Posts Tagged With: saw making

Simple Saw Vise

I’ve been slowly applying and leveling coats of shellac on the handle of the saw I’m making.  I’m probably overdoing it, but I want to have a nice glassy smooth finished handle.  While I’m doing that I’m thinking ahead to setting the teeth and sharpening it.  Somewhere I have an old saw vise, but I wasn’t really happy with it the last time I used it – it has teeth meant to be driven into the top of the bench, and then it needs to screwed to the front of the bench.  Not ideal.

There are a lot of home-brew saw vises, and a googling turned up several ideas.  The simplest one I saw that overlapped with materials I have underfoot already was the “Lie-Nielsen Saw Vise” that I found on Close Grain.

It’s simplicity in itself.  I cut two pieces of 3/4″ ply to 9″ x 18″, which just fit in a scrap left over from the quickie TV table I built.  I has a length of 1″ x 3″ Poplar laying against the wall.  I cut one 1″ length and ripped it in half to make a pair of cleats.  Two more 18″ lengths were ripped into a 3/4″ wide strip and whatever was left.

Parts for the saw vise

Parts for the saw vise

The assembly was just glue and screws.  I glued one wide strip and one narrow strip on each piece of plywood, then screwed the cleats to the outside faces.  The narrow strips are the jaws of the vise.

Gluing the Poplar strips to the plywood

Gluing the Poplar strips to the plywood

Vise mostly done.  Cleats screwed to the outside, jaw and hinge supports glued to the inside

Vise mostly done. Cleats screwed to the outside, jaw and hinge supports glued to the inside

I used hinges at the bottom, but strips of leather or even thin plywood would probably work.  It just needs to flex enough to slide the saw in.

Hinges at the bottom to allow the vise to open

Hinges at the bottom to allow the vise to open

And it’s done.  It took as long to upload the photos and write this post as it did to make.  The cleats sit on the top of the leg vise and bench to keep the vise from falling it’s opened.  I’m going back out to the shop now to add a strip of leather to the jaws to make sure they hold the saw plate securely.

Finished vise ready to use

Finished vise ready to use

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Making a Back Saw, Part 3

Yesterday I left off with pictures of the freshly slotted saw handles.  It’s always a great confidence booster when something I was worrying about goes well.  Luckily, there is always something else waiting in the wings to keep hubris and humility balanced.

After several cups of coffee I went out to the shop yesterday morning and started laying out the mortise for the saw back.  I assembled the saw plate and bronze bace and fit it to the handle so I could scribe the layout directly from the bronze back.

Transfer the location of the brass back to the handle.  Yes, that's the marking knife I made with the "surgical blade" recently.  I need to make another, I really like this one.

Transfer the location of the brass back to the handle. Yes, that’s the marking knife I made with the “surgical blade” recently. I need to make another, I really like this one.

On the first handle I decided to chop the mortise just like I would for a piece of furniture.  It was going just fine, but when I loosened the vise to reposition the handle, guess what I found?  Yes, a little bit of humility there on the Group B Bench.

First handle cracked even though it was supported in the vise.

First handle cracked even though it was supported in the vise.

Bummer, right?  I’ve had this happen before with figured Claro Walnut, there was a great bit of curly figure in this piece too (obscured by the coarse sanding).  Unfortunately that also made the grain run vertically right in this spot.  Oh well, better now than after the saw was done.

For the second attempt I decided to try sawing the sides of the mortise, sort of like you would on half-blind dovetails.  That worked OK, but I’d be lying if I wasn’t wincing with every move of the chisel.  But it worked just fine.

Sides of mortise sawn

Sides of mortise sawn

With the mortise done I clipped the back of the saw plate so it would seat against the kerf in the handle and test assembled the saw.

Test Fit

Test Fit

It’s an OK fit, I’ll give it a B+ for accuracy and class participation.  The overall look of the saw is good.  I’ll need to trim the brass back just a bit.

Decent fit around the saw back

Decent fit around the saw back

With that done I was ready to start shaping the handle.  I drew layout lines on the side as you can see in the picture, and on the edges.  The lines on the edges are parallel to the sides and about 3/16 away.  I also drew in a center line on the edges of the handle.

Layout lines for the first step in shaping

Layout lines for the first step in shaping

The first step in shaping was to rasp a bevel from the layout line on the side to the line on the edge.  I tried to get a flat chamfer and to keep an “even” edge where the shaped area meets the side of the handle.

First bevel cut on the back of the handle

First bevel cut on the back of the handle

Once I had the primary bevels cut into the handle area on both sides, and on the front and back of the handle, I was ready for the next step.  I laid out a line in the middle of each bevel and rasped a second bevel from the line to the center line of the handle edge.  From there it was simple to round over the remaining facets to have an even shape.  By cutting a series of even facets you can ensure that the shape will be even more easily than just grabbing a rasp and rounding it over from the start.

Blackburn Tools has a great series of articles that describes the process in more detail, including some details I’m not going to incorporate on this saw — maybe on the next one.

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Both bevels cut and blended together,  Lots of sanding to go.

The rough shaping of the rounded part of the handle went really quickly.  Maybe 10 minutes.  This was followed by an hour or more of hand sanding the rounded areas to remove the rasp marks and smooth everything out.  I started with 100 grit, then 120, 150, 180, 220 and 320.  The hardest part for me are the chamfers y the saw plate.  They aren’t as uniform and flat as I’d like.  I’ll need to work on my technique.

Sanded

Sanded and smooth as heck

I drilled the handle for the saw nuts, drilled the saw plate to match and started working on the saw back and saw plate.  I got one coat of shellac on the handle and left it to dry overnight.  I’ll sand it today and work a couple of more coats on.  I need to set and sharpen the saw and assemble it but I think I’m pretty close.

Oh. Nuts.

Oh. Nuts.

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Second Saw Handle Roughed Out

I had a little time after work yesterday and decided to rough out a second handle for the backsaw project.  I made the first one in some dark Claro Walnut, but I was concerned that I would screw it up when cutting the slot or doing the final shaping of contours.  So I decided to cary a spare along through the process.

This one is also Claro, but it’s a marbled color with an interesting spray of figure.  I slabbed it out of a turning block I picked out of a sale bin years ago, I can only get one handle as there is a crack in the block.  It’s too bad because this one has some great color.

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Two handles rough shaped

On the second handle I used the scroll saw to profile it after drilling the holes.  This worked a bit better than the bandsaw cuts as there was less waste to clean up.  Both methods work fine, but I like having to do less rasp work to get the the lines on the pattern.

From here, the next step is the scary slotting of the handle for the saw plate.  It actually turned out not to be a big deal, maybe the saw gods were watching over me.  I used a marking gauge to scribe a centerline where I wanted to cut, then used another saw to start the key all the way around to a depth of about 1/8″.  Then I worked the kerf deeper and before I knew it I was watching to see that I hit the stop marks for depth.

Getting ready to saw the first handle slot.

Getting ready to saw the first handle slot.

On the first handle I used my 14ppt crosscut saw, I know this is a rip cut but I was concerned that the narrow very my dovetail saw leaves would be too thin for the saw plate.  I didn’t saw quite as perfectly as I’d like, there are a couple of spots where the teeth gouged the side of the keep making the opening look slightly uneven.  But it’s centered and straight and functional.

For the second blanks I used my trusty dovetail saw.  I cut a nice crisp slot with no tear out…that was too tight for the saw plate.  So I re-sawed the kerf with the crosscut saw and that opened it up just enough to fit the saw back.

Both handles slotted.  The one on the left is a little sloppy, but I think it will look fine when it's all shaped and assembled.

Both handles slotted. The one on the left is a little sloppy, but I think it will look fine when it’s all shaped and assembled.

Once I get some coffee I’ll head out to the shop and do the next step — which is to fit the saw plate and back to the handle.  The saw plate need to be clipped to set against the back of the slot, and I need to layout and cut the mortise for the bronze back.  With that done I’ll be able to fit the fasteners, and do the final shaping on the handle.  This should go relatively quickly, although I’m already wishing I hadn’t said that out loud.

Saw plate test fit into handle.  The plate needs to be clipped at an angle so it can settle completely against the slot in the handle.

Saw plate test fit into handle. The plate needs to be clipped at an angle so it can settle completely against the slot in the handle.

Just in case something goes amiss and neither of these handles work out, I picked up a couple of scraps of wood at Global Wood Source in Santa Clara.  These will also be useful “just in case” everything goes well and I decide I need to build a bunch more saws to fill the gaps in my saw till.

One is tiger stripe figured Honduran Mahogany, the other is Granadilo.  The Granadilo is a South American wood that is used as a tone wood in guitars.  It’s heavy, and the coloring looks like East Indian Rosewood to me.

Extra handle material.  Just in case.

Extra handle material. Just in case.

Rough Shaping the Handle

Roughing the handle in — that is, getting the handle contours cut and smoothed — is pretty basic stuff.  It helps a lot to have a nice pattern to glue to the wood and use as a guide.  I wanted to share the sources for handle patterns that I’ve found:

Saw Handle Templates on CraftsmanSpace.com

Blackburn Tools offers saw handle templates for the kits they sell, these are slick because they are all available is different hand sizes.  Isaac also has scans of actual handles for a number of vintage saws.

Wenzloff and Sons have several patterns available on their site.  They used to sell kits and parts, but they have reduced their line and I’m not sure how active they are in saw making these days.

Two Guys In A Garage, which is a great and unpretentious name, have a nice selection of patterns for many different vintage saws, including one for the Disston saw in my Millers Falls miter box.  Hmmm…  They also have parts for building saws including folded backs.

Tools for Working Wood sells a nice looking dovetail saw kit, their instruction packet includes a pattern for the handle and tips of cutting the slot and mortising for the saw back.

 

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