Old Brass Not Nostalgia

DSC_0013DSC_0017Some tools mean more to me than others. I do like real brass, folded backs on tenon saws and dovetail saws over steel and none-folded brass backs, composite handles and backs and so on. They pinch the steel plate, you see, and allow 95% resolution to the out-of-straightness issues in a bent and buckled plate. Other plates in milled and punched backs cannot be straightened, but then again, of course, they may never buckle. Buckling is usually caused by pinched-back saws. DSC_0004So, my conclusion is that I like folded backs because they have weight, solidity and substance. Unlike planes, saws with backs benefit from weight and stiffness. These two saws are highly refined and rested designs perfected individually by master tool designers and makers 250 years earlier. They evolved if you will in and through the only pinnacle period of fine woodworking when the very finest tools were made. DSC_0016That doesn’t mean these saws were the best saws ever made. They weren’t. Better saws were made a hundred years before these came into being. But they are nice saws. – working class!

DSC_0096This is a chisel I bought and almost discarded. It cost me 30 pence and the handle was split. It’s boxwood, the most premium of all chisel woods bar none, I think. The ferrule is brass and the chisel forged steel. These ingredients make perfect chisels. I have been testing chisels from four countries and three continents. Those at the highest end have had flaws I cannot work with. They defy remedial work because either the designs are flawed or the materials are flawed. DSC_0098Buying this low-cost chisel proved a good buy, but why is that so. Well, it didn’t look good at first. The back, the large flat face, had pitting in it, which can be difficult to get through. Over the years the ferrule loosened. I waited and when the wood was thoroughly dried down in my shop, removed the ferrule, which slipped from the wood nicely. I used West systems epoxy inside the ferrule to bridge the gap twixt brass and wood. Rock-solidity resulted. The thinness of the steel makes the chisel a remarkable work piece to work with. I never used a 1 1/4, bevel-edged chisel so finely made. Never would I have realized that I would reach for this chisel when I bought it but I wouldn’t trade it for any other. Not one of them could come close, I don’t think.

3 Comments

  1. Joe Bouza on 24 February 2014 at 2:42 am

    It’s always interesting to track the history of old chisels and their manufacturers. I have many with the very standard recognizable names like Buck Bros., Witherby, W. Butcher etc. and many Paul that you may be more familiar with than myself. (USA and English) Morrison & Sons Sheffield, ……D. M. Company, ….Riverside Tool Co., …..Greenlee, ……Fare Brand, …..Hearnshaw Brothers, Sheffield, …..W. Schmitt & Co., …S.W. Card Mfg. Co., …W. Oaks and many others with just logos such as a harlequin or a fish and of course many unidentifiable logo shapes stamped on them. One blade just says ‘Sweden’ and it’s beautifully made .

    All are cast steel that have that wonderful unique ping sound when tapped. These wonderful old blades can be found almost any weekend at a boot fair UK, or tag sale US, for next to nothing. Most all need handles replaced and can be brought back into useful existence with a little sweat equity. You may have already covered restoring these in your blogs and videos but more encouragement to the younger wood workers to acquire some of these gems and learning to appreciate them would be noble.

    • CarlosJC on 25 February 2014 at 2:24 am

      Agreed. The old tools, chisels, saws, are living history. Not only youngsters benefit by learning to restore them, but adults too…by becoming familiar with their design, materials, and use, during the restoration. I hope prices for damaged tools remain stable.

  2. Henk ten Hoeve on 25 February 2014 at 9:08 pm

    New brass can be good too.
    I have a Kinzo gentssaw wich I liked very much. Nice Japan steel, and only 0.4mm thick. Could not find them any more though and being a bit tired filing ripcut and filing back to crosscut again and again I went to my local blacksmith and asked if he was willing to fold apiece of brass sheet 1.5mm thick double. After conficing him I would take care of the irregularety he was willing to do the job. He left a gap of 2mm between the to ends. I was able to pinch in the end in a metalworkers vise. Then i bought a replacement blade for a Kataba saw (Japanese crosscut saw) with ugly hardened teeth. I took them off in my saw vise with some pinchers. The back was a little convex so i tested the hardness off the blade with a file, it worked! Now in the process of filing theet 16ppi with a needle file, following the progressive pitch pattern( Thank You Paul) And then a nice maple handle, I used to be a woodworker….Cant wait to testing the results…

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