Mystery Saw, Solved

Barn finds are the best finds.

Last week on the Daily Dispatch, I put up a video comparing several saw totes, from an oddball old Disston D-8 thumbhole crosscut (?!) saw to a brand-new Spear & Jackson crosscut that is less than graceful in form (as most new hand saws are, sadly). I also shared an interesting tote I hadn’t seen before – it was found in a bucket of rusty tools in a friend’s barn.

This handle has similarities to the Disston thumbhole tote, suggesting that it is intended for ripping. (A note about that idiosyncratic thumbhole crosscut saw – the Disstonian Institute website notes that “The thumbhole handle was also offered on 28" and 30" crosscut saws for a time, although its usefulness on a crosscut is questionable.” I agree with that assessment – I can see the utility of the thumbhole for getting both arms involved in heavy rip cuts, but it seems a little goofy (and awkward) to properly use the saw for crosscutting.) That cutout on the top of the tote is a comfortable place to rest the thumb of the left hand, and the smaller size feels quite manageable compared to the big D-8. Of course, that could also be the result of the handle not being currently attached to a sawplate. But still.

One of our Dispatch subscribers, Nic, identified the mystery tote as a Holden Patent Saw. As the name implies, an inventor named Holden (Joseph Holden) patented the saw tote design back in 1879. The one I found is likely a bit later than that, as indicated by the simplified design of the tote compared to the patent (as well as early examples found on collectors’ websites). Thank you for your help, Nic! 

We are aiming for the Daily Dispatch to evolve more and more into a valuable resource for this kind of investigation. Whenever there is a seemingly unanswerable tool or furniture question burning in my mind, I know that someone, somewhere, has the answer. By getting a bunch of folks together who are passionate about hand tools and pre-industrial craft, we’ll all gain a deeper understanding of these pursuits. If you’re interested, you can sign up for the Dispatch here.

Also from that barn, by the way, my kids and I pulled out a stack of rough-cut oak 2x12s, 16 feet long. Besides making a small fleet of Roman-style staked workbenches, how would you utilize this lumber?


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