18th Century Style Tenon Saws – Part 2

With all of the rain we’ve been getting here on the East coast, I had some time to finish up my saws this weekend; well, except for filing the teeth. We left off the last part with the backs finished and the plates cut to size and the bluing sanded off. Now I needed to insert the plates into the backs. I used a method described in the Grammercy saw kits by using a softwood “bat” to tap the plat into the back. I started at one corner and worked it down gradually.


This isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to tap and pivot and tap some more trying to keep one end in while you tap the other end down. The back holds the plate very tightly so you need to get it in exactly the right spot when you start it. It’s too tight to slide the plate down after it’s started without buckling the plate. It’s sort of like West Side Story…fighting and dancing at the same time. I did finally manage to get both done. The second one was slightly easier than the first, but not by much.



With the saw plates and back assembled, I turned my attention to the handles. I glued the templates I made to a piece of straight grained walnut with liquid hide glue.


I bored holes to locate the concave curves and finished cutting the blanks out with a turning saw. I cleaned up to the template lines with carving gouges, bench chisels and spokeshave. I also bored the holes for the split nuts and cut the kerf and mortise for the saw plate while the stock was still flat. It’s much easier to do this now.


With all the holes bored and the kerfs cut, all that was left to do was finish the shaping. I used a rasp, file and several grits of sandpaper to do this. This is the fun part. The best thing about making your own saw handles is that you can make them fit your hand perfectly. No sharp corners or pinch points, just a perfect smooth fit to your hand. I finished with a coat of linseed oil and I’ll add several more over the next few days.


I didn’t take any pics of making the split nuts, however, the Norse Woodsmith has a good writeup on that and I used his method. The only difference in my split nuts is that I used lock washers in place of the square nut, ala the Grammercy saws. It’s easier in my opinion and they aren’t seen anyway.

Now I just need to file the teeth.


7 thoughts on “18th Century Style Tenon Saws – Part 2

  1. Hey I’m just curious because I plan on making some saws, did you have to harden the 1095 spring steel to a RC 50 or whatever it is supposed to be, or is the steel ready to sharpen as is ?

  2. I was reading on the Mcmaster Carr site and it said the wear resistent 1095 spring steel comes cold rolled, did you have to flatten it out or was this not an issue ?

    • No, the blue tempered 1095 spring steel comes in a coil. When you cut the metal strap on the coil, it will spring open like nobody’s business. It can actually be kind of dangerous if you are not careful because the edges can be quite sharp. I cut the strap off with the coil still in the box so I can then unroll it slowly and under control, otherwise it will just spring open. You might want to wear a good thick pair of leather gloves while unrolling it too.

  3. Also, how did you make the handle templates ? they look really nice and accurate to fit your hand I’m guessing, how did you go about that ?

    • The patterns were made by scaling a picture of a period saw from a book and then tracing the handle shape from that (go back to part I of this post to see the picture I used). Then I refined the curves so everything blended together and flowed well. The 18th century patterns, I feel, generally fit the hand better with a three finger grip. They will not allow you to squeeze a fourth finger in there like many of the 19th century and later handle designs will. I just think they are more comfortable, but not everyone agrees with me. Everyone’s hands are different.

  4. Well thank you Bob you are very helpful and I totally agree with you on the saws being more comfortable to use even thought I’ve never handled one before I can just imagine how they would feel

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