Friday, July 17, 2015

Making a Backsaw

Making a Backsaw 
Part 1
 Owning a good backsaw can make all the difference in your joinery and your joy of cutting wood. It isn't too difficult to make your own if you have a little woodworking and machining experience. Heck if I can pull it off anyone can do it.
 Quality saws can get quite pricey and while I completely respect the amazing workmanship of these makers from antiques to current models, after you have sharpened your saw a few times it becomes yours. If you can put together a saw with a straight back having the right tension in the blade, a handle that sits securely and comfortably in your hand and saws true, why not make your own.
 It might get you hooked on backsaws and then you will want one of those fancy high dollar ones and if you are already hooked on backsaws, making your own is a great project.

First step;
I like to start with the handle and draw out a design I like. If you are unsure about making your handle pattern, blackburn tools has some great patterns. 
Be sure when you cut it out that you leave the indexing marks that show the center of your exterior curves as this makes the job a lot easier.

 Find that perfect piece of wood and mill it to about and 1". What you can do to get it just right is use some scrap wood to make mock up handles. This way you can get the feel just right on where you want curves and the thickness.

  Lay out the pattern with the grain so theneck of the handle will have good support.
Use an awl to lay out your hole centers and drill the out with the appropriate drill bits. You can use this method with every con-caved curve on the design, I just do the biggest ones.

The two dots on the inside of the pattern are for the saw bolts and will get drilled out later.
 Carefully cut out your design and use a spindle sander or files to clean up the edges for routing.
I will let the handle sit for a bit and get comfortable with its' new look ;)

For the blade I will be using .02 shim stock steel. It is 1095 tempered steel and has a blue coating on it. I use gun stock bluing remover to take it off and then give it a buffing with 600 grit wet/dry sandpaper. If you are going to use an old thrift store saw, you should completely disassemble it and clean it up. Watch "Super Tune Your Backsaw" by Matt Cianci for tips on taking it appart and cleaning.

For the Back on this saw I will be using a pre-slotted back from blackburn tools. You could also order kits with slotted backs from gramercy. If you would like a folded back, you can usually find a good one at a thrift store on an old saw. This can be the best way to begin learning how to make a backsaw. The bolts, blade and back can be re-used to make a new saw. My twist on the backsaw is to use a wood back with scalloping. This came about as I was waiting impatiently for my supply's to arrive and I wanted to make a saw. After Chatting with the saw wright Matt Cianci, I found out that there were some early american saw makers that offered saws with wooden backs. 
  I use a .02 slitting blade in a grizzly arbor in my drill press set on the slowest setting.

There are a few resources for the saw bolts. Like I said, if you are using a thrift store model, you can re-use the bolts. But if you want some new ones, again Blackburn is a good resource as well as Gramercy and TGIAG (two guys in a garage) They have some good stuff.
 If you are using old bolts be careful with them, they can be very fragile, clean them with a soft wire brush.
One option for your saw is a medallion bolt to have a little show. It has a small recess or bezel that can house a coin or something similar. For the saw we will be making, I will be using a piece of petrified wood I found on the beach and a tile saw to make a cabochon to go in the medallion nut.
My wife uses precious metal clay's to make jewelry and I stole some and had my local laser engraver print me a stamp out of poly-carbonate material with the reverse image of my logo. I put it on the end of a dowel and used it to stamp the clay. I then fired it and set it in the nut. They have a variety of clay's such as copper, silver and bronze and it is best if you have a kiln to fire them in, but some can be done with a small butane torch. You can fill the medallion nut with anything you like, giving it a one of a kind look.
Now we have the necessary materials to build a backsaw. In posts to come I will show how to finish it up.

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