My search for a coping saw that will hold its blade setting is starting to feel a little like an episode of “In Search of…” with Leonard Nimoy. The solution might be as elusive as the Louisiana swamp monster.
This morning I restored a Millers Falls coping saw that uses a locking mechanism that was patented Nov. 10, 1908 (saw nerds can click here). Tool collector and woodworker John Walkowiak turned me onto this form and I picked one up on eBay for almost nothing.
While many collectors are nuts for Stanley stuff, you shouldn’t kick the Millers Falls stuff out of bed for eating crackers. The company made some amazing tools, exceeding Stanley quality in some cases. (Would you care to mainline some Millers Falls? Cancel your appointments for the day and visit OldToolHeaven.com).
The Millers Falls No. 42 coping saw is a real precision tool. The workmanship on the tool far exceeds what you’ll find on a modern coping saw. The frame is a rigid bent wire that you can tension incredibly high. The wooden handle is a great fit in the the hand. It’s lightweight , less than half a pound.
But the real reason to take a look at this saw is the blade mechanism. It is a piece of work. The heart of the system is what the company calls a “threaded draw bolt,” which holds the blade at the heel. This drawbolt threads into the handle of the saw. There’s also a nut threaded onto the drawbolt. And this nut moves a “finger piece” , that flat nubby thing you can see in the photos.
Here’s how it works: You tension the blade by turning the handle , this pulls the drawbolt back into the handle. Then you advance the nut on the drawbolt until it engages some notches that are filed into the handle and the frame of the saw.
It locks well.
What about the toe of the blade? You can opt to have it locked in one position or have it swing free. A threaded nut on the end controls that.
The only problem with the saw (besides about 75 years of rust) was that there were no notches to lock the blade at 45Ã?Â°. A file remedied that problem and now the blade locks right where I want it. I took it for a test drive in some white oak and the tool didn’t lose its setting after 20 or 30 cuts.
This saw is a keeper. I don’t know if this mechanism would be something to imitate today , there is a lot of machining and knurling on this tool. It would be an expensive item. But if you see one at a flea market, I’d snatch it up.
– Christopher Schwarz
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