Ready Set Go

Stanley_42X_01As you may have read here or other places, the Stanley 42x is one of the best sets ever made and is still quite popular with saw sharpeners like myself. Made from 1929 to 1950, it was designed to work with hand, back, panel, and small circular saws up to 18 gauge and thinner, having 14 points or less. I’m sure in the years to come Lie-Nielson or another will reproduce them, but until that time, if you’re looking to get one, it’s going to be used.

In the 21 years that the 42X was made, other than some small changes like crinkle paint, not a lot changed which cuts down on some of the confusion that happens with multi-year runs on tools. Keep in mind when buying in the vintage market, price is often in direct proportion to its appearance rather than its true working condition and can be an issue for the buyer looking to use it rather than shelve it. I’ve had more than one in my hands with broken parts that looked great in hand. So this blog post will hopefully give you some tips to look for when buying. Most are common sense things but helpful for those of you new to set. I will not really be going over the use of a set but check out Peter Taran’s article on it.

NOTE: Peter applies set at the end of the filing process which is not typically what most people do. The conventional process sets the teeth after shaping and before filing.

So let’s take a look at a Stanley 42X set and some of the working parts. The head houses all of the adjustments so we’ll start there. Looking at it you’ll see two adjustment screws that adjust the amount set applied to the saw tooth by the hammer inside the head of the set. The top larger knurled screw needs to be loosened first. This allows the smaller lower knurled screw to adjust the wedge up or down and allows for more or less set to be applied. There are some lines etched onto the side of the wedge. Smaller lines are less set and longer lines allow for more set. When buying, check that both screws aren’t cross-threaded; also look at the lower section of the wedge with graded marks. There should be a notch or groove that the lower screw fits into. I’ve seen sets where that lower section is cracked off.

Stanley_42X_02The rest of the moving parts are inside the head and the critical one is what I call the hammer that pops out when the handle is squeezed. It’s what contacts the saw plate and pushes the tooth. Holding the set in hand, look from either the top or bottom, squeeze the handle and check it. It’s super important it’s chip free. The leading edge should be angled at about 15º. Repairing a bad one is very hard as the length and relationship need to stay the same.

Stanley_42X_03Lastly check for play and overall condition when squeezing the handle. You don’t need a tremendous amount of tension but the springs can wear out. But fear not; I’ve had the springs remanufactured in the USA by a local spring manufacturer and you can read more about it here.

Ok, so now that we know what to look for, let’s talk about Stanley’s guideline of 14 points or less. Stanley designed the 42x to work with teeth between 4-14 points per inch leaving us a few points short. The issue being the hammer used to push the teeth is too large to work properly with higher toothed saws.  Worry not; you can modify the hammer to work with finer plates.

What I and others have done is to disassemble the set and modify the hammer. First remove the screw on the side of the handle. Next wiggle the front section of the handle out. Watch as the handle is under tension. Also, there are parts inside the head; you want to work over a towel or bench so if something falls you can easily identify it.

With the handle out of the way the inner assembly should slide out from the head. You find two cylinders that have springs that fit around them. See pictures.  What we’re interested in is the inner part with the hammer at the tip. Looking at the tip we need to taper the top leading edge from the sides. We DO NOT want to alter the front 15º angle and we don’t need to worry about tapering the lower part of the hammer as it will not contact the saw plate. You just need to taper the top 1/16 or so.

Stanley_42X_04You can either use a grinding wheel or hand file. The important thing is not to overdo it nor adjust the front angle. Once happy with your results, reverse the process used to disassemble. NOTE: with things apart it’s an ideal time to replace springs, clean and grease springs. No need to be heavy-handed with grease; just a light coating please. My personal favorite is Phil Wood Waterproof Grease; for me it’s the duct tape of lubricants.

Stanley_42X_05There are lots of rules on how much set to use. Some find micro gauges a must for getting it right, but I’m more the craftsman than engineer and would quickly point out that micro gauges were not found in cabinet shops in the early 1900’s. I’m sure you’d been hard pressed to find them at the Disston factory in the early 1900’s. Rather they, and I, work from experience. For dry seasoned wood you just look for enough that the blade doesn’t bind when cutting. Often saws I’m working on are overset from a previous owner and after shaping may not need additional set. The important thing is you do need some before you sharpen. So if you’re starting off by jointing down to the gullets you’ll need to set the teeth before you sharpen. If need be after you test cut, more set can be added.

Hopefully armed with these tips, you can make a smart purchase and get setting. I’d also like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas or the Holiday of if you choice.

Joe Federici
The Saw Monger





Facelift— saw style

As I’ve pontificated on in the past, one thing that drew me to saw-dom is the interest in repairing older saws and I soon found I rather enjoyed it.  Shortly after, Second Chance Saw Works was formed on that idea.

One area of interest I quickly gravitated to was repairs of backsaws and more specifically replacement of toothed plates. I find many a backsaw is doomed to live a life on the wall because the plate is bent or possibly bowed due to it being knocked on too deeply over the years. I think the size also lends itself better to a small shop like mine. Lastly, a Foley hand saw retoother followed me home at some point, so I already had the ability to tooth plates. Heads up if you’re thinking of buying one, they breed like rabbits and I now have a few of them!

Bows can often be fixed by resetting the plate but kinks in short thin plates often do warrant the time for the positive results one wants, but replacement is a better option.

When I first got started I bought my plate stock precut but ran into long delivery times and issues with getting them cut to a size that worked best for me. More recently a friend and fellow saw collector offered to help cut some with a local stomp shear he had access to. Although I don’t tend to replate a lot, the opportunity to cut my own and reduce shipping and wait time made the investment in inventory worthwhile. I figure I can also offer supplies to others if needed. I would also add that the opportunity to use large ass, dangerous equipment with no sissy OSHA regulations was a bonus.

I use mostly .025 and .032 plate and do find some thinner and thicker, but .025 works for most 1900 saws. The .032 was popular for larger 18″ and also some of the early UK saws.

Once supplies were ordered a time was set to meet up at my friend David’s shop. Being saw collectors we had a quick show and tell. David’s got a wonderful collection of early American and UK saws. I brought a sad but still very historical older Disston that turned out to be a rare No. 14 that was given to me at the NH show by a friend. I felt it was a fair trade for his help, plus it’s now in the proper hands with David.

Once done, saws were put away and we headed over to his friend’s shop. Now I was having a bad camera day and really didn’t end up with anything good but suffice to say this place was cool.

I’ve always been fascinated by metal work and fabrication in general. Like many who enjoyed bikes, I’ve always wanted to weld my own lugged steel frame. It’s on the bucket list for sure. Walking into this darkened metal shop/studio you instantly get the feeling anything IS possible. Immediately you’re presented the distinct boot end of a 60’s era XKE in the process of restoration. While checking it out we dug a little deeper to find a large hydraulic or powered shear. David being used to the environment got down to business locating supplies while my eyes darted around taking it all in.

We had a fixed schedule so I quickly got back to the job at hand. The shear is designed to handle stock much larger and thicker so we rigged up a landing area for what would be mostly 14 x 4 pieces of plate. Next we figured out the best way to feed the uncut roll and got stomping.

  Blued spring steel is sold for many uses at various widths but the sizes I needed are mostly sold for shim stock. We started with rolls of 8″ wide by 10′ long. I mostly wanted 14, 16, and some 18 and 12. The leftovers yielded some 8 as well. When I was buying precut plate, 12″ lengths were commonly cut to 3” that yielded a shallow plate after toothing.  I’d rather start with a 4″ plate, which gives me some flexibility.

When all was done even with a few mix-ups, we cut well over 40 plates that should last me for some time, at a faction of the cost, plus extra width of the plate for a little flexibility. All and all, a productive few hours.

Once done we cleaned up, said our goodbyes and it was back to my shop. Having the plate cut is really only part if the process. Before it can be used it needs to have the blue removed, sanded, polished, as well as toothed.  I’ll leave that process for another time.

Joe Federici
The International Saw Monger of Mystery

Mike’s amazing house of saws

You can’t really call yourself a “saw guy” or “gal” I suppose without either reading something written by or coming across a reference to Mike Stemple’s collection. Mike would say he’s a relative newcomer and his collection is mostly junk compared to the other Big Dogs, but in reality he’s been happily plugging along refining and honing what he collects. For collectors like Mike, it’s not about the number of saws, it’s about the history. Like music, you get hooked on a band and want to hear or, in this case, collect all they’re offering. Keep in mind that condition is important to reselling, but if your goal is research, then even cut down examples allow you to see changes over a maker’s life. It’s this same depth that makes him an expert on many of the really early makes from Philly and New York.  His collection and research on makers like Cortland Wood, Johnson & Conaway, and Josiah Bakewell, to name a few, has helped the rest of us (myself included) date and understand the saws we find and collect. Although Mike jokes about the lack of condition of some saws, when I think about the totality along with the history, his collection is really something impressive.

But here’s the thing…if the story ended there I wouldn’t be writing this blog post nor have taken the trip to his house. The icing on the cake (don’t tell Mike I said this) is that he’s a hell of a nice guy, a larger than life character that continually gives back to the saw world.

Sharp witted, always quick with a cheeky jab, he’s a perfect fit for the expression, “I’d rather be tried by 12 then carried by 6.” But that’s to be expected from a long time OSU fan living over enemy lines. I think it’s that wit that first made me laugh when reading an article that talked about Mike being the sheriff of saws on eBay. After that a friend forwarded me a link to some online pictures of his collection and I thought, I’ve got to meet this guy. Later I found the other side of the coin, his great willingness to answer questions, as a dedicated member of Mid-West Tool Collectors Association and also his local club, Ohio Tool Collectors Association. He writes for their newsletter “Ohio Tool Box” and I continually reference a dog-eared article on dating early saws he wrote for it and M-WTCA. It’s from researching a saw that I first started emailing with Mike and later formulated plans to go visit.

So you’re saying wow, you’re really pumping a lot sunshine up this guy’s hind-side. Think, as stated, Mike’s got a lot of saws and extracting them is something very few (who left the property) can say. So between you and me consider this butter.

Ok, so back to Mike and “The Amazing House of Saws.” He sent some dates of events in the area and I cross-referenced them with days I could get away. I wanted to make the big M-WTCA show but the date was too close to MJD auction. As fate would have it, his local Ohio tool club was hosting the Area C M-WTCA meet and the planets aligned for a go.

The trip out to Ohio from North Jersey is mostly uneventful and long. You travel 80 from about its starting point through the hills of Pennsylvania to where it connects to the Ohio turnpike. My plan was to head out Friday after work, drive till I was tired. Once underway, I ended up pulling over 100 miles short of Mike’s house. One noteworthy thing was the difference in gas between PA and OH. I paid $3.55 in PA and $2.92 in OH within 25 miles of the state line. Mind you, this was a week before the election and Ohio was a swing state. Discuss amongst yourselves.

Waking up Saturday morning I wasn’t presented with a welcome to the buckeye state. The temperature had dropped 20º overnight and a light rain was falling.  Happily it quickly cleared while I made coffee, then got on the road to Mike’s. The 100 miles passed quickly. Now remember Mike and I had never spoken, but the minute I pulled in the driveway Mike walked out with a friendly greeting, soon followed by his highly tool-lenient wife and COO of saw budget, Sherri.

Like me, Mike has the gift of gab and we share a real love for saws and history behind them. We quickly launched into a lengthy discussion that, although jumped in different tangents as I asked questions, continued day and night till I left on Sunday due to Sandy.

Let me start by saying that Mike’s collection is so vast it’s really hard to nail down a way to go through it. With two saw guys in their element it’s extremely easy to get distracted. Mike strategically placed (read: tucked one behind the other, handle showing so as not to draw attention by the COO of budgeting) a number of his higher end saws in the house and we started off with them. The list of makers reads like the who’s who of early American makers from New York and Philadelphia, many of which are one of a kind or one of very few examples.

After an hour or so going through the highlights of the 100 or so extremely rare and/or unusual saws in the house, it was time to move outside to his shop. I’m sad to write I really didn’t take many pictures of the vast collection of double eagles and other rarities from Sing Sing prison. Mike is one of the leading historians on saws made at Sing Sing and the tale is ready made for TV.  Thinking I would setup my tripod later in the day or Monday we held off on taking things down. As my luck would have it, I ended up heading home early due to impending storm Sandy. This just necessitates a future trip and I’m already making plans for it next year. As stated earlier, Mike’s tight handed with his collection and I’ve got my eye on a nice Woodrough & McParlin and this will give me time to work on him but keep that on the DL.

Once the tour inside was finished we headed outside.  I started with a quick tour of the van. Mike owned a bread loaf model when he was stationed overseas and agreed there’s nothing like them on 4 wheels. The progression from smaller campers to the land yachts with pop-out sides is so big that Americans’ vacations are spent inside them rather than enjoying the area they raced to, but don’t get me started.

Mike gave me a quick tour of the homestead and nice orchard shop side with a few peach, apple and pear trees. The pear tree was still quite full and I snacked on a few as well as picked some for the trip home. Nothing quite like freshly picked foods.

Back on track after a quick tour of the property, let’s get into the shop. Back in my neck of the woods, space is hard to come by and I make do with a converted single car garage. Mike’s shop however is about 8 times that with saws nicely displayed on sheets of plywood fastened to the walls.

The collection is broken down by makers and also types and styles. Now let me say I did my best to take pictures but I didn’t have a wide enough angle lens to do justice to the collection.

Although 90% of it is US makers he does have some really nice UK panel and backsaws.  From there we moved to one of my favorite makers, Harvey Peace followed by an extensive collection of all types of key-hole and table saws.  This led into the remains, still over 75 of Disston. A few years back Mike sold off many of his D-8’s to Pete Taran  for his site. We paused here while Mike went over some of the many highlights of his collection including multiple examples of early double eagles and some really nice and rare No 9, 10 and 14, as well as some hard to find thumb hole models, like D100 Acme 120.

Once done oohing and aahing over the Disston’s, we moved on to the many examples from Monhagen Saw Works, aka Wheeler, Madden & Bakewell, or Clemson, Madden & Clemson, or a few other combos of names, as the company went through a lot of hands and, as Mike’s research has brought to light, a number of significant patents.  The highlight for me was seeing all three examples of the Joseph Holden patent handle. Next was a large collection of hardware and secondary makers like Simonds, Atkins, and Bishop to name a few. Who doesn’t enjoy checking out an interesting etching and I find hardware store saws had some of the best.

At around this point Mark Eastlick, a collector from western PA who fancies wooden planes from the same area and vice president of M-WTCA, joined us.  Mark was also staying with Mike for the meet the following day. Mark’s been collecting for a good many years; although saws aren’t his first love, he brought some nice examples as well as a selection of tools for the tailgate at the show.

After introductions were finished the adults talked while I ran around and dug through the various piles and trashcans. Mike has saws stored just about everywhere along with the many other things he collects, like vices, axes, plumbs, saw vises, and calipers. At some point I grabbed a ladder so I could get a little closer to many on the walls. I continued to investigate and yell out questions while wine was poured; the conversation eventually steered inside and continued through dinner.

At this point Sherri and Mark were both done with the saw talk and it was decided a movie might distant Mike and me. It worked right up till the end and we started up again as Mike outlined the crossing paths from WMC. That continued to around 11pm which was good as we had an early start the following morning. Footnote to Mike, you really need to outline a tree of makes.

The morning came quickly; after an impassioned plea for coffee we hit the road for the meet. Sporting his OSU colors, Mike gathered up his saws for his display and off we went. Deer in their parts are always an issue, so with eyes peeled we made good time and arrived early to help set up tables and get things in order.

Mike brought his award winning display including a commemorative saw made by Taylor Brothers that was put out in 1884. It’s made to highlight the awards they won at eight world fairs between 1851 and 1882 and uses the famous Willow china pattern etched on it, easily one of the most elaborate etchings made. This also illustrates Mike’s abilities to research; along with the display Mike had some history and the plates the etching was based on. Roy Ebersole, aka the combo saw guy, brought an impressive collection of them for all to see. As a footnote, I’m working out a trifecta next summer and hopefully will see Roy, Carl Bilderback, and Mike, then take in the MWTCA tool meet.

With tables down and displays from the local members set up, it was time to meet and greet while eyeing up dealers’ tools hidden under the tables till the official start. Mike said turnout was low but I was impressed with over a dozen or so dealers set up, even a few faces I recognized. Once dealers got the ok, I deferred to Mike on any of the split nut saws but did pick up a nice 26” P26 and 12” No4 backsaw.

Once everyone had time to shop and mill about it was time for a short awards presentation followed by a nice lunch. Lars Larson as I found out was one of the legends in MWTCA and was presented with the Distinguished Service Award. Lars is one of the original research gurus and published the definitive book on spoke shaves. He’s also helped many others with their books and is listed in the credits of several of the landmark tool books.

Afterwards Dave Jeffers, long time Mid-West member and host of the meet, invited everyone back to see what I’d call one of the premier tool collections in the US. Really, words can’t describe the size of it, containing absolutely top shelf stuff from ebony center wheel plough planes to every type of tool there ever was. He started way back with draw knives which he easily had over 200 and then moved to plow and metal planes. His super rare Disston model #14, which has a walnut handle and chip carved triple eagle stamped blade, is by far the best 14 I’ve ever seen. The 14 was never in the Disston catalogues or advertised so it’s hard to say how many are out there but the number is very low. David was also more than happy to allow pictures and handling of any of them, which was nice as one of the best parts of hand tools is the feeling in hand. When you get right down to it, that’s what differentiates the best tools. What large collection would be without a Panther head saw and Dave’s didn’t disappoint. As time goes on I’ve had the luxury of seeing quite a few, and like most of the tools in his collection it’s about perfect.

My interests being in saws I really can’t do justice in listing all the highlights; I’ll just include a few pictures and say, thank you to Dave for collecting and sharing; it was impressive to take in.

By this time it was getting later in the day and coverage of Storm Sandy even in OH was ramping up. With that in mind I decided to cut the visit short and head home Sunday rather than Monday, the day Sandy was predicted to hit the homeland.

Once back at Mike’s I settled up on a few nice users from the collection allowing him to make room for new additions, which I’m sure has already taken place by the time this is posted. Sherri, aka the better half, put together some food for the trip and I headed out for the long trip home.

The return trip turned out to be quite a slog but uneventful. The wind picked for most of the drive and route 80 through PA, aka “the route of perpetual construction,” was quite backed up due accidents and construction despite the late hours on a Sunday night. I for one would rather pay a fee like the OH or NJ turnpike than deal with a 5 to 10 year reconstruction plan that gains and loses funding each year yielding very little results. Luckily I don’t often travel through the State College northern tier region of PA. But the few times a year I do, I’m dumbstruck sitting in a backup in such a remote area of the state due to road closers that haven’t seen a worker in months. That said, citizens’ band to the rescue, cuz when you’ll traveling the “Big Slab” at night remember to put the “ears on.” In this case it helped me avoid a 2 hour back up in the middle of no-wheresville. I linked up with a convoy that jumped off the exit before and we traveled the back roads till past it. All and all as previously stated, it was a slog, getting me home at 3am Monday morning that luckily turned out I had off.  This allowed me to get some wash done and a little shopping before losing power for the next week. Hindsight, maybe I should had done another load and bought some extra batteries.

Joe Federici
wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving!

Tides of Change

Well to say it’s been anything but a crazy few weeks would be an understatement.

The fall is always a busy time, compounded by shorter daylight and the recent Superstorm Sandy. Thanks, Mother Nature! The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of activity, both positive and trying at times. In the wake of Sandy I really weathered the storm far better than many. As someone who grew up mostly in south Jersey, the devastation to the shore points I enjoyed so much is deeply saddening. Anyone who knows us New Jerseyans knows a lifetime of living in the shadows of cities around us breeds a determination that is not easily crushed. Like that scrappy dog that knocks over your trash can, you can shoo it away, but the minute you turn your head he’s right back at it.

My trip out to OH preceded this and I’ll have future posts on that fun adventure. Because of the media hype that always precedes a storm, I decided to head back Sunday night allowing me to get things in order before the storm. As is often the case when traveling in Pennsylvania, the highways that are FREE are backed up because of road construction that takes decades to complete because there is no funding. Regardless, I struggled my way home. CB in hand talking with westbound drivers, I jumped off Rt. 80, avoiding accidents and a few construction backups to arrive home at 3am Monday. The rest of the day was spent getting some supplies together, then hunkering down. Not being much of a TV watcher, I was content listening to NPR while finishing up a few customers’ saws. It was around 10pm Monday night when I lost power in my apartment.  Sandy was mostly over by that time and my work had already announced we would be closed for Tuesday. Having no internet or television when I got up, I quickly grabbed my camera and walked the few blocks to where I store my VW van, aka Vincent Van-Go, in a locked lot. Along the way I snapped a few pictures of the devastation I encountered. Fortunately for me, I spend a good deal of time off the grid, unlike 95% of the city dwellers around me. So I jumped into my van, filled up the teakettle, and dug out my coffee press. It really doesn’t take much for me to adapt to life without power, but doing so in a city sure seemed odd.

My work closed for most of the week and with the lack of electricity and short hours of daylight, it didn’t leave a lot of options for the apartment dwellers. The first day I spent contacting family letting them know I was okay and also checking that others were okay. This was followed by a big walking loop in the area to see firsthand some of the devastation. I live in the heights of Jersey City but Hoboken located below the hill saw widespread flooding. By day two it was obvious that getting into the city for work that week would be impossible.

I found I had really good light in the hallway due to the larger windows. So I dragged my saw filing equipment out and had the fun of filing by daylight, something I’ve done for demonstrations but not extensively. I was pleasantly surprised that it was easygoing and worked fine. I found I could get about 4 good hours in before the light dropped off for the day. By Thursday the lack of power and camping in the van was getting old. Considering I planned to attend the Brown antique tool sale on Friday, I headed to my shop where power and heat were readily available. On a sad note, Saturday and Sunday were to be the fall release of the Tohickon Creek,  a friendly gathering of boaters from all over the northeast that marks the last scheduled whitewater release in the area. Those of us who don’t mind a little cold weather camping stay at the takeout on the shores of the Delaware. It’s one of the nicest spots I camp at all year and is just upstream from the historic spot where Washington crossed the Delaware. Due to the loss of power and many downed trees in the area, it was canceled.

I’m going to leave the Brown Auction and my trip to Mike Stemple’s for another time and finish off by happily saying that power was restored 6 days after the storm and things are getting back to normal. I finished the weekend up by getting some customers’ saws boxed up, as well as a few ready for sale. New Jersey in general is still recoiling from the storm; PSEG is doing a great job of getting power back.  I am a longtime resident of the state and I know full well that anyone living in this state has got thick skin. I’m optimistic that by the time summer rolls around many businesses will be back.

Joe Federici
Mongering off the grid


The perfect split

Although I lean more towards Glover style then split nuts, I have to admit that, if done right, split nuts look way nicer and dress up a saw handle while not distracting the eye from that wonderful early English beech. That said, dealing with them 100+ years after installation can be problematic at best.

When I first became interested in saws, I bought a Lie-Nielson split nut driver and found it works well for 75% of them. That’s not bad, but as the numbers grew I found that one size does not fit all. Around the same time, I found a user-made split nut driver that I reground the tip to fit some troublesome split nuts; from that point on I found user-made drivers just worked best for me.

Most of my drivers start life as a cabinetmaker’s style flat head screwdriver. If I can’t find them inexpensive enough, a 1/2 chisel will get the job done; just keep in mind chisel steel is much harder and often requires a little more effort to work.

The process starts by hand filing or grinding to the correct width desired, then filing a slot or split in the middle. The slit can be made with a saw file or an angle grinder, if you’ve got steady hands! Once done, fine tune the front edge so it fits well. I have drivers in a few sizes and file them down as needed. If they get too thin or the center split too wide, I just grind down and start over.

Ok, drivers made, let talk a little about usage. I wouldn’t go so far as to call these tips and tricks, but rather “best practices” when dealing with stubborn fasteners.

Clean the slots. The more contact made the less likely you are to have the driver slip and gouge the brass or wood. I find a dental pic or something like it works really well. Get yourself some cheater eyeglasses or magnifier of your choice.

Lubricate the area. You’ll find that tarnish on the brass can act like glue and hardware will rip soft sections of the wood surface if not removed carefully. I try and stay away from penetrating oils as they also penetrate the wood and leave stains. If this does happen, have a look at my post on wood bleach. I find mineral spirits work well and evaporate without staining. Note: please test, as mineral spirits and its purity do vary.  I use a brush and dab it on; I’ve also used an old hot sauce bottle as a shaker. If they still look sketchy, carefully scratch around the edges of the nut with an axe or exacto knife.

Concise direct pressure. Once you’ve applied the lubricant of your choice and cleaned the area, it’s really important you do what you can to get the driver seated in the slots. If your driver tip is too wide or the center split isn’t big enough for the screw, make adjustments and check fit again. Stop and take a second to check things. On nuts that are buggered up, this step makes all the difference. 90% of the nuts I find have been man-handled and buggered up. In most cases that’s not because the nuts are too tight, it’s because the drive didn’t fit, causing it to slip out of the grove and scratch or gouge the soft brass. Once you’re happy with the fit, you want to bear directly down and turn. Depending how tall you are, stand on a block of wood to add some leverage. You don’t want to be on a high worktable. The keys here really are to keep the driver at 90 degrees to the handle and to apply direct downward pressure. Slowly turn the driver and feel the metal and resistance. It’s not unlike loosening or torqueing a bolt on a car. Every good mechanic can tell you a story about stripping or snapping a bolt. It’s only through these experiences you truly understand friction.

However, if all this talk of grinding and filing is of little interest, there are ready made split-nut drivers available in a range of designs.

Lie-Nielson. What can I say, his stuff is top shelf and the split nut driver he sells is no exception. If you’re a LN guy, no question you’re buying a quality product. Like I wrote earlier, it fits about 75% of the the nuts I’ve found.

Tools for Working Wood.  I’ve seen but not used this driver head. Joel designs tools under the name “Gramercy Tools Works.”  It’s a great idea that centers around cutting down on the cost and also multiple tools. It’s a split-nut tip that fits in any 1/4″ hex shank drive.

Wenzloff & Sons.  I’ve also not used their key chain style driver but would think that depending on how much work you’re doing it would be fine. I know Mike well enough to say he doesn’t produce or sell junk. Mike has had some health issues that effect delivery but what I’ve bought from him has always been top notch. He sources or makes 90% of what he sells.

So let me know how it goes and if you’ve got tips, tricks, or photos to add; e-mail me and I’d be happy to post.

Joe Federici
Purveyor of Saw Goodness

3+ days of Peace, Love, and Tools

I’m happy to report my 5 day vacation, tool auction, and vee dub trip turned out be another great adventure with good memories and a few good saws. I know for many the idea of sleeping in a van for 5 days and traveling over 1000 miles may not sound like fun, but done correctly, it’s a blast. Sadly, I’m not sure for how many more years road tips will be viable as petrol rises daily, but thankfully the memories last a lifetime.

This like all my trips started by loosely planning the route weeks before and packing the van with food supplies in the day leading up. The day of the trip as always was a struggle at work. Like many, I’m just a cog in the wheel till vacation day, and then magically I’m the center of the universe. Lucky for me I’m used to this and the misguided guilt is easily shrugged off as I headed out the door for my commute home.

Once there I did a mental last minute rundown, grabbed some last minute items, and was out the door.  The excitement helped push through the always frustration and congestion of the route through New England. I arrived around 10:30 into the quiet parking lot just outside downtown Nashua, New Hampshire.  Since bed is in my backseat I quickly got situated, set my alarm, and was down for the night.

I’ve been going to tool auctions for a little over a year but the idea of buying just one thing really seems to stick in people’s minds and I’ve quickly become known as “the saw guy.”. . . As in, “Hey, you’re the saw guy, right?” or just “Hey, saw guy!” However what I really like to hear is, “Next show I’ll put the saws aside for you; come find me and I’ll give you first look.”

Now for those of you new to the world of tailgate sales, or for the UK readers, “boot sales,” they take place the day before or morning of the main auction.  Setup can be as simple as selling from a truck to elaborate trailers and tents.  I liken them to the parking lot before a Dead show. It’s a prelude to the main event but also a micro event in and of itself.

The right of first pick I’m sure harkens back to the Middle Ages, but I’ll leave that idea for now and get back to my point— it has some real advantages. You get the cream of the crop, an expression that I’m sure predates the 1969 album by Diana Ross & the Supremes. Either way, you’re getting the best stuff and hopefully building ties for future deals.

The downside is you forfeit your right to haggle; plus, remember my reference to the Dead show, the wolves are at your heels. It’s not the easiest time to make a deal and often you rush in checking things. I try heeding the guide, “The smart man buys what he knows and passes on the rest.”

That said, I was honored to have first pick from three of the sellers I’ve bought from in the past and yielded 3 nice saws. One gabby handed picker tried to pull a fast one by pulling one out of my pile but the seller and I quickly had words with him and finished up. I’ll add that although at times it seems like the Wild, Wild West, provided you’re over the age of 8, you’re expected to know right from wrong.

Sellers come in waves. This is especially true on weekdays due to job restrictions and travel. You have the early birds getting there before sunrise, then thing slow down as sellers show up slowly the remainder of the day.  Having some experience, once things settled I walked back to the van with my haul, made some coffee and nosh, and made room for the saws; experience has taught me that sleeping next to saws leaves marks.  . . .Coffee in hand, I took some time to shake hands and catch up with buyers and sellers  Most of the big names were in attendance and it’s always interesting to see what others are buying and selling.

By this time Josh Clark, whom you may remember from my Avoca adventure, was setting out to sell a treasure trove of tools and other goodies collected from various box lots and other finds throughout the year. His display system consisted of blue tarps and bins upended while people scurried around making piles. The sound of popping lids draws in the buyers like moths to a flame.  Not wanting to get trampled in the frenzy I socialized on the fringe with Freddy Roman, fellow tool lover and all around craftsman aficionado. Freddy was also nice enough to help with Josh’s organized madness. Later we all went to the local brew-pub that’s become a pre-preview ritual to the Friday auction.

Once back at the hotel we gathered our things and started checking the Friday auction lots of interest. The word “lot” can be a little vague; they use low-sided boxes like the ones used for a case of soda cans and the item or items are placed inside. On the outside there is a label with item number, picture, and short description. In the event the item is too large, a placeholder in the form of a laminated card is used. These larger items are generally placed out of the way and all together. Lucky for me just being interested in the saws, I quickly looked through the 20 or so lots I was interested in. Once done I followed along with Josh and Freddy, trying not to annoy them while still getting answers to the dozens of tools I had no idea what they do. They were both good sports about it and by 10PM I was dead on my feet and retired back to the van for the night.

Friday I set the alarm for 6AM and decided to sleep in, then poked around the tailgate just to see any new vendors. In general as the weekend wears on, the quality drops as things are picked over. That said, I still found some very nice saws; then with my coffers about full, I made a quick trip to the auction. There were a few lots that interested me. As it would turn out I bought one that contained a really nice D100.

Saws in hand, I whispered my goodbye to Josh and friends inside the auction, walked over to settle up, then made a quick trip through the vendors to shake hands and say more goodbyes.

The highlights for me are always seeing the cool tools and the conversations I have with other buyers and sellers. I don’t have a local club so I welcome the opportunity to talk shop with other like-minded people. I met Don Rosebrook,  the author of American Levels and Their Makers, in the parking lot and found out that he is also a closet collector of saws. He had brought some perfect examples that were a real treat to see and take a few pictures of.  Among them were 2 Disston eagle-head saws and many other rare low production models, including 3 different types of star saws. Although not quite in the class of an eagle-head saw, I did pick up really nice examples of a new 16 and 120. There was also one of the nicest No 12’s I’ve ever seen.

I should point out that the following day, Saturday, is the main day at the auction when most of the higher end items are listed. My interest in saws tends to center around usable examples over the collector; so, although I enjoy looking and watching, it’s not the best use of my time.

The drive to Watkins Glen was far but mostly highway and uneventful. However not content with the simplicity, I complicated things by leaving my laptop plugged in back at the auction; so a 1.5 hour detour was added. The additional time got me into the campground after dark but I was sharing a site with friends so I passed the gate and parked.

Getting in around 10 made for a long day but I figured I walk the loop and briefly stop by some of the fires to say my hello’s to the Westies at Watkins. It’s normally one of the largest gatherings I make these days and it can exceed over 100.  Joel, who tirelessly organizes it, does a great job of blending some structure but at the same time leaving people to do their own thing. The gathering over the years has also become a popular event for our Canadian friends. I, for one, love seeing many of the models never sold in the US, like the Westfalia Joker High-top Campervan and transporter doka.

Saturday mornings are always reserved for the communal breakfast burritos. Everyone brings something to share and it doubles as a meet and greet.  Not being much of a breakfast person I slept in, then made coffee in bed! Something I LOVE to do! Then I chilled out while checking emails and organizing things in the van. Living in a van for 5 days with over 40 saws can get a little sticky if you don’t organize! The rest of Saturday was spent visiting with friends and seeing some sights in the area. Saturday night was a potluck, 50/50, and raffle. Joel does a great job of getting donations and insuring there are enough for everyone.

With the sun setting I met up with my homies at fireside to catch up on their summer adventures. I seriously think the world’s troubles could be solved around a campfire. Night rolled into day and Sunday everyone was packing up for their trips home.

A few of us were staying through Sunday and decided to go hike the gorge trail, which is a nice hike from the campground. Afterwards I met up with my college roommate who lives in the area. Mind you, it’s been 20 years since we last shook hands so it was great seeing him. Facebook is great for the kids but I like meeting up, old school. Living locally and having a rental property he invited us to stay there, just outside Naples Valley.  As the name suggests the area contains a number of wineries and vineyards. Driving through the town I saw everyone was busy getting ready for the annual grape festival the following week.

The next day we packed up. My friend Bob Mac, newly retired, was making his way home via the back roads, so we decided to forget the oatmeal and head into town for a proper breakfast. First step start the vans. Oh wait, key in, turn, nothing. Grabbed a hammer, tapped the starter and she turned right over. Note to self…time for a new starter.

After breakfast we both headed in different directions. My heading westerly turned out to be one long Kodak moment and made up for lack of views traveling into the area on Friday night from the auction. The views of the Finger Lakes in the fall are some of the best NY has to offer. What looked like miles of vineyard led into beautiful views of the lakes. As I headed closer to Rochester the farms gave way to a small town and I knew once I passed under Interstate 90 I was close. The town of Williamson was established in 1802; driving through many of the farms and buildings, downtown looked to be original, just the type of place to find some great saws, plus fresh apples from the many roadside stands.

My van kind of stuck but as I pulled in, David met me in front of his shop with his chow mix in tow. Like many of the collectors and sellers I meet, he walked me over to a table of saws and said, “Start here.” Happily I looked through what I would call an eclectic selection of the very old, mixed with off beat makers. I didn’t find a lot of good users but did find a few interesting early saws, possibly American but more likely English. Once settled up, we exchanged info and I was itching to get started on the long trip home. It was only possible for me to swing a few days off so the following day it was back to work.

The trip home was largely uneventful. The starter in the van remained working and I’ve since had it replaced. Once home I left the van packed, gathered clothes, and cleaned out the fridge in the van. I couldn’t resist taking a few saws to my apartment to get a better look at the etchings.

The rest of the week turned out quite busy at my day job so it wasn’t until the following week I found the time to empty the van properly and find storage. As I’m sure you can imagine it’s almost impossible not to get distracted as things catch your eye.  In the end I was quite happy with the new additions to the restoration pile, as well as a few for my collections.

In the next week I’m heading out to meet the sheriff of saws on eBay and heavy collector and historian of early American saw makers, Mike Stimple.

Thanks for visiting

Joe Federici
Consigliere of Sawtown

The Other Beach

Last weekend while manning my vice at the show I was asked about identifying the wood used on handles.

Let me state for the record, I am not a traditionalist type woodworker that recognizes species by just looking at the bark or leaf. Mind you, it’s on my bucket list, a few lines after I move to Alaska and follow in the footsteps of Dick Proenneke.

That said, the woodworkers of yore must have foreseen the modernization of lumber production and narrowed down the woods used to just a few.

By and large the most popular are English beech and apple, both of which are easily recognizable when you know what to look for.

Beech is also commonly spelled beach by poor spellers like me. I’d also like to point out it’s kind of silly in the advanced state of humanity that we haven’t dropped one of the two. Regardless, BEECH is the more common wood used for hand saws and early backsaws. I’d also guess that it is most common for early hand tools in general, like moulding and other types of planes.

The color tends to run from a bluish off white when it’s first cut to a light honey as it ages. It has some very distinguishing features that I’ll call “flecks”. These can also look like specks or spots when quarter sawed. You’ll note the one picture is a block of beech and from the base of a Stanley transition plane.  As noted on one of my earlier posts, I spoke with some tool collectors that used them as fuel for an annual fire at the NH tool meet. Not until Stanley started buying them back to release them on the bicentennial did they gain any value. Even today I normally buy mine at tool meets for around $15.00, but I’m told they are often for less.

I find I can get around a dozen or so horn repairs out of longer No 8 style, so even if I pay a little extra it’s no big deal.  A few tips, don’t lead off with, “I’m going to cut this up.” Also, standard rules apply for buying wood tools: look for cracks and warped soles. If you’re lucky enough to find a few, check the grain.  Depending on when Stanley made them, some use threaded inserts. You can back them out with a flat head screwdriver.  Otherwise, you’ll be sharpening your saw shortly after.

Apple is the other popular wood used in handles and it was mostly used by US saw makers.  You’ll find most of the backsaw handles made by Disston and the other big guys after the mid 1800’s.

The color is redder than beech and closer to what you might expect from cherry or other fruit woods like pear. The grain structure is also finer and often has a bit more wave to it.  Finding a vintage source for apple is a bit tricky and I don’t find using old handles for repairs works well. It’s also a little creepy, like feeding chickens to chickens. It’s just not right. So far I’ve been happy with my results of current apple wood to vintage stock. I’ve also found pear works well too. It’s a little tighter grain and for some saws it’s a perfect match.

Other than these two you’ll run into a few other species used – walnut or rosewood being the next in line for popularity. Those two are a little easier to pick out. Walnut was very popular on the early 19th century lower grade or commercial grade as I think of them. I find a lot of the cone nut saws from Wheeler Madden & Clemson or even Disston used them.  Because of the dark tone, matching back to currently harvested trees isn’t too bad.

The issue will be closing the grain before putting on some type of coat. There’s a multitude of ways to achieve this; sanding sealer and grain fillers are just some I’ve used. I’ve had good luck with Behlen brand, that’s now owned by Mohawk, and using grain fillers from LMI who sell and supply to Luthiers.

Really good finishing is an art form in itself. If possible, it’s best to talk with a local supplier, club, or friend. The tips and tricks from the guys refinishing furniture and instruments are gold. Google to your heart’s content.

I can’t say a lot about rosewood as I’ve not done any repairs with it yet. I’ve had a few Victory saws but they had complete handles. I would say the issue with the grain would be similar to walnut.

As always, if you run into a snag feel free to leave a comment or email me.

Joe Federici
Steward of Saw Craft

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.