Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

Saw Handling

Shortly before Christmas, I purchased an 8in Dovetail Saw Kit from Workshop Heaven (made by Atkinson Walker in Sheffiled). This kit is based around the same idea of the Gramercy 9in Saw Kit, which has become quite popular in America; they supply all the parts and you customise your own personal handle from your preferred species of wood. Yesterday, I finished shaping my own handle for the Atkinson Walker saw and I wanted to share my thoughts and experience of this.

I should point out that there are several significant differences between the two saws I have mentioned above – if you’re unsure of those, I suggest you study both pages carefully, before deciding on which saw is best for you. In this case, I didn’t want to risk getting stung by import duty and high shipping charges against the weak pound. Also, I wanted to support someone British, having previously had my eye on one of the Pax saws, at almost double the price of this saw kit.

Workshop Heaven state that downloadable instructions and sample patterns for making the handle will be available shortly. Unfortunately, Matthew has had some trouble getting someone to do this so, at the time of making my first handle, I’ve had to resort to downloading the instructions from Tools for Working Wood [see the Gramercy Saw Kit link, at the top of the page]. It’s interesting reading about this ‘open’ style of handle – the idea is that you only grip the handle with three fingers and one thumb. As your little finger [unless you’ve had a table saw accident!!] isn’t involved as such, you should find hand-sawing more comfortable while experiencing fewer cramps in your palm. That’s certainly a problem I’ve experienced in the past with handles of ‘traditional’ design. I have a couple of dovetail projects coming up and I’ll be keen to see whether this really makes all the difference.

Beech is a traditional choice for handling woodworking tools, although it’s not the most stable unless the wood is quarter-sawn. I couldn’t find any 1in offcuts that were wide enough for this task so, for my first handle, I’ve used a scrap length of brown oak; finished at 21mm thick (however, I will try and save a bit of walnut from the chair I’m making at college, for my next handle!). Having not done anything quite like this before, I was worried that the open-grained structure of the oak would leave it too brittle at some of the ends so, I decided to work on a spare handle at the same time, just in case (this also meant I wouldn’t have to waste the other half of the short length of timber I had prepared).

So, I printed out a couple of the drawings [check the scale size on your printer options, otherwise it’ll come out undersized!!] and glued it directly to the oak using good old Pritt-Stick (TFWW say that a spray adhesive is also fine). Now, the Atkinson Walker saw has three bolts but, there are only two on the Gramercy; which meant I had to deviate from the drawing a little and try to compensate for this accordingly. Also, I chose to recess the screw heads without realising that, on a traditional English-pattern saw, the heads would sit proud of the surface… Oh well! 😀 Drilling larger holes inside all the various curves allowed me to then remove the bulk of the waste on my new bandsaw, using a ¼in x 6tpi blade.

Before I could start to clean up the curves, I needed to cut a couple of slots – one for the brass, folded back; the other is for the blade itself. This is not as difficult as you might think… Cutting the recess for the back is just like cutting a mortise by hand – drill out the bulk of the waste and pare back to your scribed lines with a sharp chisel. With the blade slot, the most critical part is making the slot the right thickness, the fit isn’t a sloppy one. Ideally, you should use the blade itself to cut this but, in this instance, I also found that my Footprint gent’s saw created the perfect kerf – incidentally, this is what I have been using to cut dovetails, until now. This style of handle doesn’t seem to save you from the odd hand cramps though.

This left me with lots of shaping to do… Most of which was accomplished with my faithful Auriou Cabinet Rasps; though, as great as they are, you still need to sand out all the cross-grain scratches (or, should I buy some finer rasps?).

At this point, I will admit that it was a good call of judgement (on my behalf) to make a pair of these handles at the same time… When it came to fitting the bolts, I realised my marking out and drilling wasn’t quite as accurate as I would have liked and I did end up “fracturing” this brittle brown oak. Still, at least I have one perfectly good handle to come from all of this!

After a first coat of Danish oil, this is how they were looking:

Please ignore the fact that both shapes are significantly different in one area – I mentioned before that I had to “compensate” for this blade being of a slightly different design and style to the Gramercy one. 😳 I’ll make sure to get it right before I start cutting up any walnut! They still need another couple of coats of oil before I can finally fit the handle and take some finished shots (this oak was kiln-dried when I bought it and it then spent over six-months in the college workshops – needless to say, it was almost bone-dry!! ;-))

Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve found this post useful.

How do you handle yours?

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