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Thread: Can this Disston handle finish be saved?

  1. #16
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    Agree use denatured alcohol not rubbing alcohol...I would also reco using a padding technique with DA and some shellac on the pad...Try to blend the finishes together which is easy with shellac and DA..Just my thought...Wax at end when results are good.
    Jerry

  2. #17
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    Nice work on that No 12. That's what a restored century old saw ought to look like.
    ---Trudging the Road of Happy Destiny---

  3. #18
    I'm a renegade when it comes to refinishing any old tool. If I can make it look like new, I will. Forget patina. That's just a chic word for corrosion and grime. I like my old tools to look the way they did when the original owner first started using them. It's rare that I can actually get them looking like new, but I try. I can't imagine some carpenter 100 years ago saying, "I don't want one of those new saws. They look like they've never been used!

    I sand saw handles as needed and brush on a coat of lacquer. I steel wool that coat, give it a second coat, steel wool that, then buff.

    BTW, they restore Rembrants, you know.
    Last edited by Jim Davis; 06-19-2017 at 10:17 PM.

  4. #19
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    I for one cannot tolerate grungy tools. I make mine shine if I can. For one thing, it is a precursor to sharp. I don't expect an old saw to be bright, but is will not have rust and dirt, and it will have a sheen.

  5. #20
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    Jim,

    In the restoration of Rembrants, they carefully remove dirt and soot, and then painstakingly fill in areas of paint that match the picture that are missing. This approach is exactly how I do it. You are advocating belt sanding off the old paint, spraying with Krylon and then adding your own design that might or might not mimick that of the original. Big difference!

  6. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Taran View Post
    I'm not aware of Disston ever using shellac on their handles btw. It's some sort of varnish.
    Aha, news to me. I don't have any lacquer thinner on hand but I'll have to get some and see what it does. I suppose it's possible that the rubbing alcohol wasn't making the finish sticky but instead just loosening dirt and grime, and that was the stickiness I was feeling.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Taran View Post
    It's not that hard. Take some 0000 steel wool and make the one end wet with mineral spirits. Then, take the steel wool and using your forefinger wipe back and forth and that grime and crud will come right off. Try to be even in your approach so you don't have one spot where the finish is almost all worn off and another that isn't. If there are paint flecks, take an exacto knife and carefully pick at them of scrape them off, then scrub with the steel wool and mineral spirits.

    If I had that saw handle, it would be clean and ready to coat in 5 minutes. It's not in that bad a shape. For the nuts, they are often crusted in gunk where they meet the handle. Soak them in some mineral spirits, and use a tooth brush to remove the grunge. If it's really caked on, get a bronze bristle brush which you can get at harbor freight or lowes where they sell the welding stuff. They come in a 3 pack. I like to clean nuts just enough to get the grime off. Don't go overboard and buff them, that's just silly. It took 100 years to put that patina on, don't remove it unless you want your saw to look like a botoxed face with a crazy chicken neck...the two don't go together!
    I haven't touched it with steel wool yet but that is the next step up in aggressiveness so I'm gonna give that a shot. Thanks for the all the info!

  8. #23
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    I would steel wool it and then a coat of Johnson's floor wax. I find that gives a smooth clean finish.

    Also, it is reversible if you change your mind.

    I use Johnson's wax on about everything, including saw plates, table saw tops, and chisel blades.
    Last edited by lowell holmes; 06-20-2017 at 10:13 AM.

  9. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by lowell holmes View Post
    I would steel wool it and then a coat of Johnson's floor wax. I find that gives a smooth clean finish.

    Also, it is reversible if you change your mind.

    I use Johnson's wax on about everything, including saw plates, table saw tops, and chisel blades.
    Reversibility always seems to be a good idea on my restofabricajuvenation projects. As it appears to me, if the original finish is indeed lacquer then it's either a coat of wax or strip and refinish. In that case I'll go with the former for now. If the handle is uncomfortable I can always refinish it later.

  10. #25
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    Matthew,

    The only way there is lacquer on that handle is if Dr Who bought it in 1900 when it was made, stripped it, moved forward in time to 1920 when lacquer was invented, and had it sprayed. Your handle is coated with varnish. Not shellac, not lacquer, but varnish. Think about it, why would Disston use such a fragile finish as lacquer or shellac on something that had to stand up to the elements and your sweaty hand? Believe what you want, but when you have exhausted all other possibilities, you will come back to varnish.

  11. #26
    Not trying to start an argument but inform people that I believe Disston did use shellac on their handles up until the new "weatherproof" finish starting in about the late 20's going to lacquer at that point. I'm not sure why it was called weatherproof, as lacquer is anything but that. As many handles as Disston finished in a day, why wouldn't you use something that dried quickly. Shellac is durable enough they use to use it on floors and it was easy to touch up. Early on, Disston and many of the other manufacturers only used a film finish on the edges, the faces were left bare. The term in the catalogs "polished edges" meant just that.

    The pictures I've attached are from 2 D8's, one is a panel saw from the mid 20's and the other from the 1910 era. Both finishes in a small area on the top side of the top horn was softened and brought back to a shine by denatured alcohol, something that couldn't be done if it was a true varnish. The one picture of the top of the horn shows my fingerprint for verification.

    DSCN0380.jpgDSCN0381.jpgDSCN0382.jpgDSCN0383.jpgDSCN0384.jpgDSCN0385.jpgDSCN0386.jpg

    Wearing gloves, a small area of a rag can be soaked in lacquer thinner, and the finish cleaned and spread around a little. It will never be perfect, it's old, so it's something I can live with. Some people frown upon it but I will use a light coat of boiled linseed oil on top of the old finish, let it dry well (a few days) then use Johnsons paste wax and buff it out.

    Take care,
    Daryl

  12. #27
    Thanks Pete! I had no idea I was advocating such things as belt sanding and adding designs. Can't imagine why I didn't know that! I really shouldn't advocate such things since I don't do them. And, looking back at my post, I see that I did not say I do even one of the things you suggest...Oh, well, my wife actually gets paid for writing fiction!

  13. #28
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    Are you familiar with the concept of using the absurd to illustrate a point? If I come across as inflexible on the topic of restoration, it's because I come at it from an old tools perspective of saving the history of the tool. To illustrate that point, some youngster was at the MWTCA meet last week with a handful of saws he applied the full restoration treatment to. Buffed nuts, sanded handle, belt sanded blade. Those 6 saws gleamed like a new Buick.

    He was shocked and dismayed to find out that NO ONE wanted them at the exorbitant prices he was asking, or at any price. They went unsold and he learned a hard lesson. If someone wants to do that to a saw that they own because it pleases them, then have at it. But please don't advocate that with no caveats so people everywhere think that's the norm and should be undertaken without consideration of what they are doing to the history and value of the tool. Next thing you know you will have people stripping and sanding and buffing early, one of a kind saws because they read about it on SMC. Jim, you place no caveats on your post. Read it again and ask yourself if you would do that to any and every saw you find? A lot of history would be destroyed if that were the case.
    Last edited by Pete Taran; 06-21-2017 at 6:20 PM.

  14. #29
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    He was just selling them at the wrong place. Kind of like cars that have been hot rodded being shunned by car collectors who see every change from original as a sin. You know, the folks that absolutely need matching numbers on every part. Where do they find the shiny new replacement fenders anyway?

  15. #30
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    Daryl,

    I think maybe we are talking past each other. I said that the finish on the handle was not shellac. BUT, I never said that it wasn't alcohol soluble. Shellac is the excrement of the LAC beetle mixed in alcohol, usually methanol. A Spirit Varnish, on the other hand, which I'm 100% certain Disston used on their early pre-1928 saws, also uses alcohol as the main solvent, but IS NOT Shellac.

    Check out: http://www.williamsburgartconservati...-and-resi.html

    If you take a look, you will see all the things that have been used in both spirit and resin varnishes. I don't know what special blend of Herbs and Spices Disston, used, but it was not Shellac.

    Why do I say this? Well, for one, Disston wrote quite a bit about what they did. See the image below from the 1907 edition of the Lumberman's Handbook. It contained a section in the back which talked about "How We Make Handles". You will notice they talk about applying "Varnish" not Shellac. I'm pretty sure if Shellac is what was used, it would have said "Shellac"

    handbook.jpg

    Second, what are the characteristics of a Shellac finish? One, when exposed to water for any length of time, you get a white spot. See the picture below which is a 1900 Era Disston #4 saw handle. You will notice there is no white spot under that drop of water. I wiped it with lacquer thinner before putting the water on to make sure there was no wax present. It has been on there for over an hour. I will leave it there all day, or until the water dries and see if that tell tale white ring appears.

    handle1.jpg

    Third, has anyone ever seen a saw handle with a cracked and alligatored finish which is almost always present on an old, unmaintained shellac finish? In 26 years of collecting saws, I never have seen one. Not once.

    I have tried to discover the blend of what Disston used on their handles. I've even taken examples to the Cleveland Museum of Art where they use and recreate old finishes in their restorations. They don't know what is in it, but do offer it is some proprietary Spirit Varnish. We will never know, as it wasn't written down, but we do know what it isn't, and that is shellac.

    BTW, I think this kind of discourse is fun, not a battle. That's what the net is all about, sharing information. Anyone who has a fact based alternate theory, please share it.

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