Fixing Up An Old Handsaw Homemade Woodworking Tools

This project happened spur of the moment as a result of an extended power outage after a storm. The lights were off for a little over twenty four hours and on the second day I didn’t have much of anything else I could do, so I figured it was as good a time as any to work on one of the handsaws that I have. I bought a few older ones for $2 each at a Habitat For Humanity store several months ago.
I’ll say up front that this is not a restoration to turn the saw into a show-piece. The idea here is to bring it back to working condition, and not concern myself with how it looks. If this were a better saw, or a more famous brand, it might be worth the time and effort to ‘do it right’.

The saw is a 7 point with a 24″ blade and is in reasonably good shape. The blade is rusty, but not deeply pitted. It is not perfectly flat and straight, but the bends look like they can be taken out without much trouble:

fix up a rusty handsaw
remove rust from a handsaw

To remove the rust from the blade and flatten it, I’ll need to remove the handle. This turned out to be an ordeal, as the bolts have seized and no amount of persuasion would loosen them. I cut slots in the smooth side to get a screwdriver on them, but that didn’t work either.
If I had more time, I would have tried penetrating oil, but it would be difficult to get it in where the threads are.

I ended up drilling the heads off on one side:

remove the handle from a handsaw
fix up an old handsaw
handsaw handle

I had bought another saw with a badly bent blade to use the steel for another project, and I could scavenge the bolts from that handle. These are solid brass and came out easily. There are only three, but that will be adequate to hold the blade while I look for another for the fourth hole.

I used a #8 machine screw to drive what was left of the bolts out of the handle and removed the blade:

fix up an old handsaw
handsaw blade

Next, I removed the set from the teeth by pounding them flat on an anvil. I did this to keep the sandpaper from snagging and to be able to sand in the area close to the teeth. To make sure that all of the set was gone, I drew a file across the side of the teeth.
This may seem destructive, but there won’t be much of these teeth left after I’ve finished with the saw. They will need to be filed deeper into the plate to get rid of the worst of the rust.

There are several ways to remove rust, but the fastest and probably the best way is to used some sandpaper and good old fashioned elbow grease. I started with 100 grit to remove the bulk of corrosion, then switched to 220 grit in the sanding block:

sand the rust off a handsaw
cleaning a handsaw

The sanding was followed up with a rub down with my sharpening stone and some oil. This was not as effective as the sandpaper, but did make the blade that much smoother.
This whole process took about 15 minutes to do and less than a sheet of sandpaper. I’ve had many suggestions for different ways to remove the rust, but all of them involve buying something, waiting hours on end, or setting up an elaborate rig to do the work. Most times, the best way is often the simplest, and that would be the situation here.

I made an impromptu saw vise from a strip of melamine to hold the blade while I do the initial filing:

handsaw in vise to sharpen blade
handsaw in vise for sharpening

It took a while to file the blade, as I was doing four heavy cutting strokes per tooth to get down to smooth metal. I had to finish it on another day, since my power came back on when I was about half finished and there were other more important things to do.

With the first shaping done, I used a flat file to level the teeth. This is done by drawing the file straight along the tips of the teeth until they all have a small flat spot. The teeth are then filed down until the flat spots disappear:

file saw teeth to sharpen
sharp saw teeth

After that has been done, the teeth should all be the same height. Notice that the blade is in a different saw vise. I made one before continuing work on the blade and the details of how I made it are here.

Next, the teeth need to be set:

set the saw teeth
saw tooth set

The tool pushes each tooth over using a small steel plunger that presses against the tooth when the handle is squeezed. The amount of set is controllable by rotating the anvil to a new position. Oddly, according to the instructions that came with the saw set, the numbers that are on the anvil don’t correspond with the tooth count on the blade. I found setting it at “8” was giving me the best results for this blade.
I did briefly considered stripping the existing teeth off and resharpening to a finer tooth spacing, like 9 or 11, but figured it would be a wasted effort on this one. I have a bigger saw of much better quality that I may do that to.

The set of the teeth should be no more than half the thickness of the blade:

saw tooth set
saw tooth set

With the teeth set, I gave it the final sharpening and moved on to working on the handle. First thing I did was sand and scrape off the old finish:

handsaw handle
handsaw handle

I also eased the harsh edges in the grip area with my carving knife and sandpaper to make it more comfortable. The emblem was put back using a small amount of epoxy to make sure it stays in place.

The holes in the blade had to be enlarged for the new bolts, and this was done with a step drill:

holes for handle
fix up an old handsaw

It was then put back in the handle and the three bolts screwed in. I used two of the old ones to fill the fourth hole by cutting them short and gluing them in with epoxy.

To give the handle some protection, I gave it a single coat of linseed oil. I like my wooden handle tools to have no finish at all, but the thin layer of oil will not make a difference to the grip and how it feels.
To keep the blade rust free, I gave it a coat of paste wax. The wax also helps the saw to glide through the cut without binding.

a thing of beauty is a joy forever

Finished and put back up on my tool board.
I don’t believe I’ll use this saw often, but it is nice to have on hand for the rare times when I need one. Also, a lot of people like to see hand tools only projects, so I might do one or two of those at some time.

I made two videos of the work done on this saw: