Saturday, November 24, 2018

Fall Reflections

On this Saturday after Thanksgiving, I’m sitting by a warm fire reflecting on the year that is quickly drawing to a close. With five inches of fresh snow on the ground, all is quiet except for the dripping of melting snow from the roofline and the crackling of the stove. It is a good time for thinking about the past, and the future.

This has been another busy year. Once again, I spent a total of 76 days away from home this year fighting wildland fires in five different states. That didn’t leave much of a summer for anything else. I’m getting too old to keep that up. Maybe one more year and then I’ll quit. It seems like I’ve been saying that for a few years now.

After returning from my last fire near the end of September, I had to quickly try to accomplish all the household chores I didn’t get done during the summer. Finally, in late October, I was able to get back into the shop and begin working on saws again. In the past month I’ve completed four saw restorations, finished building a couple of saws that I’d started months ago, and sharpened a few saws for outside clients. Things are in full swing now. I have several more saws to restore this winter, and I’d like to make a few more new saws as well. That will be in addition to all the other things that must get done, like the furniture restoration and picture framing projects for the wife. The work never stops. But that’s the way I like it, spending my time productively.

I’ve listed a few more saws on my “For Sale” page. Be sure to check them out. The matched set of brass back sash and dovetail saws is particularly nice. Here is a picture.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

When a Plane is a Saw

This is a kerfing plane. I made it mostly for the fun of making it. What is a kerfing plane? Well, it's not really a plane at all. It's a special type of saw. The purpose of this tool is to create a saw kerf around the perimeter of a board that serves as a guide for resawing the board with a rip handsaw or frame saw. Kerfing planes are kind of the trendy thing with the unplugged woodworking crowd these days. Though this one functions just fine, I doubt I'll use it very often. Resawing on the bandsaw is much easier.

One of the things I like about making saws is being able to express myself artistically. Owning a tool is great. Owning a tool that is also a piece of art is even better. This is the only kerfing plane like this in the world. I call it The Black Swan. I hope you like it. If you want to read about how I made it, you can do that here.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Some Recent Saws

It's been a busy winter working on saw restorations and saw sharpening jobs for clients all around the country. Thanks to all those who have sent me saws to work on. I appreciate your confidence in me.

In between working on saws for other people, I've picked up a few saws this winter to add to my own till. This first saw is by Lemuel Wheeler. Lemuel was the son of Elisha Pearl Wheeler, noted partner of sawmakers Wheeler, Madden & Clemson of MIddletown, NY. Lemuel joined the firm in 1868 and remained until his untimely death in 1873. Presumably this saw was made during that period. The apple handle is particularly nice, and the etch is an interesting one.

This next saw is a Warranted Superior "hardware store" saw. I acquired it for only one reason -- It was sold by Missoula Mercantile, a general merchandise store that began in my home town in about 1880. The saw was actually sold in the Kalispell branch store of Missoula Merc sometime prior to 1911. You can read more about this saw here.

Finally, a little British dovetail saw by Waller. There aren't many saws known by this maker, and it's hard to find out much about him. The saw is in good condition and didn't require restoration.

Carcase Saws - Fourth Saws in a Set

It's been a long time since I've been able to work on my two sets of heirloom saws. Two years, in fact. But this winter, I've completed two 12" carcase saws. These follow on the heals of the gent's saws, table saws, and dovetail saws previously made. Like the other saws in the sets, the carcase saws have brass backs and figured walnut handles. These saws are toothed at 13 ppi rip.

The next saws in the sets will be 14" sash saws. I hope it's not too long before I can get to them.

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 Massachussets. 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.