Yes, I’m still waiting impatiently for a place to put my woodshop.  In the meantime, I’ve just been doing some easy tool refurbishing (really though, without a workshop, that’s about all I can do).

Just before I left Italy to move to England, Stefano gifted me a Bow Saw that had been in his family for a little over a century.  His great grandfather used it; it was 100% Italian-made (by hand!) and used.  Stefano said that he had no use for it since he doesn’t often use hand saws… it had just been sitting around.  I don’t know how I was worthy enough to receive such a storied heirloom, but I’m truly thankful for it!

I could tell it hadn’t been used in years (which makes it easy to honor a gift such as this just by using it).  All the wood was this drab brown color and it was dry as a bone; when I picked it up it almost felt as though I was holding balsa wood!

Here it is prior to me starting to tinker with it a lot.  (To come clean: I already started sanding the cross arm and the tightening pin in the picture below before I realized maybe I should take a picture… and then I reassembled the arms upside-down: they wouldn’t be able to hold the tightening string in the current configuration).

The Raw Bow Saw
Before I started lightly sanding it (and I do mean lightly), I glued up some areas that were cracked due to old age. In the meantime, Stefano showed me how to clean the blade with some cleaner and steel wool and, in the process, brought the blade up to 80% cleaned.  So now I have a little work left on the blade at this point.  Once the glue was dry, I used some fine-grit sand paper and tried to lightly erase that brown drab and resurface with the next layer underneath.  I took great care here because I did not want to take out the little nicks, the imperfections, the slight grooves from a century of use… I wanted to try to retain the life story of this remarkable tool.  When people see it, I want to have visual proof of a Jointer’s story from Italy who handed it down from father to son multiple generations.  I don’t want a brand new looking tool that is to the same specs and dimensions; that would just require some new wood and replicating the build I currently have in front of me.  I want the story.

I really don’t classify this as a huge project, because it consists of careful sanding and finishing, and not building.  After sanding, I could even tell what wood the saw was made from: the blade arms look to be of Elm, while the cross arm and tightening pin look to be of Yellow Pine.  The wooden nuts that hold the saw look like Beech.  With sanding complete, I use my standard working-tool finish: Boiled Linseed Oil.

Even the first coat of oil brought out the old beauty of the saw.  I overnight-soaked all the parts individually (including the tightening string) and let it dry, rubbing off the excess oil once a day.

Italian Bow Saw

I can’t wait to use it.  Thanks, Stefano, for such a wonderful gift.

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  • Brian Eve

    Well done on rescuing this old beauty.

    Some people think that rehabbing old tools ruins them, but I think these people are more into looking at them than using them. I’m sure the original owner would approve.

    • Now I just gotta use the damn thing!

  • Jonas Jensen

    I agree to Brians comment. This bow saw looks really good. It is always really fascinating to use a tool where you know some of its history.

    I think it was Chris Schwarz who once said that if someone did not take care of the old tools, then the restaurant decorators would take them. So refurbishing some old tool is a lot better than the same tool being screwed to the wall in some theme restaurant, and thrown out once the fashion dictates that old tools are no longer the thing.



    • You know, they have a lot of antique shops (that mostly specialize in furniture) where I live and some have old tools in them. I’ve examined them and unfortunately they’re like the ones you allude to: meant for a restaurant wall or something.

  • ralph boumenot

    Hi snake eye,
    How is the cross stretcher attached? Does it slide down from the top and rest on a shoulder? Is the blade filed xcut or rip?

    • It does. Interestingly, I see that most bow saws (like the Gramercy one and all the replicas, to include the ones I think Schwarz is even producing) are opposite of this one: the cross-arms have the mortise and rest upon the tenons on either end of the stretcher. On this one, the stretcher is mortised at both ends and the cross-arms are a shouldered tenon that is half the length of the arm! I’ve included a photo of the profile for the cross-arm.

      And the blade that he gave me attached to the saw is a rip configuration, but I suspect it’s just a matter of finding a same length blade in the configuration you want to replace it (though I don’t know if this is a custom job or not).

      • ralph boumenot

        I’ve never seen a bow saw like this before. My bow saw (35+ yrs old) cross stretcher has slot on each end that mates with a piece of metal. The age of the saw attests to the design being sound. As for the saw blade from the pic, I would say that it’s a homemade one.