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More On a Saw

I don’t know if another maker did it but it was a good idea. We often fail to realise that contrary grain gluing can indeed constrain wood to prevent it shrinking or expanding and it can do that without the grain splitting. You see using thin wood like with veneering and also narrow components allows for a little more tolerance. I have often seen thin veneers of mahogany on pine for instance which will expand and contract with the pine even though the two woods are generally incompatible with regards to equal shrinkage and expansion capacities. The thinner the veneer the more likely it will expand and that’s why it is indeed so common to see the partnership work.

Spear & Jackson, as well known for its connecting ampersand between the two names and rarely seen arranged with an ‘and‘, developed the spindle of 10mm beech rod to pass straight through the closed handle of their saws to add cross grain strength to what is a weak point in saws.

I wanted to see exactly what was through the middle because the black cover dot disguised what was below the surface. I thought it might be concealing a threaded rod of some type as that is what it looks like from the top. Wrong! Just wood.

I reglued the rod in place but could see that the handle had been subjected to climate change and had shrunk 1/8″ of an inch from top to bottom. I suspect a batch had been made with wood not fully dried down because of the range of shrinkage. A quick trim and sand and it is now as good if not better than when it was first made.

The final shaping of the teeth gave me a saw that really gave me what I wanted. Just setting left now.


  1. Sylvain on 25 September 2019 at 8:17 am

    – Good solution
    – I see the growing rings of the dowel are carefully oriented.
    – What would be the purpose of the button and nail?
    – Was the dowel originally glued? on the whole length? Or was the nail used to expand the dowel at the top?
    – Although people despise them, plywood handles is another solution and better then plastic ones.

    • Paul Sellers on 25 September 2019 at 2:01 pm

      I agree on the plywood handles to some degree. The issue mostly is that the manufacturers have always made them more utilitarian by ramming them through a mass-making system. I think with some good quality and even hand made plywood it could be very nice indeed.
      My though was that the glue was lightly used and the button, being larger in diameter, was attached before the dowel was inserted and then tapped in until the button seats in the recess. the dowel was then trimmed flush and filed to suit the radius.
      I also think it was added as an intrigue add on; to make it seem more than it really was??

  2. Ed Baedke on 25 September 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Such a great method to increase handle strength! Interesting to note the hole isn’t quite centered on the width of the handle which may be due to the mass production process. Even so, I would more then likely reach for a saw such as this then our modern day replicas.

    • Paul Sellers on 25 September 2019 at 3:12 pm

      I think that I know the reason for this: I suspect that the hole is bored along the length if a suitably sized board at intermittent stages facilitating say ten handles per length. This board would now be passed under a CNC router system where the handles are routed from the whole. Not sure whether that would be the case back in the 1960s as routers and CNC were emerging rather than any kind of norm so perhaps rough cut on the bandsaw and then passed through a machine like an overhead router or a spindle moulder. So the whole bored becomes the registration anchor for subsequent cutting and shaping.

  3. Keith W on 25 September 2019 at 6:39 pm

    I have twice looked at a S & J 10″ tenon saw in an oddments bin at an antiques centre. Had a bit of rust and cracks in the handle near the screws. You inspired me to buy it. Penetrating oil and graded of wet and dry have given it a polish, still a few rust pits. A bit of time with a saw file and it now cuts well, but does jam a bit so will give it attention with a saw set. So I now have 12, 10 and 8″ S &J tenon saws. It cost me £3. I can understand why it was overlooked. Rust and the handle cracks. Dealt with the rust & the cracks are not a problem as the handle is firm.

    Incidentally S and J means S more important them J, S & J they are of equal importance!

  4. Julian Smith on 26 September 2019 at 7:40 pm

    I have often wondered what was under that black button. I am a professional joiner
    of 35 years experience , and have come across these handles on spear & Jackson says before ( in fact I think I have one on a dovetail saw. ) I haven’t seen this done on other makers saws (I was a technician in the carpentry and joinery workshops for nine years and came across many saws in that time)
    I think it was a really good idea.
    Incidentally I sharpen all my own saws, but I find the small teeth taxing on my eyesight though, must be getting old I suppose.

  5. Ray on 27 September 2019 at 10:14 pm

    I was given one of these tenon saws a couple of years ago. It’s an 8″ dovetail saw with the original packaging. I was wondering about the dowel and how it was installed. The saw was brought to Albuquerque, NM many years ago by a friend who bought it new (1960ish) in New York. He gave it to me but because of the very low desert humidity of Albuquerque the handle has shrunk. I wanted to do as you have done and refit the dowel. However, I am in the process of moving my tools to our new home in Oaxaca, Mexico where the climate is quite a bit wetter. Perhaps I’ll wait and let the handle acclimate to the new climate before working the dowel. Your comments about the dowel have helped me understand this process better. The saw looks to be in reasonable good condition but has really small teeth maybe 20+ pt.

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