For the manner in which men live is so different from the way in which they ought to live, that he who leaves the common course for that which he ought to follow will find that it leads him to ruin rather than safety.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Popping a saw etch

Enhancing, or popping a saw etch (as I like to call it, because I make up my own terms for stuff), is a bit of an art. It's a picky little task, and I'm still learning it. With my first few saws I didn't even know that I could pop the etch out. They're all waxed up now, so I'm not about to go and strip them to work on the etch. After working on my first few saws, I ran across an article on WK Fine Tools by Bob Sturgeon, here. I wanted to give it a shot because I had a mystery saw with a "Warranted Superior" medallion and a faded etch. Obviously, the WS medallions don't tell you much. In the end, the etch was too far gone to get anything recognizable to learn the origin of the saw. Rats. Currently I've been working on my second Atkins No. 53 and the Simonds from hell. I decided to give it another go, though the etches were very weak to begin with, I was able to improve them. To have gone farther probably would have lead to their complete obliteration. (awesome, I knew I was going to be able to use "obliteration" in a sentence today)

The Simmonds etch. It's hard to get a decent picture. Being careful during the cleaning process of an old saw is the first step. You kinda sorta gotta start out with the intention of keeping as much of the etch intact as possible. As you can see, I wasn't able to restore it to perfection, but hey, this is an old saw and there's only so much you can do. Especially when you consider what square one looked like!

The right half of the Atkins No. 53 etch. Part of it was worn away too far to save. Of my three Atkins saws, this is the only one that shows enough of this part of the etch to make anything out.

The main part of the Atkins etch. Still pretty faint, but it's visable.
I only made two changes to the method outlined in Mr. Sturgeon's article.  First, I believed that 400 grit might be too aggressive since the etches were so faint. I chose to use 600 grit instead. The brass darkening solution did its job well. The Atkins saw shown here has the strongest of the three that I have. The other two are way beyond saving. A good wipe down with mineral spirits and a coat of wax are all that remains after this. The darkening solution is going to darken any pits it gets into, but you can sand just a little more once you're away from the etch. My other variance from the article was that I did not coat the entire plate of the saw. That way I can use as little of the solution as possible.


  1. Mark, I'm enjoying what I've read of your blog so far. I followed the link from your post on resawing on SMC. Bob Smalser has many good post on SMC. In one of them he shows his method for raising a etch. I hope to try it one of these days on some of the garage sale saws that keep following me home. Here is the link:
    Paul Saffold

  2. Thanks, Paul! I'll have to try his technique out one of these days as well. I get lots of saws following me home too. It's almost like the Humane Society for tools!