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Thread: Can this Disston handle finish be saved?

  1. #31
    Pete, I clearly said that I was presenting MY view. That requires no caveat. Either the reader shares the view or has a different one. I said nothing at all a bout whether anyone else should do what I do. BTW, if you followed the saw market on eBay, you would find in short order that the saw that have been cleaned up to approach new condition bring three to four times as much money as the as-found saws. BTW again, my saws are not for sale.

  2. #32
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    Jim,

    I certainly agree that saws that have been cleaned are worth more than those which aren't. The degree of cleaning is my point. It's still a free country, if you choose to have a different buffing wheel in every corner of your shop, that's your prerogative. I merely suggest that a more cautious approach achieves the same result, making the tool usable, without destroying it's historical value. If nothing else, next month or next year when someone stumbles across this thread, they can read both points of view and make an informed choice on the best approach for them.

  3. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Taran View Post
    Daryl,

    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.


    Interesting thread on a topic relevant to the Neander Cave.


    My only contribution is to offer the historical perspective of a 20 year hand tool woodworker with a "bad handsaw problem". IMHO, you would be hard-pressed to find anyone literally in the world, who has more practical hands-on experience and knowledge about vintage hand saws than Pete Taran and Daryl Weir.


    There are plenty of people on the Internet who are happy to share their "expert" opinions even though their personal experience/expertise/knowledge may be somewhat less than exhaustive. I don't know much, but one thing I do know a little about is vintage hand saws. FWIW, Daryl and Pete are among the the top 5 experts in vintage handsaw restoration, sharpening, tuning etc. (frankly I'm not sure who the other 3 are).


    I've never met Daryl or Pete, but have purchased saws from both and readily admit to being a big fan. Their websites vintage saws.com and old saws restored.com, are IMHO are some of the best information about vintage handsaw brands/models, restoration, sharpening and precision tuning.


    No disrespect anyone, my only intent is to point out how lucky we are here on SMC to be able to hear first-hand from people who really know what they're talking about.


    All the best, Mike

  4. #34
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Allen1010 View Post

    ... my only intent is to point out how lucky we are here on SMC to be able to hear first-hand from people who really know what they're talking about.

    I'll drink to that!

  5. #35
    Pete,

    If you read back, I only said that I "believed" that it was shellac not that it was a fact. I'm always careful about that as it will usually come back and bite you in the hind end! How are you certain that it isn't shellac? If the museum can't tell you anything besides it's a proprietary Spirit Varnish, how did they rule out shellac when they cant' tell what it is? Lot's of questions here but that only means I'm a curious and an interested person. Williamsburg, which is a good read, even has shellac mentioned in the Spirit Varnish area. I was familiar with the term Spirit Varnish because of an old reprint of a woodworking book that I purchased back in the 90's.

    Here's another interesting link: http://chestofbooks.com/crafts/scientific-american/Recipes/Solubility-Of-Resins.html

    Taken from the text:

    "Alcohol does not dissolve amber or dammar; it agglutinates copal, and partly dissolves elemi and carnauba wax; while colophony, shellac, sandarac, and mastic are readily soluble therein.

    Oil of turpentine has no action upon amber or shellac; it causes copal to swell, and readily dissolves dammar, colophony, elemi, sandarac, carnauba, and very readily mastic."

    I ended up trying some turpentine on the same handles I tried the denatured alcohol on. It didn't even bite into or dissolve the finish one bit.

    I don't know if that means we can get down to it being shellac, since alcohol has no action on amber (it did on my handle finish in this case) and turpentine won't act upon shellac.

    Maybe there are way more resins than the ones listed which could throw this all out the window. I haven't had enough time to look with the full time job, mowing, trimming bushes, packaging up saws, etc. !

    I have that same Disston 1907 manual. If they were using Spirit Varnish as you say, why couldn't they use the term "Varnish" in the text? It seems like the term varnish covered almost all of the finishes back then, according to what I've read so far.

    I'm surprised you haven't seen wrinkled finishes on any saw handles as many years as you've been in it. At 17 years myself, maybe I'm a green horn but I've seen a few and on different brands.

    DSCN0387.jpg dscn8309.jpg

    Here's a few more if anyone is interested: http://s279.photobucket.com/user/dar...inishes?sort=3

    Saws included are a Atkins No.53, (2) Wheeler, Madden & Clemson No.999, Another WS WM&C Holden rip saw, Woodrough & McParlin No.55 Bow Belly, Atkins No.400 with silver plated hardware, Disston No.9 & a Bishop Greyhound with Cuban Mahogany handle.

    I will admit that I rarely see any Disstons with the finish wrinkled or alligatored. The seemed to put the finish on a little thinner than some of the others as it usually seems that the thicker the finish, the more prone it was to wrinkle or alligator.

    Take care,
    Daryl
    Last edited by Daryl Weir; 06-22-2017 at 9:57 PM.

  6. #36
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    Daryl,

    To me, the biggest tell is that when exposed to water, it doesn't turn white. All shellac does this and because saws back then were used outside, it would seem to me foolish to use it on a saw handle. I really only concern myself with Disston saws, so I don't really have an opinion on the other makers you mention.

    I agree that varnish could cover a wide range of finishes, but I still believe that if Disston used Shellac, he would call it out. In reviewing the list, it seems Sandarac could very likely be the culprit. It's not soluble in water, is in alcohol and was a pretty common resin. I looked in Ebay just now, and even today it looks like Sandarac is pretty cheap, only $20 for a pound, and that includes shipping all the way from Turkey. I am going to order some and see if the resulting finish is the same as I see on Disston Saw Handles. I will report back once I've got it and tried it out.

    Regards,

    Pete

    PS. Interesting side note which might bolster the use of Sanndarac as the varnish used. Apparently it was used extensively to coat tintype photos to protect them as well as oil paintings. It is still made and sold today for those uses:
    https://www.bostick-sullivan.com/cart/1069.html The fact that it was in pretty widespread use at about the same time as the saw production suggests it might be a big component to Disston finishes.
    Last edited by Pete Taran; 06-23-2017 at 10:31 AM.

  7. #37
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    Another take on this.

    Old D-8 saws that I have renovated included:

    Sanding the rust off of the saw plate

    Filing the tooth line smooth

    Filing, shaping, and setting new teeth

    Repair and refinish tote

    Re-assemble saw tote and handle, sharpen the saw, and make saw dust.

    Sometimes the tote is re-finished.

    It works, just do it.

  8. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Taran View Post
    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.
    Much of what people did back then is a mystery so I threw nothing out of the realm of possible finishes. It looked like shellac to my untrained eye but I did read through the literature you shared (which was quite helpful, by the way). I've never messed with lacquer-never much cared for it-but I do like the way shellac looks. Never used it on a tool, though, due to its inability to stand up to the wear and tear. This all works out nicely because I happen to like wiping varnishes a lot. I finished my first D8 handle with Waterlox and I like the way it looks and feels quite a bit. Maybe I'll do the same here.

    But either way, if it is some sort of varnish that I can't recreate, should I ever even attempt to reamalgamate and save the finish on a Disston saw handle? Or are the options really just:
    1) steel wool + solvent, then wax it
    2) strip the old finish and apply a new one?

    Thanks,
    Matt

  9. #39
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    Matthew,

    I ordered Sandarac so when it gets here I will dissolve it in some alcohol and try it out. If it works, it would be a similar deal as applying shellac. Get some wet on a rag and add it to your handle and rub it around. It will redissolve what's there and add to it. It's coming all the way from Turkey, so it may take a few weeks to get here.

    Will open a new thread when I have some answers.

    Pete

  10. #40
    Seems like lots of old texts and written accounts treat shellac and varnish more or less interchangeably - particularly spirit varnish, which is usually a shellac and resin(s) mixture (Behlen's Violin Varnish is shellac, gum sandarac and gum mastic). I have to wonder if Disston was using a spirit varnish with some additives to enhance resistance to liquid water - would still provide quicker drying times than oil varnish and no sanding needed between coats.
    Last edited by Todd Stock; 06-24-2017 at 7:01 AM.

  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Taran View Post
    Matthew,

    I ordered Sandarac so when it gets here I will dissolve it in some alcohol and try it out. If it works, it would be a similar deal as applying shellac. Get some wet on a rag and add it to your handle and rub it around. It will redissolve what's there and add to it. It's coming all the way from Turkey, so it may take a few weeks to get here.

    Will open a new thread when I have some answers.

    Pete
    Awesome! I look forward to hearing about your experiments with it.

  12. #42
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    IMG_4186.jpgIMG_4178.jpgIMG_4181.jpg

    Since I couldn't decide how I wanted to tackle this project I just cleaned the handle as best as I could and waxed it. I imagine that'll offer enough protection from the elements. It's not like I'm gonna have this thing outside in the rain. Brass got cleaned and waxed as well. Plate and spine got dipped in oxalic acid to remove rust and then sanded. There was a lot more pitting than I anticipated after the acid bath so I had to start sanding with 100 and only went up to 320. My experience has been that heavily pitted saws like this don't benefit much from sanding above 220-320 or so. I'm pretty satisfied with how it looks at this point, and after a good sharpening it'll probably function just fine for me. The plate does have a slight bend in it that I couldn't get out by tapping the spine to re-tension but I don't think it's enough of a bend to be an issue. I can hardly notice it. It is possible that the spine isn't dead straight but if there are any imperfections I can't see them with my eye.

  13. #43
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    Matthew,

    It looks like you ended up with a pretty well restored good user! In reality, the amount of pitting is very minimal, from the side view of the entire saw it looks like only a very small amount on back and tip of the saw. I think you will enjoy the use of that saw, and the restoration you did, for many years to come. Nice job! Congrats!

    Stew

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