Sunday, December 17, 2017

Winter Greetings

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all saw lovers, wherever you may be.

It's been a busy time since starting back to work in my shop this fall. I've received a steady stream of saw restoration and sharpening work from clients all across the U.S. and parts of Canada. Saws have arrived here from Massachusetts to California, Ontario to Georgia, and many places in between.

I love helping people get their saws back into working shape, but it doesn't allow me a lot of time to work on my own projects. I did, however, recently finish up two saws of my own. First was an 1840's era Groves & Sons 10" brass back dovetail saw. Usually I would say R. (for Richard) Groves & Sons, but this saw is a little unique in that it does not have the R. Perhaps that is an indicator of it's age.

I like the Groves saw so much that I decided to make a copy of it. Being the glutton for punishment that I am, though, not just any copy would do. I made a 0.60 scale tiny version of the saw. It is so small, you can only get one finger around the grip. It is not a toy, however. It is a fully functional 20 ppi brass back dovetail saw. Instead of English beech, I used Brazilian rosewood from my pre-ban stash for the handle. I think the saw turned out somewhere between cute and gorgeous. Rather than being a regular user, it will be displayed as a conversation piece.

Here are pictures of the Groves and copy together, and then of the copy in my hand. If you'd like to read more about the making of this little saw, I have an article here.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fall Update

Whew! What a summer it was!

On April 20 I began a torturous project of replacing the siding on my house. The old OSB siding was defective and delaminating. After removing it, I replaced it with new fiber-cement siding (aka Hardi Plank). My two-story house is large, and this was a big project to undertake by myself. I worked on it every day until mid-July when it just became too hot to work any more. This summer set records for heat and lack of precipitation. About then, fire season began in Montana, and it was a bad one. I've never seen Missoula as smoky as it was this summer. I started working on fires on August 3 and continued with only three days off through September 21 (49 days in all). Rains finally ended fire season, but I still had work to do on my house. After resting for two days, I resumed working on the siding, which by that time, was about 80 percent done. The work that was left to do was high work, so I rented a lift for a week and squeezed 7 days of work into 4-1/2 between rain showers. After returning the lift, there was only a few days of odds and ends left to do and, finally, the siding mega-project was done.

I'll admit that after that exhausting summer I had a hard time getting motivated to do much of anything for awhile. Gradually though, I've worked my way back into the shop, and I'm now starting to work on saws again. The first saw project was restoring a handsaw for a client in New York. Then, I sharpened 4 miter saws for a friend in Connecticut. That's over 8 feet of miter saw sharpening! Now I'm ready to start on other saw projects. I have some saws I want to make this winter. I'm looking forward to trying some new things and expressing myself artistically on some new saw builds. I will, of course, continue taking outside saw sharpening and restoration jobs. If you have some saws that need work, feel free to send them my way.

I'll end this with pictures of a couple interesting saws I acquired this summer. First is a Disston No. 12 with cone nuts and washers. These fasteners were used for a short time during the 1860s and 1870s. This saw is probably from the earlier part of that period. I have a similar No. 12 from the later part of the period.

This next saw is stamped Proctor & Co. Boston. They were an early hardware company. The saw was made for them by Welch & Griffiths, one of America's earliest saw makers. I have dated this saw to c1838.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A New Year Brings New Changes

When I retired from my real job in 2007, I looked forward to a life of doing whatever I wanted. I knew a big part of that would include working in my shop and making things. It's been a lifelong passion. Then my interest in saws came along -- first in learning to sharpen saws, then in restoring saws, and finally in building saws. It's been a lot of fun and a very interesting and educational experience. I'd like to think I've gotten pretty good at it, but though I strive for perfection, I know that's an unachievable goal. At least for me.

The mixed blessing of saw making is as my skills have been polished, and as word about my saws has gotten out, more and more people want my saws, That's the up side. The down side is that as more and more people want my saws, I have less and less time for anything but making saws. In essence, it has become a full time job for this old feller who just wanted to retire and have fun playing in his shop.

I am astonished by the demand for good saws. With the big name saw makers like Disston now long gone, there simply aren't enough of the small custom saw makers around to meet the demand. I could easily see my saw making "job" expand until I had a long waiting list and needed to hire people to help me catch up. I think most of the other custom saw makers have been down that road, and I don't want to go there. So, as much as I appreciate those who like my saws and want to own one, I'm going to have to make some changes.

Starting now, I will no longer accept custom saw orders. I will, however, continue to accept saw restoration and sharpening requests, since those activities don't seem to come in as large a volume or take up as much time as custom saw making orders.

You may ask, "Are you going to completely stop making saws, and what are you going to do with all that time you'll have"?  The answer is no, I'll continue to make some saws, and some of those will be for sale. I'll just be making the saws I want to make, and at a more comfortable pace. I need to finish my two sets of 12 matching heirloom saws that I started a couple years ago but am only 1/4 the way through. I also want to make reproductions of some historically significant antique saws. And then I also have a backlog of other woodworking projects that I'd like to make some progress on. I don't see myself just sitting on the porch in a rocking chair just yet.

Thanks again to all of you who have appreciated and supported my saw making and restoration efforts. May you all have a happy and blessed New Year.

A Busy Fall Comes To A Close

I began working on saws again on October 1, and the orders for new saws came pouring in. It's been a busy fall. Thanks to everyone who continues to appreciate and support my saw making and restoration efforts.

Among the saw orders received this fall were orders from my first international clients. I sent a nice 14" tenon saw to John in Australia, a matching pair of panel saws to Alberto in Puerto Rico, and still on my "to do" list is a table saw for Katie in the UK. It's gratifying to have the labor of my hands spread around the world.

Tenon saw in Australia

Panel saws in Puerto Rico

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Taking a Little Break

I'd like to thank all those who have bought new saws or had me do saw restoration work for them over the past several months. The presence of repeat customers, coming back for their second or third saws, tells me I must be doing something right. Your business is appreciated. Fact is, my volume of saw work has increased so significantly that I have little time for anything else now. That's a bit of a problem because I have a busy summer coming up. I have a ton of home maintenance and other projects waiting in line. And then there's my summer job of helping fight forest fires throughout the country. Last summer, I was away from home fighting fires for 81 days in four different states.

Due to my pending busy summer, I'm going to temporarily suspend taking new saw orders or saw restoration work beginning April 1. I'll resume accepting work again in the fall. The exception is saw sharpening. I'll continue to accept saws for sharpening, but there may be delays of up to a few weeks, depending on what else hits my schedule.

If I'm lucky, maybe I'll even find a few days this summer to wet a line in a nearby trout stream or otherwise enjoy the beautiful Montana outdoors. Have a great summer, and I'll see you in the fall.

Wheeler, Madden & Clemson 10" dovetail saw

Friday, February 12, 2016

Dovetail Saws -- Third Saws in a Set

As time allows, I've been slowly working on building two matching sets of heirloom saws. Each set will contain about a dozen saws (number still to be determined) ranging is size from an 8" gent's saw to a 28" rip saw. All saws in both sets will have figured walnut handles. When these sets are eventually done, one set will remain in my family, hopefully forever. I have no plans to ever use these saw, but will rather leave them in pristine condition for my heirs. I plan to sell the other set in order to cover some of my saw making expenses. Hopefully it will also go to someone who appreciates its heirloom quality.

The gent's saws and the table saws in these sets have been done for awhile now. This week I completed the third saws in the sets, the 10" dovetail saws. These saws have traditional folded brass backs, walnut open handles, and are filed as rip saws at 14 ppi.

It will take me awhile to finish these sets while fitting them in among other work. But at least I have a good start.

Monday, December 28, 2015

A Pair of Backsaws

I've just completed this matched pair of custom backsaws for my friend and custom furniture maker, Dan Westfall of Boone, Iowa. Check out Dan's website Westfall Woodcraft.

The smaller of the two saws (foreground) is a 12" carcass saw filed crosscut at 13 ppi. The larger saw (background) is a 16" tenon saw filed rip at 11 ppi. Both saws have a traditional folded brass back. The handles are cocobolo. Dan has been converting all his hand tool handles to cocobolo, so these saws will fit perfectly in his shop. I'm happy to see these saws go to a quality craftsman, especially one that I know will give them the care they deserve. Thanks Dan.