Thursday, August 30, 2018

Simpson tenon saw 2, a new handle.

There are excellent tutorials to be found on how to make a handle, I am not sure if my order of progress is the most correct one, but it works for me.

Please also bear in mind that there are tools that will be much more suited to the task than those I have chosen to employ in the making of this handle. I don't use the "wrong" tools as some sort of self punishment, but because those are what I have got out here. It can as usual also be seen as an example of a way to work around a problem with regular tools.

First I decided which piece of elm that I wanted to use for the handle.
I had flattened one side of the piece at home on the jointer, so I set the marking gauge and brought the other face down to the line.
Somehow I made the handle 1 (5/128")mm thicker than the old handle which is actually quite noticeable when holding it. So for the next handle I'll have to take a few more swipes with the plane.

With the now flat piece of wood, I placed the old handle on top of it and traced the outline with a pencil.
It is important that the grain will run through the upper part of the handle as straight as possible, in order to keep the handle as strong as possible.

I used a drill press and a 1/4" drill to drill near the tight curves at the back, and also inside the handle.
After the drilling, my trusty hacksaw helped to achieve a somewhat handle shaped object.
This is where a scroll saw or a coping saw would have made things a bit easier.

The handle was then mounted in the vise, and I used a couple of files to remove the surplus wood, so that I was getting the outline of the handle correct before doing any rounding over. Rasps would have been the natural choice, but regular coarse files for metal works fine though maybe a bit slower.

With the shape correct, I placed the saw plate on top of the handle, in order to mark out where the holes for the mounting screws should be. I chose the same hang and position as the original handle.
I had to grind a drill specifically for making the recesses for the screws and nuts. I couldn't find a drill of the exact same size as the heads, so I had to use one that was a bit larger.

With the holes drilled, I marked the vertical center of the handle and sawed the slot for the saw plate to fit in.
Luckily the kerf of a hack saw was the perfect size for the plate, so a fresh hacksaw blade and a bit of sawing did the trick.

I started rounding the handle over, but after a bit of time I remembered that it might be a good idea to chop out the recess for the spine of the saw before going any further, so that was done and the rounding over continued.
After a lot of time spent filing, and sanding I was happy with the look and feel of the handle. The final sanding was done with steel wool, and that left the handle very smooth.

I applied some varnish to the handle and lightly gave it a brush with some steel wool before wiping of the little that was left on the surface.
Once the varnish has dried I plan to give it a coat more using the same technique.

Handle after sanding.

Outline of handle, note grain lines in upper part.

Sawing the handle.

Fresh from the drill press and saw.

Marking the position of the mounting holes.

Drill especially ground for making recesses.

Varnished handle.

Elm is such a nice wood.


  1. After seeing this, I am now prepared to next day air mail a Disston crosscut as well as rip saws that my father-in-law gave to me so you can install new, beautiful, hand made handles!
    All kidding aside, absolutely beautiful work, sir!!

    1. Hi Bill.
      Thanks a lot for the very nice comment.
      It is actually not that difficult, but it takes a bit of time. But if you have a coping saw and a rasp you can do it a lot faster than I did out here.

      A good thing about a project like this is that there is no need for a glue up, so you can go to an from the project as you wish.
      Most of the shaping I did while holding the handle in one hand and lightly filing it with the other.
      So technically you could do it in the Kitchen if Kim will let you.
      I sanded the last rounds in the control room last night. I had started the vacuum cleaner, and placed it between my knees, so there was close to no dust after that.

      It is likely cheaper to buy a new saw, but I like the feeling of rehabbing an old one. and shaping a saw handle is cheap in terms of wood. And if the alternative is to watch TV, then I guess nothing is lost by spending some hours in rehabbing an old tool.

      On a different note, I read one of your old blog posts yesterday, "Echo chamber". Those old posts still rock!


  2. Gorgeous. I really like the finish.

    1. Thanks Brian.

      The finish is a bit more matte now, since the varnish has dried.
      I am still debating with myself if I should try to give it another layer.

  3. That came out fantastic, Jonas. The wood and finish are beautiful. I just hope the rust doesn't compromise the attachment of blade to handle. -Matt

    1. Thanks Matt.

      I too hope that the rust wont be a problem, but I think that it will be safe for the next many years provided that it stays dry.


  4. Nice work, I find saw handles to be an incredibly rewarding thing to make, though I'm amazed at the time it can take.

    1. Thanks Jeremy.

      I couldn't have said it better myself. The time that goes into the handle suddenly ads up, but it can be time that is oh so well spent :-)