Old hand saws are the tools that few want, and most discard. I have walked past the same bunch of hand saws at our local market every Sunday for the last six months. While other tools sell, saws sit and languish.
Cheap power tools have made working wood by hand something to be avoided by the majority of people. Of all the woodworking tasks that we perform, cutting timber by hand is - comparatively - one of the most laborious these days, and is much more easily done on powered equipment.
However, there are so many times when cutting can't be done any other way, and a hand saw is the only answer.
I have just spent the day with my eldest son replacing the dutch gable on one end of our home. The old hardwood weatherboards were not only tired, but showing signs of rot and splitting. Down they came and their replacements - weathertex - installed.
Cutting the angled ends of these was much safer and almost as quick as using a power saw. We used my old Spear & Jackson 10 point cross cut - which breezed through the timber. Even my son had no trouble with this, and he is not a woodworker but an auto-electrician. I caught him grinning while sawing a couple of times.
Few of my handsaws have been bought new. Most have been acquired as hand me downs, or knocked down at auctions or tool sales. My father's Disston D-8 crosscut 8PPI is one of my treasured possessions. It was the only saw he ever owned.
I was lucky enough, many years later, to inherit a saw from my wife's father, which has always puzzled me. I never knew who was the manufacturer.
We used it extensively, Lindsay and I , when building the roof of my first home - exactly forty years ago. It is small enough to hang from a tool belt while climbing among rafters, purlins and collar ties, and was used daily in this area when cutting purlin props, roof battens and hanging beams.
It is unlabelled and without etch - even the medallion is plain - but it has a nib, and the medallion is distinctive.
It is only in the last month that I have discovered that this is a Disston. Referred to as the Disston - Our Saw. Here is what it would have looked like as a newer saw. This saw is offered in the Disston 1914 Catalog as the No. 090 “special saw etched to order.” That catalog lists the smallest size of this model as a 16 inch panel saw, but mine is just a little longer - 16-3/8 inches.
Other cross cut saws that have proved useful are these two - an Atkins Perfection 7 point, and the Spear and Jackson 10 point saws. I used the S&J for the weathertex because it is a manufactured board with fine fibre structure, and the 10 points left a much nicer finish that didn't need further dressing. The Atkins Perfection 7 point is a great general purpose cross cut, that makes short work of timber preparation in both carpentry, and wood sizing in cabinet work. It is very good on tighter grained timber, but can be a bit too aggressive on open grained wood, leaving a ragged edge.
I don't usually like to use plastic handled saws, but I will make one exception. This Sandvik cross cut saw dates back to the 1960's, and even though the handle is designed for a four fingered grip, it can be used with three. It is nowhere near as comfortable to use as the wooden handled saws, but it has a superb blade that will tackle just about anything in the timber line.
These are always cheap at markets and auctions. I got this one for $25 from an old tools sales store. I have seen them even cheaper. My cousin, David, who is a builder - swears by them.
If you can't tell whether a saw is a rip saw or not, look at the teeth. Rip saws are filed straight across the teeth (@ 90 degrees), and the teeth themselves have a more vertically oriented presentation to the wood. They are flat across the bottom of the tooth - like a chisel.
There is an excellent explanation HERE
These three are all ripsaws, but with different features and uses.
The Bodman - top - is set at a very aggressive 4-1/2 points per inch, and is good for fast ripping of thicker timber stock. The Disston - bottom - has 7 points and is excellent at ripping one inch or so boards that need reducing in width. The Tyzack Nonpariel has 6 points, and is good for those timbers in between these sizes in thickness, or for denser one inch stock.
Of course, ripping with a handsaw was a job often given to apprentices, as it was sooo physically demanding. I still try to avoid it, but often there is no alternative - and sometimes - when time is not an issue, it can be very zen-like. Get into the groove and become the saw.
Doesn't happen often, I can tell you.
It is a pity that these grand old tools aren't more popular than they currently are. I can see a day coming when we will look back on the scrapping of these lovely old handsaws with regret. Now is the time to grab some while they are still around. They are the product of an age in tool manufacturing when quality mattered above all, and the hand saw maker was revered as an artist.
Happy woodworking to all ...............