Antique Hand Saws: History, Types, Identification, Valuation, Buyer’s Guide, and Where to Buy

Antique hand saws are readily available at auctions and any antique shop. Some believe that these vintage hand saws are superior to new ones in blade quality and can last much longer. Even though antique hand saws are old, aging doesn’t alter the saw’s blade quality like pure wood products.

However, you must be careful when purchasing an antique hand saw to ensure you’re getting an authentic item. This guide explains everything you need to know about the oldest saws. First, we’ll dive into the history of man’s first tool as it will help give a better understanding of its value.

A Brief History of Hand Saws

A Brief History of Hand Saws
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During the Neolithic era, the hand saw was already in use. It had a hardwood handle attached to a sharp-edged blade. According to records, a prehistoric man created this instrument to aid in constructing a shelter and other necessities of life.

As far back as 1500 BC, people used hand saws in a civilized society. Historians discovered this tool in ancient Egypt and the south of France. From the 4th century through the 17th century, they discovered other varieties of hand saws.

The hand saw was brought to the United States by settlers from Sheffield, England, in the 1600s. As demand for woodwork grew in the 17th century, sawmills became more commonplace as an energy-generating source. This, in turn, sparked an increase in sawmill production.

American manufacturers began to overtake English innovators in the early 19th century. With their high-quality designs, they quickly became very popular with the general public. The Disston & Son hand saws were the most popular hand saw manufacturers, and they thrived throughout the time.

Popular Antique Hand Saw Manufacturers

Popular Antique Hand Saw Manufacturers
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Early in America, settlers brought their hand saws, which were still being imported into the country in the late 1800s. From as early as 1600, Sheffield, England, was the primary source of cutlery production in England.

When it came to hand saws, American manufacturers had seized the market, making Sheffield hand saws obsolete by the end of the 19th century. Here are some of the popular antique hand saw brands or manufacturers:

Simonds Hand Saw

Abel Simonds, a 20-year-old entrepreneur, started making hand saws in 1832 as a sole proprietor before bringing in his brother-in-law, J.T. Farwell, to help him expand the business. Until 1851, they were known as J. T. Farwell & Co., but then the partners decided to go their separate ways.

From 1901 to 1926, Simonds was a manufacturer of hand saws. Although the steel has different grades, there’s no clear differentiation between the steel utilized.

Disston & Son

Disston and Son
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Walter Cresson was the original name of this brand until 1840, when it became Disston. When Disston’s son joined the company in 1865, it became Disston & Son.

Today, it’s the most well-known hand saw brand in the United States. The Disstonian Institute claims that a medallion embedded in a Disston hand saw can provide an accurate timeline for the saw.

Harvey Peace Company

In 1863, Harvey Peace—a smaller manufacturer than Disston—produced high-quality saws. The veneers, re-saws, and cross-cuts were their specialties.

E.C Atkins & Co

Since its founding in 1855, this saw company has been making circular and bladed saws, as well as bandsaws and handsaws. After Atkin’s sale to Borg-Warner Corp in 1952, the Nicholson File Company acquired the company in 1966. However, due to their short run of manufacture, antique Atkins hand saws are extremely difficult to come by.

Antique Hand Saw Types

Antique Hand Saw Types
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As you’d expect, an ancient tool like the hand saw has multiple variations. Each type comes with a different shape and is unique for a particular task. The one difference you should keep in mind is that large saws cut planks while smaller saws work better on details.

That said, let’s examine the different varieties of hand saws that apply to the antique type.

Panel Saw (Hand Saw)

Panel Saw (Hand Saw)
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Nothing beats the basic panel saw when it comes to general on-the-grain cutting. It has large teeth that may be seen even in dense timber. Apart from that, this saw style is the most common and affordable.

Pit Saw

Pit Saw
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The pitsaw comes in handy when you need to go deep into a piece of wood. It has two handles because it’s a two-person tool.

Rip Saw

Rip Saw
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This saw variant is smaller than the traditional hand saw in dimensions. Rip saws are used to cut through and along the wood grain. When it comes to general-purpose board cutting, the most common tools are rip saws and handsaws, sometimes called panel saws.

They’re quite different in functionality, though — rip saws were designed to cut along the board’s grain rather than against it.

Compass Saw

Compass Saw
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This precision tool serves the same purpose as a compass in guiding you to the correct portion. If you seek a knife with narrow, sharp blades for center cuts, then a compass saw is all you need.

This hand saw can widen small drill holes. Moreover, these tools allow you to cut holes in boards and produce pierced work such as chair splats.

Tenon Saw (Backsaw)

Tenon Saw (Backsaw)
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This equipment features substantial iron or brass reinforcement to hold the razor in position. The blade is made of thin metal, resulting in a clean cut.

By fitting a brass strip over the back of the blade, you could increase this saw’s rigidity, and that’s where it earned its name. There are many other names for the different sizes of backsaws that may be found online. Tenon saw, or gentleman’s backsaw, is a common generic term for all sizes of woodworking backsaws.

Cross-Cut Saw (Thwart Saw)

Cross-Cut Saw (Thwart Saw)
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This tool allows you to trim logs to the desired length. To get into the wood, each tooth is filed at two different angles. Consequently, it looks like a bunch of little triangles piled on top of each other.

Compared to hand saws and rip saws, cross-cut (or thwart saws) and pit saws are much larger. They’re two-man hand saws, and they found use in cutting logs into boards.

Felloe Saw

Felloe Saw
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The Felloe saw, or “chairmaker’s saw,” was a saw used to cut the curved wooden segments of wheels. The Felloe hand saws were among the most specialized and were in use at least until the 1890s at the earliest.

However, the lifespan of this hand saw was rather brief. It was discontinued in the 1890s, making it a highly sought-after relic.

Framed Saw

Framed Saw
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Framed saws have a blade mounted inside a wooden frame, thus the name. The razor’s length and thinness make it an excellent choice for precise carving.

The blades of framed saws were attached to wooden frames connected to the saws’ handles. The frames made it possible to utilize longer, thinner blades since the blades were held in place by the frames.

When cabinetmakers and joiners needed to create curved cuts, they would use a bow saw. Some frame saws are works of art in and of themselves, making them a joy to use and admire.

Bow Buck Saw

Bow Buck Saw
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Carpenters had a demand for a saw that could cut curved corners and bolts for apothecary cabinets, and that was why the bow buck saw was introduced.

Are Antique Hand Saws Valuable?

You can find hand saws in antique stores at a reasonable price as they’re everyday hand tools. Some of them may have increased in value while others have diminished value. Regardless, your focus should be on its use, as this will help in evaluating its actual value.

“What’s the purpose behind your antique hand saw purchase?”

Even if the plate is bent or rusted, it doesn’t make it useless; you can still use it for décor purposes.

Another factor that influences antique hand saws’ value is the brand. For instance, the average price of an ordinary antique Disston hand saw on eBay is about $70.64. As an alternative, a modern or new hand saw costs $48.06 on average. Also, keyhole and pruning saws, for example, have a higher price because they’re quite rare.

To preserve the value of your antique hand saws, you should have a good care and maintenance routine. Investing in instruments that’ll last a long time is great since they appreciate it over time. You can sell it for more money than you paid for it later on, but only if you keep it in good working order. Another option is to transform the saw blades into knives.

Purchasing Antique Hand Saws: What to Look For

Purchasing Antique Hand Saws What to Look For
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Antique shops and flea markets have plenty of old hand tools, especially hand saws. However, most of them aren’t worth anything to a collector because they can’t use them anymore.

In the first part of the 19th century, hand saws were made in America by several large and smaller enterprises. Many firms are known for producing high-quality hand saws that collectors can use at an early stage. If you’re collecting antique hand saws, here are some things to watch out for:

Brand Name and Numbers

Antique hand saw identification via product model names or serial numbers is a common trend among collectors. Collecting rare antique hand saws requires only the finest models.

For instance, Disston’s #12 and #16 models are considered some of the best in the industry. Also, the D8 is a well-known and versatile hand saw in the antique market.

For Simonds, the best saw was the number four model. Apart from the Simonds #4, the #12 and #5 were also excellent options.

Furthermore, the #400 was Atkins’ top-of-the-line hand saw, but the #68 was also excellent. You may find a lot of information about a product’s medallion in various publications and websites on the Internet.

Blade

The teeth on antique hand saws are extremely tight and thick, yet the tops are extremely thin. There are two types of teeth — smooth and jagged. Unlike modern saws, their cuts generate a tiny slit (they cut wide). In addition, the jointed teeth and straight edges of ancient blades make them particularly lightweight.

Check the quality of the steel before purchasing an antique handsaw. The item must also be in good working order considering its age and previous use. Also, when you use saws with spring steel blades that have been appropriately tempered, it results in a blade that’ll be as hard and as tough as possible.

Unless you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind piece of art or a rare saw, ensure the hand saw’s blade is clean and free of rust before using it. Still, rusty saws are far more common.

Rust on a saw doesn’t necessarily indicate that it’s no longer useful. However, if it’s particularly thick and flaky, you should discard it. You can sharpen and set the saw blade can as soon as you eliminate any light surface rust.

Handle

It’s important to examine antique hand saw handles’ substance to ascertain their quality. High-quality hand saws were traditionally made from applewood, but the more affordable ones used beechwood.

If you don’t intend to use the tool for display purposes, the shaved top shouldn’t be an issue. Owners have been known to remove the top of the handle to store their hand saw in a toolbox.

All of the screws on the handle should be present and in good condition. Avoid saws with broken or badly damaged handles unless you’re prepared to replace them.

The majority of blades are attached to the handle with one of two types of screws. Saw makers employed split nut screws before the year 1875.

Where to Find Antique Hand Saws

Where to Find Antique Hand Saws
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The quality of an instrument, its rarity, its present demand, and its history all play a role in determining its worth. With the guidance of a professional, you’ll be able to acquire a sense of antique hand saws’ value.

To decipher a tool’s market value, you can search antique shops or internet auctions. Here’s more on the best places to look out for these primitive tools:

Dealers

You’d be paying a higher price at a reputable antique dealer’s shop and when you patronize specialty tool dealers. However, the good thing is that these professionals will accurately assess the hand saw’s current condition and market value.

eBay

Antique tools are listed daily on eBay. However, you should be careful when buying antique hand saws on online auction sites.

For example, certain items may have the wrong description. Also, it’s possible the blade may not be in good condition or has a missing part. That said, it’s always advised to exercise caution when buying antique hand saws on eBay to avoid being scammed.

Auctions

A few good dealers and collectors may sell at a live auction, enabling you to get a good antique hand saw at awesome prices. It’s always a great idea to find the auctions taking place close to you and those with great offers and a variety of antique tools.

Estate and Garage Sales

You may find the tools you seek at an estate or garage sale. If you’re lucky, you can get them at a giveaway price. However, if you don’t know the tiny details to look out for, you may end up with counterfeit or damaged hand tools.

Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Antique Hand Saws

You should research and negotiate to get the best price when buying antique hand saws. Many antique collectors frequently overpay or end up with an item having major damage. To ensure you don’t make these mistakes and waste money in the long run, we outline the most prevalent errors among collectors that purchase antique hand saws.

Looking for Perfect Tools

An antique hand saw is clearly aged, and you should expect it to look exactly like that. Antique saws are usually many decades-old, with some spanning into centuries.

Even if the owners had taken great care of them over the years, certain flaws would remain evident. In other words, you shouldn’t expect the hand saw to be in exquisite condition or completely free of imperfections. It’s reasonable to expect a tool with a little rust as you won’t have any use for it other than décor.

Bad Negotiations

When it comes to bargaining, there’s no one-size-fits-all method. Depending on the sort of seller you meet, you should learn to adjust your strategy as an antique collector.

For example, a flea market offers additional opportunities for price reduction through haggling and negotiating. On the other hand, if you’re buying from an antique dealer at a store, you may not get a great discount, rendering their collectibles somewhat expensive. Most stores may only offer a maximum of 10% discount.

Avoiding Research

You should get some information about the model or brand you intend to buy before shopping for antiques. You can get enough information on the internet or through other means before making any purchase. That’ll help you know the difference between an original and an imitation.

More particularly, you should have a good understanding of antique collectibles when inspecting vintage hand saws.

Not Getting a Second Opinion

Don’t assume you know everything because there’s always someone who knows even more. When it comes to collecting antiques, it’s advisable to have a second opinion.

For example, you can seek advice from an antique appraiser or dealer knowledgeable about the market. You can do this by sending photos of the antique hand saw via email to get their opinion. They could identify what you’re looking at and even give you more information about its value.

FAQ

Are antique hand saws worth anything?

Hand saws are useful and adaptable pieces of equipment. However, the best vintage hand saws are extremely sturdy and can endure for decades. As long as they’re still usable, they still have some monetary value.

Vintage hand saws sell between $8 and $425. For example, the average price of an antique Disston hand saw is $70.64, with its value varying between $30 and $123.

Can I get an antique two-man hand saw?

Yes, you can.

The antique two-man hand saws you can get today are the cross-cut saws and pit saws. These tools require two people to wield them for woodworking. The antique cross-cut hand saw comes in two varieties — the single handle and the two-man cross-cut saws. The latter has a handle on each end of a 12-foot blade for felling trees.

Who’re the popular antique hand saw makers?

One of the most popular antique hand saw makers was Disston. The firm was the largest saw manufacturer in the United States for a lengthy time, and their saws are the most commonly found. Others include Simons, E.C. Atkins & Co., and Harvey Peace. Remarkably, there were about 400 different saw manufacturers in the United States up until roughly 1890.

Where can I get an antique hand saw for sale?

You can buy hand saws online or at a physical store. Also, people often offer up their rare antique hand saws at garage sales. Additionally, you can get them at online auction sites like eBay and Etsy.

Additionally, some antique dealers may have a collection of extremely rare antique hand saws in their stores. However, their prices may be somewhat high.

Final Thoughts

Hand saws were introduced as hand-crafted tools made in the 18th and early 19th centuries. It’s ever since been a considerably important part of woodworking. Notably, antique hand saws were designed to cut primarily wood and other materials. Their value is seen today in the construction industry.

Even though modern hand saws now abound, many people still prefer the much older versions. These saws are more durable and sturdier, and their value can’t be overemphasized.

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