Chris Schwarz's Blog

Woodworking in America: A Shocking Saw

As the Woodworking in America conference wound down on Sunday, I dashed out the door with Louis Bois to fetch a six pack of beer he had chilling in his rental car. As my hand touched the exit I heard a voice call my name.

I waved back to the guy. The reply was not what I expected.

“I have something that you have to see.”

I stopped for a second and then plunged into the cold with Louis, who draws the technical illustrations for Woodworking Magazine. Louis had brought me a box of lager from Canada, and after he put the beer in my hands I returned to the conference to investigate.

The guy was standing at the front desk, empty-handed.

“It’s on the copier,” he said. “Just a minute.”

What came off the copier left me speechless: An early English dovetail saw that looks much like the 18th-century dovetail saw from the famous tool chest of Benjamin Seaton.

The saw had a brass back stamped both “Kenyon Spring” and “London” , just like the Seaton saw. A close inspection revealed some differences between this saw and the one featured in “The Tool Chest of Benjamin Seaton.” The Seaton saw is listed as 9″ long. This saw has a blade that is 8-3/16″ long. The brass back is 7-3/4″ long.

The blade is 1″ wide under the toe and 1-3/8″ wide where the tote begins. The saw is filed at 21 points per inch (the Seaton saw is listed as 19 points). The teeth are filed for ripping. I measured the sawplate at several places and almost every spot was at .017″ thick — very similar to the Seaton saw. That’s thinner than modern dovetail saws

The handle is a little different than the Seaton saw. On the section of the tote that overlaps the blade, the wood comes to a point on the Seaton saw. On this saw that area is more rounded.

But all in all, the saws are strikingly familiar.

However, what’s more striking is the story of how the saw arrived at the conference. Its owner is an auctioneer who likes to collect vintage tools. One day he and his wife were in an antique store just browsing around when he spied this Kenyon saw.

He liked the look of it, but he didn’t like the price. The blade was warped a little at the toothline. He figured that if he could get the saw for a little less he could find someone like saw sharpening savant Tom Law to replace the rusty blade with a new one so he could use it.

He hemmed and hawed but his wife finally encouraged him to take it up to the counter to negotiate.

“I tried and tried,” he said. “But they just wouldn’t come off their price of $35.”

He bought the saw anyway and put it aside. He had no idea the saw was anything special until he brought it to the Woodworking in America conference in Berea, Ky. When he took the saw out to show it to someone, the attendees went nuts. People began photographing the thing, taking measurements, and generally just gaping at it in awe.

Sawmaker Mike Wenzloff vowed to make a copy. So they stuck the thing on a photocopier to make images of the saw’s shape. And that’s when I walked in.

After staring at the saw for a while I looked up at the auctioneer and just grinned. And that’s when he pulled out a tool that was even more rare from one of his old gym socks.

We’ll save that story for another day.

– Christopher Schwarz

P.S. You can download a full-size scan of the saw in pdf format by clicking on the link below.

Kenyon_DT.pdf (3.8 MB)

10 thoughts on “Woodworking in America: A Shocking Saw

  1. Mack in Center Point, Texas

    Holy cliff-hanger, Batman!

    I just love stories like this. I’m glad Joel weighed in on it, too. I was feeling smug at the show whenever I brought out my matching serial-numbered Independence Tool carcase and dovetail saw. A little humble pie is good for the soul occasionally, don’t you think?

  2. Samson

    Looked it up on the Tools for Woodworking site. Joel’s saw

    "has a 9" blade which is canted for ease of use. Near the handle the blade has a usable cutting depth of only 1.3", and at the toe it’s 1.2". …. The 19ppi, blade is made of .018" thick" steel.

    Sounds pretty close.

  3. Samson

    How does it compare in size, thickness, etc. with the Gramercy DT saw? Looks (at least on first glance) very similar.

  4. joel moskowitz

    The saw was a treat. Tim and I and Mike took measurements and compared it to other saws we had. Tim wanted to try the saw out and Mike turned pale (we didn’t try it). The hang on the saw is higher than the Seaton saw and Mike says the saw is from about 1770 or so – the rounded cheeks are apparently a giveaway). The Seaton saw is therefore about 30 years later.

  5. David Brown

    Awesome information, love the detail in the scan. But a question: Why is the word Kenyon rotated 180 degrees with respect to the rest of the image? Is this to thwart people from using their ShopBots to reproduce the saw?

  6. Dan Sayler

    Chris that is just the kind of hard nosed journalism that we, the subscribers of Ww and Pww are proud to support. Unflinching, upfront photos, with detailed copy. Just the facts; size, tooth count, general condition . . .

    "Horns?"

    "Rounded."

    "Rounded?"

    "Yeah, rounded a bit, m’bee even alot. And altered . . .

    "Altered?"

    "Yeah you know like a dog, altered. Shortened, filed different, like rip, dig? A-L-T-E-R-E-D. What I gotta make you a photocopy or somethin’?"

    Thanks.

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