Last winter I took a day off of work and hung out with Peter Follansbee at his shop at Plimoth Plantation. Peter and I had become friendly through the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events around New England, and I had sharpened a couple of saws for him. In the course of talking tools and shop, Peter showed me his saws. One of them was a nice 14 inch backsaw that he used occasionally for bench work like cutting tenon shoulders. I asked him how he liked it, and he said that he had some difficulty using it and that it was a bit uncomfortable.
After some conversation about what he’d like to change about the saw, I shared with him some of my experiments and ideas for improving the function of saws like this. I noted that by replacing the original tote with one of an earlier English pattern, the saw would be much more functional. Peter’s response was typical of his no-nonsense approach: He put the saw in my hand and said, “Here…do it.”
So I did.
After picking through some of my tote patterns and original saws, I settled on this one…
…a Kenyon Sykes & Co. 18 inch tenon saw from c.1815. While this saw is a bit bigger than Peter’s, I felt I could scale the cheek down just a smidge to make it work.
Now that I had selected a pattern, I need to pick a nice piece of wood. I have been squirreling away some gorgeous, wide holly from a generous student and figured it would be perfect. After making the tote, I fiddled a bit with the saw plate to accommodate the new handle and introduced the new partners to each other.
Here’s a pic of the newly assembled saw with the old tote imposed on top…
You can see how much lower the tote is on the body of the saw plate, and how much more vertical the grip is compared to the back and toothline. This puts the thrust of the saw more behind the mass of the plate and in line with the teeth. The result is a saw that tracks better, starts easier and cuts more true. I was pleased with results, and I hope Peter is too.