Making a Saw Handle

A really nice tutorial on making a backsaw handle is at I did pretty much the same thing, I’ll show some photos and differences. First, I made a copy of the handle plan and glued it to chunk of 7/8” Jatoba using a photo adhesive spray. Worked great. Used a forstner bit to open up the grip and a bandsaw to rough out the exterior. I then used a bowsaw to rough the interior. To rough “refine” the shape I pretty much used just the files shown here: a Dragon rasp (the coarse one, one that is way too aggressive for almost everything as it removes wood too fast for me but worked well here. The fine Dragon is very nice and was probably the most used file). The microplane works a treat, this one is dying hard but still cut at each end.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         To work the edges, refine the tongue, etc, I clamp to the bench. <aside> I’m not much of a fan of the “boxy”/square handles (ones that are somewhat one dimensional and look like they could have been made by a very talented craftsman using a very nice bandsaw). I like curves and rounds. </aside> As the piece is never in one place for very long, the quick grips allow fast repositioning. <aside2> Strangely enough, carvings on the handle (such as “wheat” on a hand saw) don’t float my boat </aside2>

File, file. File some more. Worry about carpel tunnel. Wrap hand around handle to test fit. File. File. Think maybe those guys who use spoke shaves might be on to something. Nahh. File. Fondle. File. Repeat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Do a reality check. Looking good.


centerAnd now for something where I can’t screw up: cutting the slot for the blade. Filing is fun because it isn’t critical, just eyeball it until it looks and feels good. The slot has to be the same width as the blade, centered in the handle and, since handle grips both the blade and the spine, I have to repeat all of the above for that mortise. First, mark the handle center. I penciled it and then scribed the line (overkill but I wanted to play with my marking gauge).

How to cut the slot? I’d love to use the mill but my slitting saws are too thick. My hand saws are too thick or too thin. What do you know, a mildly worn hacksaw blade is just right. There was no way I was going to free hand this cut. Especially with a hacksaw. Sooo, how to jig this up? Mounting the saw at the proper height would be a pain in the arse trying to hold the saw, clamps, shims, etc so I just clamped it at an arbitrary height and shimmed the handle. I wanted the hacksaw blade to remain tensioned (ie not floppy) so I left it in the frame. A piece of aluminum and two sheets of paper tuned out to be the proper shims (and yes, I slot1measured). Cutting the slot was as tedious as it looks. But it worked (you can see both slot and pencil in this photo).
The spine slot was “roughed” out on the mill with a 1/4” router bit, which left the slot undersized (because the spine is a sandwich of blade + 2 1/8” plates). And not centered either (as it just needed to be inside the lines and blade slot means the cheeks flex as the handle is clamped. Probably should have cut the spine slot first). Stuck the handle on the blade, used a marking knife to mark the spine width and pared with a chisel.

With the paper still stuck to the handle and the blade position marked on the paper, the holes can be marked on the blade for drilling (don’t have a lot of slop because the spine has a preferred position in OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         the handle). I take back most of the good things I said about the Great Neck saw screws and leave it at “they work:”. To counter sink the screws, I drilled the handle with a 1/16” bit, then used that to guide a forstner bit on both sides. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Then drilled for the screws (two sizes) and used a square file to fit the square shanked bolt. Fortunately, everything seems to be square [enough], even the cuts.

Now that everything works, the final shaping and finishing can be done.

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