Broken and Dejected After 200 Years

DSC_0037A lost and lone tenon saw offered for under a tenner as an eBay buy-it-now seemed somehow destined for a no-zone life on a shelf somewhere and I bought it because it seemed to be so. The saw is a bit like some people I meet from time to time – somewhat jaded, slightly pitted, a little down at heel and with some parts broken, cracked and weak. Somehow I knew I couldn’t just leave it there in that condition. If the plate was absolutely done for, the handle and the split nuts could recycled in the life of one of my other saws.

DSC_0039There is nothing worse than coming across someone that feels like they are just useless when you know that they are not but nothing you say will change their opinion. Hopelessness is exactly what it seems, hopeless. I looked at this saw and I looked beyond its appearance into what I saw as potential. A broken plate is never really a very good sign, but I knew that in ten minutes and little remedial sawing I could extend the life of this saw by reducing its length from 14″ to somewhere around 12″ and that is exactly what I did. Do I have better things to do with my time. I suppose I should say yes I do, but, well, no, not really. Here is a saw that looks to be about 200 years old. For £12 including shipping it could be used for another 200 years. Not when it comes to old saws anyway. It will take me an hour to fix it, I thought. Currently I have 30 minutes in it. Restoring the teeth will take me 20 more and then all I need is to set it. As I said, about an hour.
Anyway, needless to say I bought it and today, in spare minutes I had in the class I was teaching, I did some immediate remedial surgery starting first with a little amputation.


First off I needed to separate the handle from the metal. The screws came out fine and kept the thread in good shape. Sometimes the snap or the thread comes away in the nut part. I filed out the centre section of a flat head screw driver some years ago and that works fine for all the saws I have fixed up that have split nuts.

DSC_0045This saw handle so closely resembles my Groves 14″ it felt exactly the same except the horns were not as long.


DSC_0061The steel was hard, hard, hard. I think someone used the heel of this plate to open a paint can or some such brutal task. The teeth are so rounded it took 20 strokes to go 1.5mm deep in pine; that’s about 1/16” in old money, and that was with John riding on the brass back like a rodeo rider in Bandera, Texas. I often ask my self what kind of brutes could use a saw to this degree without thinking something is wrong here.I tried sawing the plate but in the end it wouldn’t cut too well with a hacksaw and so I decided snapping was best. With the plate so sandwiched between to square sections of oak and held tightly in the vise, I snapped off the damaged part with the nylon Thorex hammer. The pat snapped quite cleanly and a flat file levelled all unevenness in a few file strokes.


The brass back on the other hand cut quickly with the junior hacksaw working from each side of the plate. A couple of extra snap-cuts gave the 30-degree angled cuts at the top corner, inside the handle, and also at the heel corner. The handle fit right back on perfectly. all that was left was drilling out the holes for the bolts.


DSC_0098Now the saw is back together my next task is setting and sharpening and a little overall clean up.DSC_0104

10 thoughts on “Broken and Dejected After 200 Years”

  1. Fascinating! I had no idea that you could snap steel off in that manner. I look forward to a future video or Masterclass series on saw restoration; perhaps with both tenon & panel saws.

  2. A wonderful save, Paul. Thanks for sharing it. Reminded me of the poem
    “Touch of the Master’s Hand,” by Myra Welsh

    1. Paul Sellers

      I prefer the original. Shiny new against 200 years of wear seems a bit too much of a contrast. A 12″ saw is plenty long enough for dovetails and tenons. Plus the cost changes and so the dynamic of restoration.

  3. Wouldn’t re-plating be a good option as well? It would have preserved the full length.

  4. Philo_Beddoe12


    Thank you so much for all you do for us, I’m another of the tens of thousands who now have the confidence to take up woodworking using old tools I’ve refurbished myself. I’m trying to restore a Disston 10 PPI rip panel saw that I bought in poor shape on Ebay. I already managed to (pretty well) remove the kink and bow in the blade after removing the tension, but how do I re-tension the blade? Is it even necessary? I’ve pored over your past blog posts and haven’t found the answer I’m looking for. One source online says you have to use hammer taps to do it, but doesn’t really explain how. I love to watch all of your videos but my absolute favorites are watching you take an old tool that others would consider junk and restoring it to it’s rightful place of respect on a work bench. Please keep them coming!

  5. i think the best part of your blog Paul is answering potential questions I might have about tool restoration before I come up with them. All I have to do is keep up with your prolific output. Thanks yet again.

  6. Bill Hawkridge

    Hi paul.I have just resurrected a beautiful 10 inch Long & Hawksley brass back for which I paid the princely sum of one pound.It was completely black with almost no teeth so I filed them off and refiled a new set. Cleaned the handle,plate, and back.It gleams as only experienced (150 plus years plus) tools can.Just like yours it has a previous owners name stamped on the handle.I wonder who he was and if he loved the saw as much as I do?.Please don’t stop doing what you do It’s inspirational.
    regards Bill Hawkridge

  7. russell palmateer

    paul been union carpenter for 40 yrs. the challenge for you and me and your class is this..talking to a japanese lady she said quote{my brother}makes wood joints in carpentry .they do not use glue or nails .they are a precise fit and do not fall apart. UMPGH cat got my tongue.i think i need to go back to school. Is this the american way HA HA

  8. I’m amazed by those bargains you find on eBay uk. Pitifully, those tools are a scarce resource in Spain and highly overpriced. My question is, is it worth paying for £20-30 on shipping costs to Spain? In my opinion, chances are you’ll end up paying too much (ítem +shipping) for an old tool you may not be able to refurbish, lacking the knowledge to choose a good one or the expertise to setup


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