The missing fine print on using a Foley retoother

Foley_01I was asked by Dana Horton to talk a little about the use of a foley retoother, as most of the time when buying one the previous owner has never used or seen the manual.

Luckily the PDF manual can be found on-line in large part thanks to Mark Stansbury and his Foley site. So to streamline things I’m writing this as an overview and covering things the manual doesn’t. If you own a retoother, the one thing I’m leaving out that is important is adjusting the cutting heads. I think the manual does a good job going over it, but if you have issues feel free to email me.

Foley made a few models over the years but the two most common are the early 30/31 and later 385. The model 30 and 31 are the same with the exception that the later 31 was sold standard with the electric motor. The later 385 design also works about the same with some updates to the carrier system using parts consistent with the filer sold at this time.

I currently use the 285 but have owned and used the 30/31 quite a bit. Note that all the models up until Foley merged with Belsaw use the same carrier and ratchet bar system; so when buying a retoother it’s important to get ALL the parts. Very often the ratchet bars are missing or the seller also has a filer and only has one set of carriers for both. From experience I find you’re better off just passing on incomplete sets as most are missing the same part, the ratchet bars.

Foley_02If the toother you bought is complete you should have the retoother, 3 carriers: straight, crown, and backsaws and 5 or more ratchet bars. The standard bars included with most are: 13-7-4, 8-4.5, 9-5, 10-5.5, 11-6. The optional bars sold individually were 12-6.5, 14-7.5, 15-8-4.5, 16-8.5. The last two containing 15 and 16 ppi were the hardest for me to find. The ratchet bars are marked for points per inch that the bar would cut teeth for.

The ratchet bars fit in all the carriers the same. The carriers have 3 slots that the tabs on the ratchet bars slide into. Once together the carriers then slide into grooved wheels on the machine. Next check that the rake angle is set correctly for your needs. The machine will cut from 0º-30º by loosening the “T” handle or knobs depending on the unit. Don’t expect the angles to be perfect. If you use the unit enough you can mark your corrected angles on the gauge.

Foley_03Note: It’s REALLY important to tighten the knobs. The unit creates a lot of vibration and in most cases any mistake made will destroy the plate.

With the rake angle set the next step is to set the feed rate.  Locate the feeder paw in the center of the unit and lift it upright. Now look at the cutting head just below and manually rotate the flywheel so the head is in its highest position. This allows the carrier clearance, and you to check the feed rate. At this point no saw is attached to the carrier.

Foley_04The ratchet bar can be set for 2 or more pitches (space between teeth AKA points per inch). Looking at the leading edge of the bar there will be 2 or 3 numbers. The first number will be higher, the second lower and so on. The numbers corresponds to the PPI it will cut and the placement in the order denotes how many teeth the paw skips between passes. The first number is achieved when the paw grabs every tooth. The second is skipping a tooth and the third number is skipping 3 teeth. To adjust the paw, rotate the knob directly at the end. This allows you to reduce or increase the distance with each full rotation. With the carrier installed slide it up to the paw, flip the paw over, and manually rotate the wheel. Adjust the knob to correspond to what’s needed for your PPI.

I want to stress it’s really important to hand rotate the machine to check you’re grabbing the correct number, then test run the machine to make sure the adjustment is good. A little play is needed so that it doesn’t jump a tooth. Note that no saw is in the carrier while this is being tested. How the paw grabs the tooth is something that needs to be checked EVERYTIME you change the bars or carriers. It’s also important to adjust the rake angle BEFORE you adjust the paw as the angle affects the travel. Failure to set the paw properly will result in the retoother jumping between the smaller and bigger PPI on the bar and you will need to start over.

Foley_05With the paw set, lift it back up and now slide the carrier out. The handle always, always, always goes to the left. The only exception would be a pull stroke saw. Keep in mind the handle is often removed or you may be toothing a new backsaw plate so it’s easy to mix up and the results will always suck. …BTDT. When I retooth new backsaw plates I use a sharpie and put an “H” where the handle will go. I also mark every carrier bar “ <————— HANDLE” denoting proper position.

The saw plate is held fast by three tabs and wing nuts. The plate with or without handle is loaded and centered on the bar. A simple gauge (that should be included with sale!) is used to align how proud the toothline is held on the carrier. As you can imagine, the prouder it sits, the more is cut off. The bigger the teeth, the prouder it sits. Once adjusted tighten the wing nuts.

Be real mindful here. Vibration is something this machine makes in spades. If the clips aren’t seated well, they can slip allowing the nuts to loosen, and then any number of things can happen and none will result in a smile. I wouldn’t go so far as to use mechanical aids to tighten them as the other issue is they aren’t real heavy duty; just double check and wiggle the tabs to check they are seated.

Once happy I like to manually slide up to the cutting head and manually rotate the cutting head to see how much will be cut. The gauge used is very basic so it’s good to check you’re not taking more than necessary.

At this point we’re ready to rock and roll. Pull the carrier back out so the machine can run a bit before it starts cutting. I like to use a gel type cutting fluid on the edge of the saw. When ready flip the paw down. Do one more manual rotation; maybe flip the power on and off just to check that it’s grabbing correctly, then let her rip. Once the saw completes cutting, turn it off. Flip the paw up and slide the carrier out.

Foley_06There are a few caveats on running the toother. As stated earlier the toother makes a good deal of vibration. On top of that, the carrier is long and fairly lightweight. This amplifies the vibration and in extreme cases, like cutting rip teeth with 0º rake, the unit can skip a tooth. I find if I use both hands to help support the carrier it reduces the vibration quite a bit. I’ve also experimented with a wooden block to act as a guide. Whatever you can do to minimize vibration through the cutting process is good. Also in the event things go south, stopping and restarting the toother in the middle of a cut is not possible. If you stop you will need to start over; it’s best to joint the saw flat and start again.

The force of cutting, along with the condition of the cutting parts, will cause the plate to bend. Because of this I use two identical retoothers, one for backsaws (less abuse) and another for panel (more abuse). Either unit in good working order produced a slight bend that’s easily fixed. However if the cutting head chips or dulls the effects vary but most often results in extremely bent plates that require smithing.

As you can see there are plenty of pitfalls and I’m leaving out resurfacing the anvil and hammer, AKA the cutting parts. This comes with its own set of trouble. However, all of these things aside, a properly adjusted retoother is useful and makes short work of retoothing when needed; I don’t hesitate to use mine.

If you’re in the market to buy one, I strongly recommend downloading and reading the section about setting and checking the cutting parts. When going to look at one, use a scrap piece of printer paper. A properly adjusted unit should cut a “V” in the paper when the flywheel is manually rotated. If it doesn’t it’s out of adjustment. Also take a flashlight and check out the cutting head. If you see chips, the head will need to be surfaced. You can read more about that in the manual.

Hopefully this gives you an overview and a little respect of the process. If you have other questions, feel free to ask.

Joe Federici
Saw Mechanic

Shape of things to come

Shape_01I haven’t spent a lot of time on the blog talking about the process of filing as I don’t consider myself a particularly good writer, rather I have a good friend who edits my incoherent thoughts and the web already has a few good sources. I think the most popular is Pete Taran’s, “Saw Filing–A Beginner’s Primer”. No single text can cover all the finer points so I thought I’d dive into some of the problem areas that are often not covered.

I’ll start with a common and frustrating problem — broken teeth.

Shape_02Regardless if you’re starting today or have been filing for years, a broken tooth or worse yet, breaking one when setting, is just one of the things you deal with from time to time. There is truth to the fact that you tend to find more broken teeth on the higher end “London Spring Steel” due to the extra-hardened steel but most often the cause is resetting a tooth in the opposite direction after it’s been set.

IMGP0194But however it happened you’ll need to joint the teeth even with flats on the tops. This would be SOP for starting the process of sharpening any saw regardless of the condition.

The difference with a broken or chipped tooth is that the amount of jointing will vary depending on how low the tooth breaks. A small chip may just be an extra few swipes of the file but if the tooth breaks below the gullet you’ll need to repeat the process, making two passes or joint flat and cut new teeth, the latter being more tricky and time consuming.

Here’s a tip on selecting a file for jointing. Many use an 8″mill (shape) in a smooth cut (grade) and this is a good overall size that works well with a lot of the jigs, commercial or homemade, to help file the teeth square to the tool’s face. The goal is to flatten and not round the tops of the teeth while jointing. The simplest jig is a scrap of hardwood with a kerf in the block that allows the file to be held with a firm friction fit. The file should sit proud of the block at least ½ the thickness of the file.

Over time I’ve found a larger 10″ or 14″ file slightly coarser, bastard or second cut, works better, faster and with the larger size I don’t need the jig.

Another pitfall to watch for is not jointing enough. MAN UP and make a few passes. Don’t worry about taking 1/8 off a 5 or 1/16 off an 11 point. Unless the saw has been recently sharpened, chances are the teeth and gullets need some help and you can’t do that with a flat that will be gone in 2 swipes of your file.

Shape_03Also note, if you’re adjusting rake angle by more than a few degrees it’s really important to make sure the file is seated in the gullet otherwise the file wobbles resulting in hooked teeth. You’ll run into this hooked tooth problem more with rip saws as people tend to use a wider selection of angles than cross cut.

The easy solution when changing rake angles significantly is to joint way down on the gullets. This is relative to the tooth size as a smaller file is easier to control in hand. One common example is changing a rip saw from the old standard of 8º to something a little more contemporary like 0º on a 5 points per inch saw. In this case I would joint down to around ½ the size of the teeth and really pay attention to holding the angle correctly.

Ok, enough on the jointing. With the teeth now flattened you can shape them. I find when shaping teeth after a deep jointing I like to work in stages. I’ll do 3 or 4 passes on every tooth but leave some flat at the top. It’s really important to let any short teeth go and resist the urge to file them! Look a few teeth down the line. If you’ve got a short tooth coming up let the tooth before and after go. Finish getting the rest close so there is just a hair of the flats left. If you know you’re going to be jointing again, do get fussy at this point. That said it’s good practice if need be.

Shape_04Now bite your lip and joint the saw again till those short or broken teeth are the same height. The point of jointing and shaping twice allows not only to correct the short or broken teeth but also to even out the spacing or pitch and gullet depth.

One thing often neglected when reading about filing is the importance of consistent gullet depth and keeping them even to the tooth height. I find two things help.

First don’t get fixated on JUST the flats when you sharpen. Drop your head and look at the baseline of your gullets. Is it as straight as your tooth line?

The other tip is a technique that’s often used to prevent cows and calves, or big and little teeth, a hurdle many Jr. Smiths face. The fix is to file each tooth a set amount like 2 strokes then move to the next tooth, leaving some flat on each tooth. This way they all come into shape at the same time. The added side effect I find is your gullets are more even. I personally prefer this method most of the time. The exception is a really short plate or if the shape of the teeth is very good from the outset.

Keep in mind if you’ve got a really bad saw where the pitch or space between the teeth is inconsistent you’ll need to adjust the spacing.

With practice you’ll find there are limits to how far you can push and pull a tooth by filing the front or back BEFORE you run out of flat. Depending on the inaccuracy of the pitch you may need to joint a few times. Above all keep in mind you just need to resist filing the tooth past its flat.

Shape_05At some point everything will be even, the teeth will be the correct shape and the gullets perfect. Stop and have a beer!

I’ll leave off here and talk a little about setting and sharpening another time.

Joe Federici
Saw Monger & Advocate

The Quest for Fastnacht

Horst_03A few weeks ago I wrote about the Horst auction; in short, getting skunked and barely lifting my arm to bid.

A few weeks later there was the winter tool auction so I thought I’d give it another go. I also met up with my friend Malissa so the time worked to serve double-duty as she’s been helping to get my paperwork in order.

There wasn’t a tremendous amount of saws but more than last time and I figured it was a good opportunity to meet many of the local dealers. Most of the better saws I find I buy directly and auctions are a great place to network.

The day job prevented the possibility to preview so I was up before the rooster Saturday and made the trip to Lancaster, PA in traffic-free record time.

Horst_05Getting there when the doors opened left me plenty of time to look things over. The auction contained a nice collection of over 500 items. Most were wooden planes and tools from the Pennsylvania area. In addition to the stuff inside they had some larger box lots outside. As is the nature of box lots, most consisted of heavy items and/or project restorations. I did spy a cool metal user-made saw vise. The price went way more than its usefulness. I wouldn’t even want to think about shipping it so the idea of resale held no value to this Monger.

Horst_049 am was game time. I looked around to see who was there. I’m still someone new to auctions in this area and am finding prices overall a bit higher this year. This is a good thing, except I don’t think the users and collectors got the memo.

Coffee in one hand, auction number and notes in the other, I was following along writing down prices on things I found interesting. The first few saw lots came up and the buyers looking to stock up drove the process above market, so I walked outside to see the box lots for a little while. They run the inside and outside box lots simultaneously so I founds lots of wives and friends proxy bidding.

Horst_02The next group of saws contained Disston cone nuts that looked like a hardware store addition with metal plate sides. I’m a fan of metal plated handles of all makers and these were missing a few nuts, so I figured I might have a shot. Well, wrong again, but this is where the story gets interesting. Where I was sitting my view was blocked and I thought the high bidder was a seller from around Wilkes-Barre, PA, whom I’d had met at the Mid-West gathering a few weeks earlier.

Seeing a repeat of a few weeks ago I figured it was just around midday and I’d cut my losses and head back to the shop. I had a few handle repairs and no shortage of sharpening and thought the time would be better spent. I gathered up things and walked over to Jason (thinking he had bested me on the saws) to see if he had any more info on the saws.

After shaking hands he corrected me and said it was another collector from right in the same area that had won the saws.  Introductions were made to Terry who then told me he’s a collector of wooden planes and all things made in the Lancaster area, in addition to a weakness for unusual saws with no particular makers in mind. We walked outside and he had an interesting Mathieson he picked up locally. I’m not an expert on them but this one had brass hardware similar to the McNiece Patent. We talked about it and, seeing I was empty-handed, he said he was downsizing his collection and had a few user saws that might be of interest.

Figuring my luck at the auction was a bust and he was heading home, I followed him for the short but nice trip through the farm roads of Lancaster back to his house. Not knowing what to expect I was overwhelmed by his collection. Terry was a bit modest; he too is a member of the Mid-West Tool Collectors Association and had been collecting for many years. The saws were impressive but secondary to his collection of wood molding planes. I looked over and talked with him about a few. My knowledge of plane makers and wood planes in general is lacking.

Note to self: pay more attention to Josh Clark at the boot sales!

Regardless, it’s always fun talking with someone that has so much first hand information and examples from years of collecting.

Horst_08After the quick tour and lesson we walked down to the basement and unstacked some (nice) saw chests containing a few dozen saws each. Most were from the early 20th century and a few real early American makers. Mind you, not everything was looking for a new home but I was happy with the selection of really good users and a few rare ones as well. We figured out a fair price and then carried them out to my car.

Horst_07Feeling a little better about things, I returned to the auction to see where things were in the process. I waited out about 20 lots just to see the last of the saws go above market and then smiling headed back to the car to find a place to eat. I’d been hoping to get some local Dutchie foods, such as Fastnacht which is normally made this time of the year.

I always look for local things whenever I travel. I’m big on pulling u-turn’s and slamming on the brakes when I pass a farm stand. Malissa knowing this had emailed me about Fastnacht Day which I googled and learned is a Pennsylvania Dutch tradition that falls on Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, aka Fat Tuesday, the traditional day to eat the best or maybe the richest sweets before the Lenten fast.

Horst_01However, despite my best efforts, and maybe in retribution for the good fortune with saws, I had no luck finding a local fresh bakery or restaurant offering local cuisine.  In the end we decided on a local sandwich shop that was very good. Udder Choice claims the largest selection of ice cream scoops in the US; I figured it was roughly at over 200, which didn’t seem that impressive.  I mean, I have more than 200 saws and the other week, when talking with Carl, he knows a collector that has over 3000.

Horst_06So I settled for a trunk full of choice saws over Fastnachts and I think my waistline is happier for it. But next year Fastnacht day falls on March 4th so get ready; I know I will.

Joe Federici
Saw Monger and Duchy food connoisseur

Inside the anarchist cabinet

Craft_04One thing you may have noticed about the saws I bring to market is I don’t discriminate.

I regularly do handle repairs of all types and as time goes on I’m finding I enjoy the process more and more. I’ve always had an interest in restoration and the experimentation to get it “just right” and just plain messing about to get the needed finish or treatment.  It’s a lot of experimentation and research plus a healthy understanding of color and light. Those last two things transfer well from many years approving color at magazines and now at catalogs.

But enough about me and on with the blog.

In the fall of 2012 I attended the fall MJD auction in NH (see link for post). It was a fun show and although it didn’t make the highlights I had the pleasure of meeting John Porritt. Like many others, John started building furniture then gravitated to other specialties including: Windsor chairs and repair/restoration of furniture and tools.

We struck up a conversation while looking over some saws, made introductions, and as often is the case, John was a lover of all handsaws as well. John as it turns out is a fan of Atkins saws, something you don’t expect from a native of England. I explained I tended to lean more towards Disston for resale but I’m an equal opportunity collector and rather like Peace and Richardson.

Later that day after things slowed down we talked with more detail about restoration and dealing with broken horns on handles. John explained a process he favors, curving, and he found a way to trick the eye and blend the seam naturally. I hadn’t really formulated the idea at that time, but now as I look back I see it more clearly.

The ideal repair is hidden in plain sight, not under 6 coats of paint. Something easier said than done. The idea of matching wood is a multi-step process of backwards engineering and not about brushing stain on to cover the joint.

He was kind enough to extend an invitation to visit; we exchanged cards and before weekend’s end we had traded saws. Sadly it was already fall and within weeks the colder weather had set in and I figured I’d try again in the spring.

Fast forward, and as I was looking over the February meeting of CRAFTS of New Jersey, I saw that John was on the docket to speak in Highbridge, NJ and the Sunday looked free so I made plans to attend.

I’ve been a member of CRAFT for a while now but due to schedules and life I have only made the spring tool auction held at a different location but still in Hunterdon County, a very nice section of the garden state. It would be a little troublesome to travel to but I’m willing to bet that’s part of the reason.

The February meet was in the midst of a cold snap that threatened a little snow but as luck would have it the rich blue winter sky was clean for the pre-meet tailgate. The colder temps reduced my eagerness for pictures but not the car boot sales. I counted about 12 or more sellers with a good selection of tools ranging from top shelf to long-term projects. Everyone was happily milling about unaffected by the cold. These boot sales are as much about connecting and making new friends as buying and selling. You find over time it’s often one in the same. It’s a similar experience I have at my local green market and outdoor markets that are popping up all over the country and are in stark contrast to sales on eBay.  If this were the SAT’s it would read.

Ebay is to Boot sales as Walmart is to:

  1. McDonalds
  2. Main street America
  3. G.M
  4. Farm markets
  5. Both B and D

Ok enough eBay bashing . . . It’s like the roads in Pennsylvania, low hanging fruit.


Back to the CRAFT meeting. I walked the lot, found John, and he keyed me into some interesting saw manufacturer catalog reprints. I thoroughly enjoy the old illustrations and find them a great resource. I’d love to reproduce some on t-shirts in the future. I also picked up a few good saws, a nice early Disston No. 8 with a beautiful handle and an American Boy that needed a top horn repair.

Craft_01By noon people started moving indoors and John was in the midst of unloading two dozen or more cans and jars filled with all types of liquids, powders, and waxes. In short I thought “the anarchist cabinet.” Some were simple things like a piece of rust from a leaf spring found in the Hudson, crushed into a powder.  Others were dyes, stains, and pigments mixed with waxes and soap. Lastly there were the more caustic things used for bleaching color out.  Things like nitric and boric acid and hydrogen peroxide are used for pulling color out of woods.

John started off with a little background and history. He was an orphan, who endured a miserable existence in an English workhouse. He escaped and traveled to London where he met the Artful Dodger, leader of a gang of juvenile pickpockets. Oh wait! That’s Oliver Twist.  John did however move here from England (I think he said 5 years ago) and now lives with his wife on the tail end of the Taconic Parkway, which I think would be considered part of the Berkshires but don’t quote me on that; I can’t do all the research.

Craft_02Once done with the introduction he jumped right into things. He brought some really nice completed examples of work as well as a portfolio of furniture and chairs.  He was here to talk about restoration and brought a few recently made replacement wedges for wood molding planes.

Having limited time everything was done high level but at the same time he offered lots of useful tips, tricks, and resources including an out of print book by Michael Bennett, “Discovering and Restoring Antique Furniture: A Practical Illustrated Guide for the Buyer and Restorer of Antique Furniture.” Note that the hardcover seems to sell for less than the paperback and contains the same copy. I’ve since read through about ½ and am really enjoying it.  It’s cut down that feeling of reinventing the wheel.

John went over some thoughts on wood selection and how he starts the process depending on whether the wood needs to be darkened or lightened to match back to the piece. In most cases it’s darkening and the example he worked was such. Unlike what you might think it doesn’t start with stain.  Think reverse engineering like I talked about earlier.  The process starts with aging and stressing the wood. John used a number of shop-made and found tools including a (1970’s Black and Decker drill) outfitted with a crazy looking paint stripper that looked like a softer nylon wheel. For sure, not OSHA approved! Other tools of interest were a vintage ivory burnisher, leather tools, and a WWI era chainmail pot scraper. His were the real deal but I did find they are still made today. In short the goal here is to add texture and also smooth out the wood. John worked in stages getting the wood texture correct before adding color. In fact color seemed to be the last thing he added. After tapping, burnishing with the BACK of sand paper, and other black magic, he got into the color. Bleaches and acids are used; author’s note: look alive and follow labels. I’ve worked with nitric acid and it’s nasty stuff.

John applies dyes and stains of all types. Like anyone he’s found colors and brands that work well and he applies them in small amounts along with organic material like rust and natural pigments. One tip I picked up was the use of a heat gun. I’ve used them in the past for all types of things but never thought about it when working with multiple finishes. As he worked through the process he passed examples around and held things up to see.  I did my best to take a few pictures.

By the end John had covered a multitude of things and given out some really great tips. He doesn’t currently have a website; he’s more of a phone person but does have email and you can contact me for his number.  I don’t want to post it but I’m happy to pass it out. He’s done work for some of the big guys like Jim Bode, Patrick Leach, and Leon Kashishian, whom I’ve recently come to know. He hails from the fine borough of Hatfield, PA and is a fellow collector of the fine early makers of Philadelphia saws.

next blog we head BACK to Lancaster in search of Fasnachts! and saws

Joe Federici
Saw Monger and anarchist at heart

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

Good pie and cheap gas

VAPA_01Enticed by the thought of possibly owning a panther head saw, I decided to take a chance, eat a workday, and make the trip to the family owned and operated Horst auction facility in the heart of Amish country. As it turned out so did one of the bigger resellers of vintage tools. Oh well. A good friend and fellow veeduber and now blogger Malissa Weikel made the trip which made for some fun conversation and catching up, with the vans mostly off the road to save them from all the salt used on roads in the northeast.

VAPA_02Unlike most of the auctions I attend, this one was primarily early American arts and crafts, furniture and décor, something not in my wheelhouse. But as it turned out, being from the area Malissa had a good working knowledge that we tested while previewing. Also not knowing the place I got there a little early to register and check things out. The selection of tools wasn’t much but what was there was nice and after previewing we grabbed some homemade soup and pie.

VAPA_03At some point the topic changed to record keeping as Malissa handles the books for a family run furniture/design company The Cutting Edge, as well as her brother’s insurance company. Sitting behind us, Doug Robinson owner of As Good As Old overheard us (those that know me know I’m anything but soft spoken!) and offered solutions he’s found. Doug, Malissa, and I then talked for a bit about that, tools in general, and of course saws!

VAPA_04With the time fast approaching my hopes of owning a panther head saw were dashed as Jim Bode walked in. For those of us who know Jim, he’s a really nice guy but business is just that and he deals in large volume; within 3 bids the price was above my limit. There were a few other saws on the docket so I figured I’d see how things went; however Jim was on a roll and it was one of those days I left empty handed. Regardless, I made a few friends and learned a few things including what Chow Chow is.

From the Amish countryside of PA, my next stop was the outskirts of Richmond, VA to a friend and fellow saw lover Mark Stansbury. Now for those of you who live in this part of the country, you know running the gauntlet between the inner harbor of Baltimore to Washington, DC is a textbook example of road rage. In hindsight I hit 4 fender benders on 95 in a 10-mile stretch. My leaving around 4pm on Friday didn’t help much but I’ll spare you the blow by blow.

Once there, I stopped for gas, doubled check my directions, and was surprised by the cheap price of $3.13; nice!

VAPA_05I don’t remember when I first emailed with Mark but I’m sure it had to do with Foley equipment. I consider myself to have a better than average working knowledge of the retoothers they made but when it comes to the rest of the line up and the filers in particular, Mark’s your man. In addition he updates a blog Foley Filer. Any of us who own Foley equipment know that they breed like rabbits, and one of the reasons I was heading to his house. I’ve had a Model 61 filer, a late model power setting, and 30/31 retoother sitting in my back shed for the better part of a year while I found homes for them.

PAVA_06Once settled in Mark gave me a quick tour of the shop. His shop space like mine is quite small and Mark built the above ground non-poured foundation to simplify the permit process. Considering its size it’s really quite an impressive loft space with running water! Currently the loft is used for storage of his collection of mostly US made saws. By this time it was getting late so we tabled the saw talk till the AM along with unloading the filer.

The show was a bit later than normal with no tailgating and was billed as “The Richmond Antiques Spectacular.” The tool sale was in conjunction with the local tool club Richmond Antique Tool Society or RATS for short.

So not needing to rush we unloaded the Foley. If you’ve not had the pleasure of carrying a Foley filer, I’ll just say that keeping it to a minimum distance is a real priority. Mark’s garage wasn’t far from the driveway and after manhandling it into place I caught my breath. Looking around I’d say his garage houses the largest collection of Foley equipment I’ve yet to see. I was a little awestruck to say the least. With labor done we finished up the tour from the night before; I wanted to see a few things in the daylight. All I can say is everywhere we went Mark’s got saws. Plus they are really well organized (note to self) and tucked away; needless to say it’s a good size collection and I couldn’t talk him out of a single saw! Hell, I even got some out of Mike Stemple and I thought that was the litmus test for saw negotiation.

I did end up getting a replacement die and hammer for my retoother and although they aren’t a high wear item they do get worn down over time; not having access to a surface mill it’s nice to have a backup.

VAPA_06By this time it was getting close to go time and I followed Mark. We grabbed a quick bite and continued onto the antique and tool sale just a few minutes before the doors opened. I was heading back afterwards so I walked the room with purpose looking for saws of interest. Mike introduced me to a couple of the RATS members, Rick Long president and Joe Fisher.  I found 2 nice D-8 rips and Mark got 2 nice examples of “new” 16.

The last item to cross off the list was the hand over of my 30/31 filer to Dana Horton. Dana had picked up a Model 30 retoother that’s pre-electric motor and had emailed to ask a few questions about its use. I offered my 30/31 as the parts don’t swap out with the later models and for occasional use the 30/31 has some advantages; although hand operating the flywheel isn’t one of them, it’s nice to have your hands free to steady the carrier.  While it’s running, vibration can really be the Achilles heel of the retoother. The carrier uses wing nuts and vibration tends to loosen them. If that happens mid-toothing, well let’s just say hopefully it’s NOT a customer’s saw.  Dana however has the right attitude and understands the tradeoffs and won’t be running a priceless, one of a kind saw through it.  Having limited time we unloaded the toother, Mark and I ogled the Emmert’s vise he’d brought to sell and decided we’d all need to continue this another time. Hopefully I can work something out to visit Dana in the spring.

The return trip can be summed up in one word, traffic; but once past the inner harbor it was smooth sailing and I unloaded my few saws and met up with a friend for dinner.

VAPA_07Sunday I should have spent in the shop catching up on some handle repairs but scored free tickets to the auto show in Philadelphia. The Convention Center is located across from the Reading Terminal Market and for those of you with visits to the Keystone state, aka the “city of brotherly love”, aka “you’ve got a friend”, should for sure grab lunch there. It’s as Philly as the Disston Keystone Saw Works. It first opened its doors in 1872 and still houses over a hundred merchants ranging from live poultry to fine dining and just about everything in between. I’m a sucker for the pulled pork with broccoli rabe and a long hot from DiNic’s, hands down one of the best in the world, but I digress.

Finished with lunch we made the trip to the Convention Center.  I’m feeling the age of the Saab with over 190K on it but as of yet I really haven’t found a suitable utilitarian replacement. I’m sure like a lot of woodworkers I don’t own a truck; most of my cars have been hatchbacks that have the ability to have seats that lay flat and pull double duty hauling stuff. I also don’t tend to like larger gas guzzling cars. My 1998 4 cylinder still gets around 30 mpg on the highway.

VAPA_08For a few years, about the only car of interest to me was the VW SportWagen that’s now sold with both TDI and petrol engine. This year I was also interested in the Ford redesigned Escape. My friends are used to this but my test for most cars is to bypass the front seats, pop the truck, lay down the seats, then jump inside and lay on my back – your basic mattress test for car. Though the Escape passed well, the only real detraction was I don’t tend to buy new and it’s not available in a stick! Crazy, no? The flat back is one regret I have with the new generation 900 over the early years. They added a hump making it hard to sleep in. Mind you I’ve done it, but these days I normally take the van. Most people recommend the Subaru wagon as a great choice but after 2010 they gained a lot of weight, lost much of its utilitarian ways in favor of being a people hauler and just get bad gas mileage in my opinion. The last stop was to see the selection of early European rally cars from the Simeone Museum, also worth the trip if you’re in the area.

So that about wraps things up for the week. The next adventure was to the M-WTCA cabin fever show held in York, PA.

Joe Federici
Saw Monger and pork sandwich aficionado!

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 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.