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Restoring a Lost Cause - Part 1

This was a small project I did a couple of years ago... A recent conversation I had reminded me of it, and I thought some might find it interesting so figured I would post the story here. It's one of my favorite stories to tell, and it was a fun little project...

I was reading a post in a woodworking forum asking a question about straightening a saw - a backsaw in particular. Seems a fellow had picked up an old backsaw on Ebay and was hoping to restore it to use for himself, but was having a bit of difficulty. It seems it was bent, and he just couldn't seem to get it straight. Several helpful suggestions were given - and followed - to no avail. A further description (I don't remember if the exact conversation, or the photos), the general consensus was that it wasn't worth fixing. That's when I stepped in... I was looking for a bit of a challenge, and this was right down that alley. I got the original owner to either give or sell me (I honestly don't remember if I paid for it) the old saw to see what I could do with it.

When it arrived I got a chance to take a good look at it:

Pretty rough, to say the least - it would take a lot of work..  But if I'm anything - its a champion of lost causes... 

The back had a pair of rivets through it, that were apparently holding the blade in place. This led me to think the blade might possibly be a replacement - it didn't fit really tightly, it was actually kind of wobbly in the back... Anyway, I drilled out the rivets on a drill press and drove them out with a punch, but because of the malformed holes, the blade was still locked in place. I finally got it off by tapping a piece of brass held against the back while the blade was clamped in a vise, which slowly worked the back off of the blade until it was free:

When it came apart, I inventoried the parts to see what was salvageable. The blade, if it wasn't the original, looked to have been on the saw for some time, as evidenced by the lack of grunge under the handle:

Could it be the original blade? I honestly don't think so - and it was in very poor shape, and not worth trying to repair. It was simply too stressed to be straightened - it's natural shape was about that of a banana:

Also, there were tears in the metal- literally - between some of the teeth. It was like someone had tried to set the teeth with a set that would only be appropriate for a much larger saw, say 5 TPI. That made me suspect even more that it was a replacement, done by someone that really didn't understand what the purpose of all the parts of the saw worked, and what they were really for - hence the rivets.

Too bad, I was hoping to be able to use it. I could re-tension it, but since I had some replacement stock laying around anyway, I figured replacing it would result in a better tool. Had I believed it was the original blade, I would probably tried restoring it, but since it was suspect, I didn't want to risk the time and effort on something that might not perform as it should.

The back was in similarly poor shape, having been riveted for one, it was also bent and apparently had something jammed into it to open it up:


The back can be straightened and tightened up though - the rivet holes would be definitely be a challenge, but not insurmountable. I'd already decided to replace the blade also, so any additional replacements and the point of the exercise is pretty much moot...

The handle was grungy, but other than a chip in the horn of the handle was structurally sound. Problem was the chip was right at that spot that makes it very uncomfortable to use:

The saw nuts were in good shape - and indicated the saw was made somewhere between 1896 and 1917:

So - The final tally wasn't great - I would have to replace the blade, the back was in poor condition, the handle had a chip out of it... Perfect!

The best thing to do first would be see if I could salvage the back... up next!