Restoring Maatsuyker #11976-432^4

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Don’t ask about the name. That’s how it came.

I was quite excited about this saw. At 350mm (14″) long it was earmarked to fill the “large tenon saw” spot of my pending set of back saws. As an additional bonus, the handle appeared solid and the teeth were all accounted for, which boded well for a relatively simply restoration.

This is what it looked like when it arrived. A 14″ Disston rip cut back saw dated between 1896 and 1917.

I had had already been soaked the saw plate and back in a vinegar bath, given a cursory clean, sprayed with a light coat of WD40, and wrapped away in tissue paper. This journey therefore started with a rust free plate and back.

My first course of action was a run through the grits of W&D on both the plate and the back. I topped out at 1200. There is a significant amount of pitting, which has next to no bearing on its usability, and as all my saws are users, I wasn’t going to try and clear the pitting up. Then on to re-installing the back. I wonder if there is a way to lubricate the plate or back to aide the installation process. As it was, it’s a slow process with lots of hammering against blocks of wood to get it back on. The plate pulled nice and straight, and only minor adjustment was required to work out a little belly in the mid section (if only this were the case for people too).

Then onto sharpening. Once I commenced the jointing exercise, I discovered that the teeth weren’t quite as uniform as I had assumed, so a fairly deep jointing was needed to get all but one tooth to adhere to my expectations of order and conformity. That errant tooth will just have to emerge over the course of several sharpenings, and endure the judgement of its well formed brethren in the interim.

Whilst not having to file in new teeth from scratch was a welcome change, I have come to be rather fond of a rake angle of about 4º. As such, I did end up re-shaping the teeth a little as part of the process.

The saw plate was finished up with a setting of the teeth. Again I used the smallest setting. However about half was along the first side, I wondered if I could get an even smaller set by rotating the depth disk just a fraction more, which I did. At this point those who do a bit of saw doctoring will be shaking their heads and calling me an unlearned gentleman. I had considered potential negative consequences, but, well, you know, nothing ventured nothing gained.

Then only the handle. Augh! One of the joys of using hand tools more and more is that I am required to breath dust less and less. Not so when sanding down years of grime from the handle. I did use the random orbital sander on the sides which I can hook up to the dust extraction, but the rest required copious amounts of hand sanding from 80 grit up to 400. Once done, I gave it three coats of shellac and left overnight to cure.

Because I wasn’t quite ready to call it a day at this point, I moved on to the saw nuts and medallion.

A long “bristled” brass wheel brush on the drill press for the medallion, followed by a visit to the buffing wheel for all the hardware brought them up to a lovely shine.

Day 2

It was with a sense of excitement and anticipation that I popped into the workshop the next day so get the saw finished. First up I rubbed down the handle with some 0000 steel wool, then gave the handle a wax and buff.

Next up it was fitted to the saw plate, and some minor adjustments to the back to fit neatly into the handle recess. It all went together very nicely and the nuts tightened up well to create a firm bond between handle and plate.

Onto the test cuts. Whilst no doubt desirable in other circumstances, the cuts were graceful arcs curving down and to the left. Every cut. No matter the preventative action I tried, graceful arc after graceful arc. It was at this point which I accepted my earlier tooth setting experiment had indeed been an error of judgement. Fortunately I recalled that about eight months ago Matt mentioning running a diamond plate over newly set teeth to work out irregularities when I was diagnosing my first effort at sharpening. I did this, and low and behold, it worked. I was now getting straight cuts. Perhaps that piece of advice having proven useful has balanced the scales against his naming of this saw.

Here is the completed saw in all of its splendour.

And a family shot of the restored Maatsuyker collection.

And finally, just in case you think I didn’t learn my lesson regarding changing the set half way through aligning the teeth … For want of a straight cut I needed a diamond plate to run down the side. Eagerness picked up the dirty DMT and got metal dust on my fingers. Lack of attention didn’t notice the fine steel particles being ground into the freshly waxed handle on further test cuts. I cried a little bit on the inside, then buffed it out as best I could. All because I tried to be tricky.


Dec, 2019

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