know what else is in Philly. Keystone Saw Work!

It’s mostly knocked down at this point but one of the big stacks and a few buildings still remain. Mos is currently used for commercial fleet stores and what looks like a junkyard but redevelopment will have its way at some point. I’ll get some pic from land in the next few weeks but till then enjoy a view most never see.

As seen today from Google maps. The area in the pics is marked in red

What’s great about these water view is you can check out the bulkhead made from discarded grinding stones. I really can’t give you much information on the stones and how old they are be but looking at the wood and nails used give some clues. I’d love to year some thoughts so please contact me if you have info.

If you reference the google map image, I’ve posted pics from left to right. The large stack in my pictures is located right about where “Majestic Sports” is marked on the map.

These are take at low tide so you get a good view of the stones.

Most of the buildings are in not so great shape.

I’ll make some time in the coming weeks to take a few pics of what remains of the grounds. Philly has a few Disston plaques and parks in the area.

Till then enjoy the 4th!

Joe F
Saw Mechanic




Teaching a man to fish. . .

No Tools to Lend This came to me from a friend and fellow tool hunter, Will Hight. It was tacked inside one of his father’s tool chests and through the miracle of modern technology I bring it to your attention. The original may have been printed at the turn of the century but the idea remains a hard truth even today.

We’ve all head or experienced the neighbor who borrow a tool then returns broken or in less then original condition. I’m going to take a leap here and say that most tool collectors and craftsmen don’t borrow; rather they save up and collect over time the tools that are needed. I know this is true for me and I’m also guessing for many of you. From an early age I was either taught or just came to realize the value of a tool. That’s a complex thing and really you could write volumes on it.

Tools of yore weren’t cheap and although they may have been well made don’t confuse that with hardy. I’ve read different statistics on carpentry tool pricing and some higher end pieces, like a plow plane with a full set of blades, could be upwards of a month’s wages. Something like a handsaw could be a few days’ to a week’s wages and to kink or bend a plate doesn’t take much effort. Take it from me!

handle-stamp03 As a collector and restorer, I always take note of the condition for the obvious reason such as resale, but also I enjoy the story it tells. Things like early owners’ marks are well placed and stamped with care by the first owners to the later hastily initials carved like a 10 year old. You see this in all aspects of saws. I’ve found PERFECT handles on saws that have well sharpened teeth and bent plates. These often become wall hangers and time capsules in a way. The lack of care also translates into the value one puts into the tool. You pay very little for something and it sees little care. I see owners’ marks like the growth rings in a tree; they color and shape the final product like a piece of birdseye maple and without them you’re left with a sheet of farm raised yellow pine. So if you tend to sand handles smooth and refinished I’d urge you to reconsider this heavy-handed reaction to the saw’s character.

handle-stamp02So in closing, the thought behind this sign may be: think before you borrow, or more simply, keep your hands off my shit. I hope it makes you think a little harder about the relationship between humans and their tools and how their value affects the outcome of them. I’m sure it’s something as collectors we understand better than most and the reason we enjoy collecting a tool for every job!


over the hills and through the woods

LakNox_10I’ve only been a member of the Mid-West tool collectors association for about a year and in time, although I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many members, making a gathering has been elusive. So when I found that the Area P chapter of the MWTCA would be holding a single day “cabin fever tool show” in conjugation with Browns tool auction, I quickly put it on the calendar. I soon realized it was the same weekend as a group rental at Lake Nockamixon, but what’s life without a little conflict, and figured it would sort it’s self out with time.

As the date got closer, it was looking like many of saw guys planned to attend. Mike Stemple and Dave Jeffers were driving out from OH. Mike also said Carl Bilderback, who I’ve been wanting to meet, would be coming with a display as well as some saws to sell. In addition to the Mid-West guys, locally David Latouche and his wife made the trip from Jersey as well. David’s always a good sport in helping find good users. We collect from different ends of the saw spectrum and often divide and conquer, dragging one another across the room to point out a good find!

As luck, or maybe traditional for this gathering would have it, a storm blew in the day before angrily bringing with it a deep freeze, and threat of snow and black ice. The change in weather and heavy salt changed any thoughts on driving the van out Friday and sadly decided to leave the house around 3:45 am in my Saab, Black Swan— a swan song in many ways. Last year of 900, last year 2 door SE, last year of the black/black exterior/interior, and last designed Saab before GM took ownership. That last one is a real Saab story for those of us who love them!

Now I’m an early-to-rise type of guy but pre 5 am is just crazy. Yet here I type it. The temps that morning when I plopped into the Saab read 14º! Thank God for seat heaters as I think it took the old girl a good 50 miles to get up to temperature. Once moving, however, the drive was mostly uneventful thanks in large part to the crazy amounts of sodium chloride on the roads these days, 20 million plus tons.

I also noted, ironically, I’m waking up to Echoes with host John Diliberto, something 10 years ago I routinely heard before going to bed. Somehow this fact really highlighted the early hour and my age.

Seeing the sunrise lifted the funk and coldness and my planned arrival worked out well. I’m a latecomer to GPS and still have a hard time relying on it. That said, as I get older reading a map and driving with it on par with texting and the Garman app for the iphone gets two thumbs up from this user. As I pulled into the lot I had time to spare and topped off my coffee, said hi to a few friends while looking at a few tables in the parking lot. Yes even in this crazy cold, it was 15º when I pulled in, and two sellers had table in the parking lot. The difference being they used the honor system for payment rather then standing in the cold.

LakeNox_07The theme I’m finding for most club shows is as follows, everyone huddles around the doors waiting for the ok to enter. At some point you get the ok and in we rush. I think just about everyone would agree the dust settles quickly and I’m normally done buying in the first 30 min. Bottom line is the early bird gets the worm. Jim Bode beat me to a really nice no 12 but I did pick up a few nice backsaws and later model d8 with really clean plate. The selection here was a bit better then the previous weekend that’s for sure.

The sales behind me, I change gears and socialize. Mike had brought me two really nice early saws in need of handle repairs and I also got the chance to meet and talk with Carl Bilderback. You may have read about him on Chris Schwarz or Matt Cianci: the saw blog but if not, he’s also done a few video’s for popular woodworking, this one on ripping. Regardless, he and Ron Herman are both on the short list of saw guys I’d like to meet. Carl, over the years has also become the go to for pantherhead saws including the recently repaired one he had at the show that put his total around 15, I think he said. On a side note, I recently sold a few saw catalogues to Ron and included a note explaining I’d love to learn a little more about the black arts of saw smithing and called me and hopefully I can work something out for the summer! Check and Check.


The author and true saw advocate

Mike, being a good friend, made the introduction after we talked saws. We dove right into all things saws talking about the saws he had brought and some I had just picked up. Carl has a collection of Goodell-Pratt mitre boxes and was interested in seeing the rare No.1625 I was selling. He went on to say the 1625 is quite rare not just for it’s small size, but also it didn’t show up in catalogs. Carl had also brought his perfect example of the Atkins “Demonstrating Saw” for teaching; shows proper and improper filing in different tooth configurations. Carl is also a carpenter and built a rotating display case that was equally as impressive.


Image left: A rare Atkins with adjustable handle. Image right: Carl’s impressive near perfect presentation saw

Afterwards, I walked around wanting to talk with some of the dealers from the Jersey/Philiy area and see how the winters been treating them. I also unexpectedly ran into to Don Rosebrook back from his travels abroad. Don’s better known for levels but really does have an impressive saw collection. I look forward to seeing some it this spring. As I’m sure you can tell, I rather enjoy the small talk. It’s one of the reasons guys like Mike, David, and Carl, are all friends.

Case and point the scratch awe found in many combination saws. Carla had brought a No. 38 to sell and explained that after cutting apart a broken handle, he discovers how the scratch awe was held in place. A thin piece of scrap saw plate was cut about 3/16 and then bent and pushed into the hole. The ends dig in to the wooden handle just enough to prevent it from popping out and the tension agents in the awe prevents it from sliding out. Very cool, no?


By this time the preview for the Browns auction was getting underway. My inventory is still quite good so it was time for me to get back on the road and meet up with my friends at the cabin for a big potluck dinner and fireside moonie council. The drive heading back northeast through PA is a nice one. Although cold, it was clear and sunny. Once in Quakertown, I stopped at two roadside antique stores. Once there, wine was flowing, I caught up with friends and a great time was had by all sharing stories of what we’ve been up to since the fall as well as exchanging camping dates for the spring and summer. I hit the hay 22 hours after I woke, laughing in the thought, Echoes was on.

LakeNox_06Next blog: Nitric Acid—it’s not just for drugs bombs. John Porritt spoke about tool restoration at February’s CRAFT tool meet and it’s uses.

I’ve also gotten a few notes about sharpening turnaround. I’m happy to report they are still running two weeks or less so for those in the need. Please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Joe Federici
Saw Monger

Measure Of Success

Success is all too often associated with money, and we all need it. But my goal when starting Second Chance Saw Works was enjoyment in what I’m doing, with hopes that it would lead to a better product and a market would follow.

With that in mind the show was a big success and I want to thank all the people who took the time to stop by. As ANYONE who knows me, I enjoy talking and tend to be passionate about things I enjoy, like saws. Being the new guy and latecomer to the event, my location originally was outside. But thanks to a little arm-twisting from Allen and Mario (boys in blue seen below) of Philadelphia Furniture Workshop, I got a location tucked inside which was nice due to the forecasted rain.

The show was both Friday and Saturday and I was told the turnout Friday was quite big with over 500 people. Saturday started off strong with lots of people interested in seeing the mill operate. I spent most of my time by my area so I didn’t get to check out all the offerings. Most people seemed to gravitate to tools; the selection offered by Lie-Nielsen is second to none.

At some point I struck up a conversation with Johnny, whose last name was “Apple” (per his nametag) which sounds a little suspicious. He works at Hearne Hardwoods. I watched him throughout the day demonstrating just how strong the new Festool light was by throwing it up about 15 feet in the air and watching it bounce off the concrete floor. I witnessed this at least 25-30 times and was struck by the thought that his own moxie might win out over the engineer’s design. I can happily report that when I left the light was still working. He also went over the use of their board rules (seen below) with number gauges to figure out size, something I’ve read a little about but never had the chance to use.

Due to the short notice I didn’t have a lot of time to gather things but did bring a few saws and my filing gear. One bonus for me was getting great ideas for future blogs; I’m always looking, so feel free to ask. Also exciting was getting invited to speak at one of the future meeting of the Delaware Valley Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers. Who knows, I may even try my hand at teaching. As they say, more TK. . . .

Joe Federici
Saw Monger-at-Large

Meet the Monger at Hearne Hardwoods

I realized this is very short notice but if you can make, or plan to attend the event please stop by. I’ll be outside setup near the mill.

Lie-Nielsen holds a few hand tool events throughout the US and I’ve been invited to attend the free one at Hearne Hardwoods. To read more about the event click here and directions clock here.

If you live in the Philadelphia area and haven’t visited H.H you really should make the trip now or in the future. They are one of the largest specialty lumberyards in the world, with over 100 species of domestic and exotic hardwood lumber in stock. Their facilities include a lumber showroom, woodworking classroom, milling & molding machinery, and a 67” vertical bandsaw sawmill capable of resawing almost anything. The mill alone is work the trip.

With the short notice I’m not sure what I can cobble together but for sure will bring my workmate/vice-stand and a few saws. I won’t be offering sharping there but happy to talk all things saws for those of you interested.

Hope some of you can make it otherwise next year I’ll do a better job of getting the word out.

Joe Federici
Your Saw Advocate

Blue– it’s the new Black

I’ve gotten a few compliments from friends and customers about the rebluing of backs I do in my restoration of saws and figured I’d share the process I use.

The basic idea behind the blued backs is the same as gun barrels, to prevent rust and add a little protection. This is achieved by “hot bluing” where linseed oil was applied to hot metal.  The process works well; however, over time it’s been shown to wear. Personally, I’m a fan of the process but not wanting to reheat the metal I find “cold bluing” that uses chemicals works great and at this point I’ve reblued a few dozen backs.

The process is not complicated so I’ll do my best to keep the directions simple.  The terminology however can be. I’ll call the back ridge where the toothed plate is installed the “Back.” The saw plate where the sharp teeth are is the “Plate.” The chemical we’ll be applying is often sold as a “rebluer” for guns or a “darkening agent or blackener.”

The process can be done with the plate still in the back or with the back removed. I would say if you need to take the plate out for other reasons, like smithing, do so before you darken it; otherwise you can tape it off.

To start off, remove the handle and expose the back. Chances are with the handle removed you’ll find some left over bluing.  STOP! Think about how old that is, most likely over 100 years. Kind of cool, no? Keep your nuts in order! Insert a few jokes related to nuts!

I find poking holes in two rows, screws next to nuts in a piece of cardboard works well. Anyone who took small engine repair in high school can thank their shop teacher.

If you’re going to remove the plate for smithing or replacement, do so now. If not, you can tape off where the plate meets the back. Wait and do that after you clean and sand.

Sanding, scraping, or soaking, everyone has a process they like. Most of the time I’m removing the plates and find it’s easier to sand them apart. The plate normally gets more attention as the smoothness helps its function by reducing friction.

The smoothness of the back however doesn’t affect function and therefore doesn’t need to be overly polished. I usually sand with 220, 400, and 600, and if the rest of the saw is really clean, 800. If you didn’t remove the plate, tape off the edge of the back and sand the plate. Don’t get hung up on the final grit, it’s more about the aesthetics. You engineers, relax; put your slide rulers and calibers away. Keep in mind that if you’re not taking the plate out of the back you should sand the plate and the back before you reblue. If you’re removing the plate, the sanding of it is not an issue and just needs to be done before assembly.

With the back prepared you need to remove any residue or grease before applying the rebluing or darkening agent. Take note: if you find scratches and aren’t happy, go back and sand again; most scratch marks are caused by skipping grades of sandpaper. As my 5th grade shop teacher would point out, dull 100 grit sandpaper is NOT 200; it’s just a waste of your time.

If you’ve ever painted metal or done body work, you most likely have used paint prep and know the importance of doing so. For most types of bonding with metal, cleanliness is important; skipping this step is not an option. If you don’t own paint prep, acetone works fine; you just need to watch streaking, and wear gloves and a mask. When you’re wiping down the back, if your rag is getting dirty, you need to get to a point when it’s clean. The issue being that any oil or liquid will affect the lay-down and chemical reaction. The wiping down with paint prep is just to remove residue from sanding; it’s not part of the cleaning process.  Double check both ends of the back as they often get overlooked. Go back and fix any issues and wipe down again; when you’re happy, it’s way easier to address scratches and such now.

Ready to rock! Double check the tape for those of you with plates still attached. Also, check that the back is dry and streak free from your paint prep step. Get your rags or cotton balls out, plus the rebluer or darkening agent of choice. See notes below on supplies. Also note some will stain your skin.

The idea is to wipe on the darkener in one smooth stroke. Try not to blot or wipe back and forth. I’ve experimented with dipping and it works great; however, it uses a good deal of liquid and I find if you’re careful, wiping works great.

Most rebluers or darkeners I’ve used quickly react with the metal. I normally wet a cotton ball but a clean rag will work fine as well. The chemical reaction is quick enough that you’re just wiping on, not scrubbing. If you start to see streaks or other discoloration, resist the urge to wipe more on. The streaks are most likely residue left from your paint prep step.

Finish the one side and use a paper towel or clean rag to wipe off any extra. The finish will look dull, rainbowed, and darker than you wanted; that’s good. Flip the back over and do the other side. Remember to do the ends, then wipe off any excess.

With both sides done, use some 0000 extra fine steel wool. I buy mine by the roll and cut to length. Note I said CUT. Ripping steel wool reduces its effectiveness and creates more metal fragment and dust; work smart.

Buff the applied area until the shine comes up and you’re happy. Buffing does remove some of the applied finish so if it’s a little dark, just buff it a little longer. If after buffing you find things don’t look good, you can apply a second coat. Keep in mind that the chemical reaction lessens with each application. Also with the second coat, you should wipe off and dust first and feather on and off if you’re just looking to work a small area.

At this point if you’re cursing my name, relax. The back can be lightly sanded with 400 and the process repeated. Most backs I do require a second touch up coat; you shouldn’t be going for 3rds.

At this point you should be ready to reinstall or “Knock On” your newly blued back or grab sandpaper and start over. Let me know how it goes and if you’re having trouble with the directions.


Joe Federici
Saw  Magnet

List of supplies

Darkening agent: also used for rebluing guns and aging of brass. These are just a few brand markets that often require hazardous shipping fees, so buy local when you can:
• Antique brass darkening solution by WIS Distributors
• Birchwood Casey PSP Gun Blue
• Jax brand Iron, Steel and Nickel Blackener

Sandpaper: Brand of your choice. I normally use wet dry.

Cotton balls or rags:
I get my cotton balls at the dollar store and a bag lasts me a few months.

Rust remover:
Brand of your choice. If you find you don’t want to dip the entire back to prevent etching of the metal I find soaking a cotton ball and leaving on the metal works well.

Brand of your choice. I use one with replaceable razor blades

Dental pick:
Works well for cleaning an etch if need be. Be careful.

Steel wool:
The finer the better. I use Liberon (oil free) grade 0000 steel wool sold through tools for working wood and on-line.

Other Safety items:
Gloves, mask, and safety glasses, all of your choice. Also be smart about things; read labels and know which chemicals, like acetone, are nasty stuff; so cover any skin it will come in contact with and don’t use it when not necessary.

The Monger in Motion

Left picture of the group. Right me running pillow rapid. Raft Co take picture to sell back to commercial rafter and private boaters.

I had a great time in WV for the first weekend of the Gauley release.  September in WV is the reverse of March in NJ.  Comes in like a lamb and leaves like lion, and we had near perfect conditions with some rain on Saturday thru midday.

I did pack my camera, sadly with a dead battery, but forgot the charger.  I boat with a great group of friends, but netted one picture between all of them.  Pictorial historians they are not.

Getting home late for me, 1:30 AM, then scrambling Monday to get saws packed and off to the post office set the tone for the week.  I’ve been busy with my day job and whispering to saws at night.  Happily, the sharpening end of the business has picked up.  As a new card carrying member of North American Vintage Tool Monger Association, or NAVTMA, I’m working double time to keep turnaround at a minimum, often shipping back in the same week.  So thank you to those that continue to send in stuff for me to ogle.

Next week is another busy one for the Monger.  It’s a mash-up of work and hobbies.  I’m leaving Wednesday after work and driving to New Hampshire for the MJ Donnelly fall auction.  I’m mostly interested in the tailgate that runs through Saturday.

Friday Tailgate at Nashua Spring 2012

Due to my regular job, my plan consists of getting there late Wednesday, then getting up crazy early with the rest of the fools.  Thankfully for me, having a stove next to you, aka my VW camper, eases the pain.  I’ll be the only one with coffee in hand while walking with flashlights.  It’s a real sight to see grown men run across a parking lot to the boot of a car as someone pulls a table out.  I’m sure a grad student could find some interesting research but I digress.

From the turning trees of New Hampshire I’ll head southwest to Watkins Glen State Park in the Empire State to rendezvous with a group of VW vandwellers at Westies at Watkins.  The gathering is in its 11th year and becomes the fall destination for most vandwellers in the northeast.  Good turnouts number around 50 vans and drivers coming from Canada push the numbers north.  The short two days I’m there are mostly spent catching up with fellow friends, talking all things VW, and hiking the surrounding gorges.  Did you know Ithaca is gorges?

By this point most would throw in the towel but not us Mongers!  Monday I’ll head towards Rochester to meet up with a local collector to look over some saws he’s hoping to sell, and with a little luck I’ll meet up with my roommate from college for lunch before heading back home.

Round trip just under 1,000 and 18 hours of driving. I guess it goes without saying, “I love a good road trip!”

And in keeping with the circle of life theme this 16 inch Robert Sorby is in deck for a full Resto-Saw process. more shortly . . .

Joe Federici
Saw wrangler-at-large