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Monday, 2 November 2015

Bushcraft Tools: Restoring an old saw (Pt. 1)

OK, so a large, old two handed cross cut saw is hardly a common tool in recreational bushcraft. But it is exactly the sort of tool which would have been used in woodland management, such as we are conducting as part of the Riddy Wood Project. 

In the post I wrote a few months back about old and new tools I mentioned that I like old tools, somehow they have a story, and it is one of very few links we have left in a modern age with traditional skills. I also enjoy the process of taking something which often looks fit for a scrap heap, and through several very simple processes tidying them up and making them functional again, and sometimes even beautiful. 

In my workshop at present I have two old axe heads to re-handle, both carpenter style axe heads picked up for £1 and £4 respectively. I also have an old bill hook which I picked up for £2 - the former owner had welded it to a piece of scaffolding tubing which was acting as a handle - Philistine! All the above, and the saw which is the real hero of this piece (also £2), were picked up from car boot sales, they really can be a treasure trove for old tools and can often be picked up for a song. I would also be the first to admit they can be awfully boring places but occasionally you find something worth going for. 


Actually my wife bought the saw (one boot sale I didn't have to suffer myself!). And very excited I was too when she brought it home. 

I haven't been able to identify any sort of marks or dates or any other stamps on it anywhere so its age, origin and history are beyond me I'm afraid. It is obviously reasonably old, I'd be surprised if it was less than 50 or 60 years old but I basically have no idea. 

The blade was rusty but sound, the handles left something to be desired, now loose in the rings, the wood pretty dry and brittle and a smattering of wood worm holes. They would need to be replaced. Other than that the only work which needed doing was cleaning up the blade, sorting out the rust. 

The handles were held in by split pins, on one side this pin just pulled straight out after a bit of persuasion, the other side pin was too corroded and sheared, so I drilled it out. 

When the handles came out it was pretty clear that they were way past their best. Replacing them should be fairly simple, just turning out a pair of new handles on the lathe (see Pt. 2). 

Cleaning up the blade was simply a combination of wire brush, sand paper (and power sander, I cheated because of the big surface area), WD40 and repeat. By the end of this process the metal was back to smooth, although still coloured. The teeth still remain pretty sharp, and with enough good metal to take an improved edge but I won't expend too much effort in trying to sharpen it at this stage. After I've sorted the handles and used it a few times to knock any weak tips off, I'll re-assess the sharpening and may take some time then to improve the edge where needed.

I know it doesn't do it justice but the below photo is where we've got to so far. In the next instalment , hopeful in the next fortnight or so, I'll make and fit the new handles, and use it, then do some sharpening if need be.   


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