Vintage Steel at the Hand Tool Olympics

1.vintagesawsThis week, at Woodworking in America in Kansas City, Mo., a saw almost a century old will find a new home with the winner of the Crosscuts Event at the Hand Tool Olympics (HTO).

The HTO events – held in the WIA Marketplace at the Sheraton Crown Center, 2345 McGee Street in Kansas City – tests participants’ skills in ripping, crosscutting, augering, dovetailing, shooting an edge and making a tenon.

Thanks to Pete Taran of vintagesaws.com, someone will return from Kansas City with a sharpened and refurbished E.C. Atkins No. 401 crosscut saw, circa 1930. The saw is straight, sharp – not a bit of rust – and the rosewood handle practically glows.

Best of all, this saw still shows the signs of a life at work, no mirror polish here – just honest wear. For a vintage tool, Taran said, it takes something away when every trace of use is removed during a rehab.

“I don’t like to do a lot of stuff to the saws,” Taran said. “The saw looks the way it looks. It took 100 years to get a patina, so why buff it off?”

When Taran rehabs a saw, he starts the restoration by using a razor blade to scrape off surface rust, applies a bit of paste wax and buffs up the blade. Handles get cleaned with Kramer’s Best Antique Improver. The saw is then set, sharpened and is ready for work right out of the box, Taran said.

A business consultant by day, Taran offers rehabbed and restored vintage saws for sale on his web site, vintagesaws.com. Along with the saws, Taran offers a wealth of resources for anyone wanting to use, identify or restore a vintage saw.

On vintagesaws.com, he ensures that the saws of the past have a place in the present. But almost 20 years ago, Taran (then an Army officer) sparked a revolution that ensured the future of high-quality saws.

In 1996, he (along with Patrick Leach) founded Independence Tool to make top-quality Western-style saws. By 1998, the pair had made and sold almost 2,000 saws, but the work had become a burden. Later that year, Taran, (who had already bought out Leach) sold his equipment and designs  to Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.

Lie-Nielsen expanded the line of saws, and eventually other sawmakers joined this untapped market, including Bad Axe Toolworks, which is also donating four of its superb new saws as Hand Tool Olympics prizes for the Dovetails and Tenons events.

Independence Tool is gone, but Taran changed woodworking history.

Other HTO prizes have been generously donated by Lee Valley (Veritas jointer planes for the Shooting an Edge event and sets of spoon bits for the Hole in One event); Jim Bode Tools (restored vintage sweep braces for the Hole in One event), Tools for Working Wood (Brooklyn Tool & Craft Hardware Store Saw for the One-meter Dash ripping event) and Blue Spruce Toolworks (mallets for use in the Dovetails events and as raffle prizes).

The Woodworking in America Marketplace is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 25 and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 26. Tickets for the marketplace are $8 online or $10 at the door.

Mike Wallace