Tool Restoration – Disston D-8 Panel Saw

In a previous post, I wrote about a Disston panel saw that I bought at a garage sale.  In the little time that I have spent in my shop over the last month, I have not spent much time working on the workbench that I am building, but have restored a Union No. 41 plane, a Dunlap draw knife, and now this panel saw.   But this is it… No really, I swear…  I will return to building my workbench.  After all, what good is this huge collection of hand tools I’m growing, if I don’t have a workbench to use them on?

Here is the saw that I bought:

A Disston Panel Saw

A Disston Panel Saw

The saw is a 20″ panel saw, it has 10 points per inch (PPI), and is filed cross-cut.

This saw has seen better days.

This saw has seen better days.

There was some rust and lots of grime on the saw plate.  However, the rust appeared to be on the surface only and I didn’t think that pitting would be an issue.  The tote was a different story.  The original factory lacquer had turned yellow and was crumbling off.  I realized that a complete refinishing would be needed here.

I disassembled the saw and started by cleaning the saw plate.  I used a razor-blade scraper to remove the surface rust, being careful not to let the corners dig in and scratch the saw. I then used a sanding block with 220 grit paper to further clean the plate.  I wet sand when I do this, but I use oil not water.  As you sand the oil turns dark and nasty, but it is easy to periodically wipe this up with some paper towels.   Be careful not to put these in the trash can though, they might combust.  I know its not likely with household lubricating oil, but why chance it?  I put mine in the wood stove.

I should also point out the importance of using a sanding block for this task.  By evenly distributing the pressure, the sanding block helps to protect any etching that may remain on the saw plate.  If you just use your fingers directly on the paper, the pressure is more likely to sand the etch away.

The saw plate cleaned up quite nicely and the original etch revealed that the saw was a Disston D-8.

With the plate cleaned, the etch became visible.

With the plate cleaned, the etch became visible.

I turned to the web to find out a little more about this saw and try to date it.

The best place to go online for information on Disston saws that I have found is The Disstonian Institute.  The site contains more info about these saws than you would have thought possible.

I searched for some information on the etch that was revealed by cleaning the saw plate. According to this page, the etch dates the saw to after 1928.

I took the saw nuts and the medallion and cleaned them up at the buffer.  All of the other handsaws that I have ever restored have had brass hardware,  This saw has steel hardware and it may have been nickel plated.  As you can see below, the hardware cleaned up nicely and the formerly crud filled medallion can now be read easily.

I looked on another Disstonian Institute page and was able to date the medallion.  It appears that the saw was made and sold sometime between 1947 and 1955.

Steel saw nuts and medallion cleaned and polished.

Steel saw nuts and medallion cleaned and polished.

 

With the saw plate cleaned, It was time to sharpen it.  Last year I spent considerable time learning to sharpen saws and wrote about it at the time.  I use a set of files and file holders that I bought from a Lee Valley store when I took a trip to Vancouver, BC.  By the way… wives love it when you are supposed to be taking them on holiday to do a little sightseeing and as part of your vacation, take them to a Lee Valley store.  It goes over real well, you should try it!

My Veritas saw sharpening kit.

My Veritas saw sharpening kit.

I jointed the saw, filed the teeth, set the teeth, lightly re-jointed the teeth and filed them one last time to remove any small remaining flat spots.   I won’t go into too much depth here on saw sharpening, as I already did that in a series of earlier posts in which I restored a I. Sorby Tenon Saw.  You can click the link to see and in depth explanation of my saw sharpening process.

I left the saw at 10 PPI and filed it with 10° of rake and 15° of fleam.  Below you can see I have made the first pass filing only every other tooth.

I put the saw plate in my saw vice and started filing every other tooth.

I put the saw plate in my saw vise and started filing every other tooth.

Once the saw plate was cleaned a sharpened, I sprayed it with a coat of Bostik Top Coat to help prevent future rust or corrosion.

With the saw plate sharpened and cleaned and the hardware polished, it was time to move on to the tote.  I find that this is always the most time consuming and tedious part of saw restorations.  I started out with 100 or 120 grit paper and sanded away all of the old finish but didn’t sand into the bare wood too far or try to remove and deep scratches or staining.  I think these add a little character to the saw and show the saw’s age.  I then sanded the tote to 220 grit to prepare it for finish.  All of this sanding took me a couple of hours.

The tote sanded to 220.

The tote sanded to 220.

Here are all the saw parts cleaned up.  I just need to apply finish to the tote and put it all back together.

The saw disassembled and cleaned.

The saw disassembled and cleaned.

Again, I won’t go into too much detail here about how I re-finished the tote, as I did this in great depth in part 4 of my earlier Tenon saw restoration series.  In brief, I apply about 4 coats of Watco Danish Oil.  I like the red mahogany color.  The first coat goes on very wet and heavy and is applied until the wood will soak up no more.  After half an hour, I wipe of the excess and leave the tote to dry.

A heavy coat of Danish Oil left to soak in for 20 min.

A heavy coat of Danish Oil left to soak in for 30 min.

The red mahogany Danish Oil looks very red until you wipe of the excess, but then it leaves a beautiful color.

Wipe of the excess and leave it to dry for a day or two.

Wipe of the excess and leave it to dry for a day or two.

The second coat gets applied and sanded in with 320 grit paper.  Again the excess finish is wiped off.  The third and fourth coats are applied with 400 grit paper.  This whole process is tedious, but I love the end result.  It leaves a silky smooth finish without having a film on the wood that can get damaged or deteriorate.  The finish is in the wood and if you ever need to touch up the tote, all you have to do is sand in a little more Danish Oil.

The tote after four coats of Danish Oil.

The tote after four coats of Danish Oil.

After the fourth coat is thoroughly dried (I think I waited 3 days), I apply a final coat of wax.  This adds a nice sheen to the tote and I like the way it makes the tote feel in the hand.  To me it seems a little “grippy-er”.  Since I had the can of wax out, I also took the time to put a coat of wax on the saw plate.

The tote after a coat of wax and a buffing.

The tote after a coat of wax and a buffing.

I love this method of refinishing saw totes.  As you can see, the tote does not look brand new.  It feels new, it’s clean and dirt/grime free, but it still has the marks of age.  Some of the deeper dings and dents can be seen and and there is still some staining visible.

With all the components restored, I reassembled the saw.

The saw reassembled.

The saw reassembled.

The tote is clean and smooth but still has the marks of age.

The tote is clean and smooth but still has the marks of age.

Next, I got carried away with the camera and took a load of pictures.

Disston D-8 Panel Saw-11

The end result of all that work.

The end result of all that work.

Disston D-8 Panel Saw-13 Disston D-8 Panel Saw-15
Disston D-8 Panel Saw-14

You think that the Schwarz would like the clocked saw nuts?

Disston D-8 Panel Saw-16

A nice clear shot of the medallion.

A nice clear shot of the medallion.

The Disston D-8 etching.

The Disston D-8 etching.

Disston D-8 Panel Saw-19I am quite happy with this saw.  I gave it a quick test drive after its “glamour shots” and it cut very fast.

Now… back to that workbench that I’m supposed to be building (instead of using it as a photo prop).

About Jonathan

I am a woodworker and hand tool restorer / collector. I buy too many tools and don’t build enough – I need help!

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4 Responses to Tool Restoration – Disston D-8 Panel Saw

  1. Daniel Foust says:

    Absolutely stunning! It’s a more beautiful saw than it ever was new. Thanks so much for sharing your restoration process. It’s very motivating.

    Dan Foust
    Saratoga, California

  2. Yes…..beautiful result. Thanks for sharing the process!

I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions.