Reshaping saw handles

A sore throat has me out of action today but there’s only so long you can spend in bed before it drives you insane so I thought I’d catch up on a few weeks worth of blog entries.

I have a D8 panel saw hanging on the wall of my workshop. It’s a thing of beauty – balanced, straight and the etch still partly visible through the patina that I managed to retain when restoring it. It’s set and sharp and I never use it.

The reason for this is the handle. I think it must have been made towards the end of the D8 line and Disston had abandoned their nicely contoured handles by then in favour of easier to make yet uncomfortably square handles.

I’d been wrestling with what to do about this one – it’s a piece of history so I didn’t want to do too much too it, but it’s also a tool and a tool that’s not used is useless.

I have just sold a number of saws on the woodworking forums and thought that it was time I either fixed the handle or sold this one too. I decided that I could probably get a nice contour on it without too much work so took a fine half-round rasp to it. You can see the before and afters below, once it’s been oiled and waxed again you shouldn’t be able to tell this wasn’t the original shape.

The areas that it didn’t feel right are at the back where my hand digs into the angles at the top, and at the back of the grip as well. I took a good look at one of my other saws that has a great handle and worked slowly to get it to the point where it both looked nice and felt right. There’s a very good rule for using rasps that I always follow – move the tool in the shape you want to create, instead of creating a series of flats. You’ll get a much smoother and nicer finish that way.

You can see in the after shot where I’ve made adjustments. Nothing drastic, but it took this saw from being good to being great. Once the rasp has created the basic shape you will need to sand it smooth, I stopped at 320 grit but may go to 1200 before I refinished it to make it feel really worn in.


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