Saturday, 8 November 2008

Advice on a Miter Saw - Updated

Thank you for your advice on what size back saw to purchase. I appreciate the input very much.

Kari, from The Village Carpenter suggested I check with Chris Schwarz's blog. When I first read that I had no idea who she was talking about, but then I remembered that I had read something by him a while ago and searched him out. Wow. What a wealth of information, so far untapped by me. That is going to change in the very near future. Thanks, Kari.

Luke, from suggested which I had visited before, but didn't really delve into. Another large source of information that I didn't take advantage of before. Thanks, Luke.

R. Francis stated he was quite happy with his Philadelphia Saw Company's 16 incher that he bought on eBay, but that it was "not a Disston". Wasn't Mr. Disston so impressed with the Philadelphia Saw Company at one time that he bought the company? I'm not sure if that is fact or not, but I do know that somewhere around the turn of the century Disston started producing a line of saws named, you got it, "Philadelphia".

I never expected to tie together my two interests in life in this blog - woodworking and cars, but Francis' comment about it not being a Disston kind of made me think of this so I'll put it out there to give food for thought.

The truth is, I buy Disston saws simply because they are reasonably plentiful and vintage. If I'm going to pay a couple of hundred for a saw I would like a chance to see it appreciate in value, not depreciate. While they are currently hyped as the best, I'm just not sure they were the ultimate in saws from their day or if Mr. Disston was just a marketing genius. Many things from the past become the "flavour of the month" today simply because over time perceptions change. An example of this is the cars from the muscle car era of the 1960's and early 1970's.

I grew up during that era and I was really into drag racing, building a couple of cars during the 60's that were dedicated to racing both on the track and in what we called the Midnight Races. Back then stripped down, two-door coupes were the cars of choice, and while GTO's, Olds 4-4-2's and other luxury big-blocked cars were beautiful, we had no interest in them because they were just too heavy to be truly effective on the track. If you were a diehard muscle car enthusiast, you didn't scoff at them, but you didn't want to own one either. If you follow the vintage car auctions of today you will see that the stripped down, two-door coupes go for a chunk of change but nothing near the prices seen for GTO's and big-block Olds'. During the time the less options a car had the better. Today, the car with the most options brings the biggest bucks. Perception.

Back to the saw. Tonight I ended up buying a vintage 1917-1942 Disston Philadelphia 18" No. 4 backsaw from that he said, despite how it looks right now, is in pretty good shape. It is 4" deep under the back so it has not seen too many sharpenings over its lifetime. The image below is the saw as it stands today. Mark said he will have it restored and shipped within about ten days so in about three weeks I'll post the results and see how he did. I went with the 18" because I think the longer throw will be more efficient in the miter box.