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Joseph’s right!

“You have never been able to resist taking an otherwise useless hand tool and making it work, nor a vise or any other piece of woodworking equipment.” Rusted scissors are lifted from the bottom of an old basket in a junk shop and the name searched out with a scratch of a thumbnail. I had never seen it that way, but the truth is the truth. I saw an R Groves saw on eBay and saw the pitting described by the seller. When it arrived for the princely sum of £32 I knew that the plate was irreparable. I’m sure the seller must have thought me just another mug, but this was a saw I wanted because the handle and the brass back were just fine and so too the studs.

Restored pieces in the last few weeks.

I could of course have sent it back for a refund because the seller did not state that the blade had pitting holes all the way through the plate and that the plate was kinked and buckled too. Truth was I didn’t care. I wanted the other bits because changing the plate was just a few minutes work. You see the Spear and Jackson saws of the 1960s era sell for just a few pounds and I had several 10″ versions to replace this one with. The truth is that these saws have excellent steel but the handles are dead ugly. I think in about ten minutes I had a saw in the saw chocks being sharpened and when done the saw matched any of those £150 versions.

So that was the start to my week. Beyond that I have been successfully developing new ideas and designs one of which you won’t believe me if I tell you. Something I am still learning is to be aware of the hidden things in life. My enthusiasm spills over into the lives of others. In secondhand and charity shops I leave Hannah alone. She’ll dig down deep into the rust buckets and come out with a brass ferruled, boxwood-handled bevel-edged 1/2″ chisel as she did last week. She bought three hand tools for £1.50 and I told her she should be ashamed of herself robbing people like that (Joking). I think two thirds of her woodworking tools have come that way and she’s not afraid of the hard work restoring them.

The work I do relies on such things you see. I don’t need more tools, not for myself that is, but I am learning by them. My digging and scraping, sanding and repairing are the way that I have gained some really fine tools. Tools I could never afford even. But it’s not ownership that’s important, it’s the knowledge they give me and the knowledge I can spread. Yes, I know people learn from what I worked hard to put together, but what does it matter if the good news spreads in ways I never planned for it to? Some people copy and some people do it purely to maker gain. It does not matter. I don’t really care much at all.


  1. Phill on 20 November 2018 at 4:05 pm

    my tools comfort me. Yes they are tools, but I think you know what I mean.

    • Joe on 20 November 2018 at 5:44 pm

      I completely understand.

      Sometimes when I get home after a long stressful day, I don’t have time to work in the shop. Just 5 minutes of puttering (oiling some tools, looking at the project that is in progress, etc) at my workbench (even before I enter the house and announce I’m home) is enough to reduce my stress.

      • P tiffney on 20 November 2018 at 6:55 pm

        Paul your a man after my own heart. I managed a groves steel back 12″ saw for50p at a boot fair the Handle was poor but intact so home it went managed to get the split nuts of with ease. Have 2 old flat bit London pattern screwdriver made to use with split nuts. I have a good collection of old saw handles so with little tweaking on goes a new handle perfect fit. Into saw vice joint the teeth sharpen. Very minimal set and bingo perfect I don’t need another saw but it is now going to last along time.

        • Ed on 20 November 2018 at 7:40 pm

          Its gratifying to see what some elbow grease and a little tlc do to bring aged tools back to life and often with minimal effort. And oh the joy of putting those restored tools back to use!

      • Donald Kreher on 20 November 2018 at 9:00 pm

        It gives me great comfort to enter my shop and just look at all the tools I have restored. Or to just pick up an old plane and make shavings.

  2. Matt Sims on 20 November 2018 at 8:24 pm


    If I was buying a saw described as being an “R Groves” I think I’d expect it to be handle, back and blade to be Groves… not have an S&J blade.

    I guess it’s OK to do that to USE the saw…

    Is there a way to tell if a saw blade/plate is original groves?
    I ask because I have several!


    • Paul Sellers on 20 November 2018 at 8:30 pm

      I am sure a metallurgist would tell by analysis. For sure I can’t. I really never buy tools I wouldn’t use or give away. The very few tools I have sold, maybe three or four, online have been new premium makers because I disliked them in some way, feel, weight, clunkiness, or the way they worked. I would never be a dealer. Had I left this one alone it would have been an unusable saw and have no value. That was really the only point in the article so nothing deceptive, not promoting such, and neither seeking anyone’s approval either. If I wanted to sell it I would.

    • PaulG on 20 November 2018 at 9:25 pm

      A nice saw should be used for its purpose, not coddled and left wanting for the sake of originality and it would be an odd creature who would turn up his nose at a well executed replacement of a consumable component. As long as the replacement plate you fit is a suitably high quality piece of spring steel, what difference does it make?

      To the men for whom these tools were made, I doubt they’d care at all as long as the tool was capable of doing the work as well as it could when they first paid their hard earned pounds, shillings and pence to avail of its utility.

      I dare say they’d laugh at the notions some have about their tools of the trade.

  3. Robert J Amsbury on 20 November 2018 at 9:07 pm

    I too take great pleasure in saving old tools for the scrapheap. I am very much an amateur and know little in comparison but I’m slowly building a collection of very usable tools that have added soul from the effort I have put into them. This week I’ve de-rusted a couple of lovely old rasps that will soon be put to use.

  4. Matt on 20 November 2018 at 10:59 pm

    I wasn’t suggesting there was anything awry with what Paul’s done by replacing the blade, or that I wouldn’t use one…

    It’s just that Groves saws, in particular, fetch good money on eBay…
    I’m wondering if I’ve paid over the odds for any of those that I have!

    I’d happily eat a burger made with horse meat… but I’d not be happy if it had been described as a BEEFburger!



    • Mike on 21 November 2018 at 4:57 am

      If the saws you purchased meet or exceed your expectation for performance then you got a bargain.

    • Paul Sellers on 21 November 2018 at 6:49 am

      I doubt that you bought one with a changed plate, Matt. This one just had the worst pitting to the point that it looked like a lace curtain (exaggerating). I like the analogy for the burger though, even though I’m vegetarian!

  5. RickG on 20 November 2018 at 11:47 pm

    I, too have a hard time passing up the misfit toys!

  6. Caleb Ringwald on 21 November 2018 at 7:38 am

    I wonder though- did you have to use a longer blade, cut it shorter and drill new holes for the saw nuts, or did the holes in the Spear and Jackson plate happen to align just so?

    • Paul Sellers on 21 November 2018 at 8:13 am

      It was purely accidental. The holes were on the same alignment line and the same distance apart, slightly oversized for tweaking.

      • Max™ on 21 November 2018 at 3:11 pm

        I had the handle break while I was trying to put big chunky dovetails in a couple 2×4’s sitting on the deck, noticed I had an experimental handle I made for another saw and the only change I had to make was deepen the spine mortise a little.

        Always nice when you’re able to go from despair to delight with a couple turns of a screwdriver.

        Oh, I don’t know why I took so long to try out your filed-screw saw tooth set, gods that was a wonderful little tip there! I made a little brace (here: and the resulting line of saluting teeth: ) to keep the blade flat while I tink tink tink away, drilled a spot to screw the set into for storage, recesses for the spine and handle cheeks to sit in, and a tab to clamp in the vise.

        So much easier than any other method of setting teeth I’ve tried, thanks for all the saved time and annoyance to come!

  7. Gav on 21 November 2018 at 12:40 pm

    I have found that given enough time and random parts purchased for little or found thrown away quite a decent range of tools can be acquired. Split nuts bought new can be hard to get of a decent quality or quite pricey yet saws with very rusted plates and cracked or damaged handles can be bought for as little as three-four dollars with serviceable hardware. I built up a Stanley No. 5 from an almost pristine sole and frog with light surface rust, trashed handles and missing parts. The iron and chip breaker from a garage sale of rusty metal (tools) in a bucket , rosewood handles and remaining hardware from a No. 5 with fractured casting in a second hand shop. The No. 5 Frankenstanley feels and works like my original restored Stanleys. Tool collectors wouldn’t like it , the casting and frog are from a much later model with some odd angle where they meet and the frog is a bit unrefined with no allowance for an adjuster (I imagine that it was a cost cutting exercise at the time) and the year and a half collection time wasn’t particularly efficient but I didn’t expend a great deal of time looking for the parts. The cost came in at about $40 and some elbow grease and consumables I already have and use. Like quite a few of my other tools , it’s a keeper and will be able service myself and hopefully others in the future as originally intended. It can teach you a fair bit about how the tools work and why they do as a bonus.

  8. Andrea Kirkby on 21 November 2018 at 1:35 pm

    I love restoring old tools. I’ve managed to get some lovely big Stanley planes for a couple of euros each; one didn’t have its blade, and I’ve now managed to find a Peugeot freres blade that will fit it so I’m looking forward to getting it working again.

    I have some lovely chisels and gouges, and my favourite spokeshave is a little wooden one that cost £3.75 – it’s so light to use and just whispers through the wood.

    Someone else said he loves ‘pottering’ and there’s nothing nicer than just spending half an hour getting an old clamp nicely cleaned up or cleaning and oiling or shellacking a few chisel handles.

  9. Steven Bergom on 23 November 2018 at 10:23 pm

    Today’s tools sold at big box stores are lifeless. A few years ago I bought a Disston saw off EBay. The metal was black and the handle was covered in dirt and age. Even in its unrestored condition it leapt to cut through a board, almost humming with joy to be put to use after spending decades in a barn somewhere. And when I got it fixed up it was like magic as I sawed straight lines through a plank of white oak. The saw of more recent manufacture that I own is lopsided and heavy and has a handgrip designed for a gorilla. There is no joy in today’s tools.

    So I don’t begrudge you — or Hannah or anyone else — the love of putting an old tool to new use.

  10. Corlis Dobson on 26 November 2018 at 2:41 pm

    Good Morning Paul from northeast Texas.
    Let me first say thank you for allowing me to partake of your vast knowledge. Your methods and instruction are much appreciated.
    At 59 years old, having truly never built ANYTHING, I let my lion mouth overload my hummingbird ‘arse’ when I uttered the simple words “I’ll just build you one, baby.” Of course ‘baby’ is my wonderful wife who had been searching for an affordable rustic farmhouse dining table (the ‘it’) for some time. Now this story could go on for some time, but I will not bore you with the remainder.
    The purpose of my message to you is to simply say I so glad I found your online material, videos and blog. I am learning to appreciate woodworking and the tools that go along. I have restored several old hand tools now, including a Craftsman (appears to be #5) bench plane, a full set of Stanley bevel edge chisels (circa ’39-’65 best I can determine). I applied your initializing/sharpening/honing methodology and incredibly was able to achieve the sharpest edge I had ever imagined. Again, thanks.
    I was walking through a flea market near my home the other day actually looking for a dovetail saw, when I rummaged through a ‘$5’ bin and found what appeared to me to actual be that…a dovetail saw (actually 2 of them). I agreed to pay the man $6 for the 2 saws and came home.
    After ‘scratching through the grime on the saw back and the handle medallions I found I had purchased for $3, an H Disston and Sons 14″ (13-14 ppi) saw made between 1860-1865.
    Everything appears to be in almost perfect order. I have figured out how to get the split nuts loose, but I’m sure I will.
    The point I’m trying to make here is the tools, the ‘making’, has brought so much fulfillment to my life. Restoring the old tools to the usable condition is incredibly fulfilling and confidence building.
    Oh how I would love to stand at your workbench and hear your words of instruction in person. Your videos and blogs can’t come fast enough.
    Thank you again Mr. Sellers.

    • Paul Sellers on 26 November 2018 at 5:13 pm

      Your comment made me think of a conversation I had in a Birds Unlimited Store once in a Texas town. I’m talking to the man behind the counter and ask if he’s been busy. He says:

      “Not really, a couple of Georges that’s all.”

      “What’s a George?”I ask.

      “It’s the man who comes in with his wife and says, ‘I’d like to get one of those.”

      He says, “Aw, Honey, I’ll can make you one in a heart beat for half that price.”

      “Course,” the shop owner says, “She knows he never will and he has no intention of doing so. That’s what we call a George.”

      So you better be out there with good intentions, Corlis!

  11. Fabio Martini on 30 November 2018 at 4:31 am

    I’m writing from Italy (excuse my bad English). Thank you so much for your video. I appreciate a lot a particular tool, a plane that you use with two hands to refine the cut. What is the name of this and where is possible to buy?
    Thanks a lot for the answer.

  12. Lorenzojose on 4 December 2018 at 11:37 pm

    Picking up tools to restore can be a slippery slope. I often buy trashed planes for just a couple dollars, for example just for a part like a brass adjuster nut. When I get them home I put them in a derusting bath just to be able to get them apart, and when I pull them out, I look at them and think “I can save this tool” .

    My latest quest is for a fence stop, bar, and depth stop for a Stanley 78 I got for $5. .But it is missing a couple parts, so the quest begins for those. If you search online the fence, bar, thumbscrews and depthstop will run $40-$50- as much as buying a tool.

    I could do that, but this week I ran across a craftsman version. The parts are identical to Stanley’s, probably because Stanley made them. Cost? $20.

    So now I have a complete vintage Stanley, but there is a pretty nice Crafstman in the bin with no fence and stop.

    Now what do I do?

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