Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life.

Life in the Village and beyond, based around the interests of my life. Sunset at Telegraph Point.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Joys of Old Tools

Following the Lazarus-like re-birth of the old Sorby paring chisel, I would like to follow up with a couple of other gems that have crossed my path in recent weeks.

One of the most useful hand tools in the workshop is the jack plane - usually represented by a cast iron version of Stanley's number 5 bench plane.  These were made in their thousands by numerous manufacturers from Sargent to Record, Millers Falls and Turner, to name a few.

The traditional jack plane has a generous mouth, rugged construction  and a radiused blade to shave off thick shavings.  Once set up, it can quickly dimension timber without dust or noise.

Here is a perfect example of what is highly desirable in a plane of this sort.  Made by Carter Australia, it has a thick casting, solid frog, thick blade and tough hardwood handles.  The picture above shows it as found, before it was cleaned and fettled.

One of the best kept secrets of Australian made hand planes, is the quality of the blades made by Carter. Thicker than the equivalent Stanley blade, and of excellent steel, this blade is a great partner for the plane that will wield it.  Re-ground with a bevel that has a 10 inch radius, and then honed sharp, the blade is ready for work.

Here it has been used to shape a wide chamfer - quicker than setting up and cutting on a table saw.
Too many new number 5 hand planes are not the workhorses that they should be, because they are too expensive and too full of bling.  For this reason they are often treated as the princesses of the workshop, instead of the tradesmen that they are.
Carter handplanes - primadonnas they are not.

The other workhorses of carpentry and cabinetry are hand saws.
Because of the availability of cheap power tools over the last ten years, few woodworkers now reach for a hand saw.  Further to this, there is a general ignorance of handsaws among casual woodworkers, to the point that all handsaws look the same.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here are two old hand saws that are  similar to those seen frequently on Ebay and at Sunday markets.
The indicators that these are not just any old saws are staring us in the face.  It starts with the handles.
The first is an Atkins Perfection saw - indicated by the embossed handle.  This was the top of the Atkins range of saws and a masterpiece of the sawmakers art.

The second has no branding except Warranted Superior on the medallion.  The handle says it is a quality saw from one of the premier saw makers.  The smooth curves, the lack of flatness in the sides of the handle and the wheat carving on the timber which looks like fruitwood (maybe apple) - all point to a superior product.  This one resembles a Simonds 10-1/2 skew back.

These two saws deserve a fresh opportunity to do what they do best - cut timber in the hand of someone who cares.

The blades are most in need of attention.

These are very hard steel and won't be affected by the abrasive action of a wire brush.

It is a much better choice than sandpaper, which scores the surface of the sawplate.

All of the rust and scale need to be removed so that the saw can pass cleanly through timber without jagging.

Once cleaned and oiled to prevent further rusting, both of these saws need sharpening and setting.

The Atkins is a 7 point cross cut saw, while the Simonds is an 11 point panel saw, filed cross cut as well.

The handles have had a thin coat of boiled linseed oil - to prevent the timber from drying out and cracking.

Both have tapered blades -  something done to the shaping of the best quality hand saws - and of which, manufacturers were most proud.

The Warranted Superior / Simonds Saw has no etch.  The Atkins Perfection saw has a clear etch - still visible after cleaning from under all that crud.
Hand saws generally are the poor cousins of used tools in the market place, as there is such a small demand for them.  Hence they are often sold cheaply.
Woodworkers should jump at the opportunity to snap up these beautiful old masterpieces, before everyone realises how valuable they really are.

Learning to use and care for hand tools is one of life's great pleasures, and it adds immeasurably to the joy of woodworking.

Happy woodworking to all.


  1. Old Tools were really good and better for work, they were perfect.

  2. Glad the carter found a good home

    1. Carters are an interesting part of Australian toolmaking. Some, like the C1 rebate plane are always well made. Other planes from Carter can vary wildly in quality. For a number 5, a Carter is just about perfect, for the reasons that I have mentioned. There are better smoothers around from other plane makers, but I was very pleased to pick up your Carter when I did. The one constant with Carters seems to be the high quality of their blades. I wonder where they were made?