$1 Great Neck Backsaw Restoration

A Great Rummage Sale Find!

A few weeks ago I stopped at a rummage sale and picked up three saws for $1 each, and two 4 1/2" C clamps for $1 - what a deal!  At least - it was a great deal if you could look beyond the rust and worn condition of the saws.  I'll eventually get to each of the saws, but I'll start with my Great Neck backsaw.


What is a Backsaw?

I hear the terms all the time - dovetail saws, tenon saws, carcase saws, backsaws and more.  The truth is, each of those examples are backsaws, backsaw being the category of saw I suppose.  Basically, a backsaw is a handsaw with a wide blade and a reinforced back edge that ensures the blade remains straight during cutting. Most backsaws have crosscut teeth, which we discussed a bit when I wrote about salvaging a rip saw.  Backsaws are generally used for simple cutoff work, and I usually use my backsaw for cutting molding in a miter box, although I've found myself using it more often for small crosscut jobs.   


My First Branded Great Neck

Not that it matters much, and really, in the end it doesn't matter at all, but this is my first Great Neck tool - kinda.  I say kinda, because Great Neck actually makes hand tools for Home Depot, Lowes, Buck Brothers and others.  It's always fun to learn who actually makes the tools for some of these companies.  It's also nice when we can have some things made in the USA!  So, here's a look with the branding still on the blade.  Cleaning and polishing the blade will certainly remove that little bit of ink announcing the manufacturer.


In 1919, Samuel Jacoff, a tool and die maker living in Pittsfield, MA, started a hacksaw blade manufacturing business with the help and support of his wife Sarah. When fire destroyed their building in 1929, they merged with another blade maker, Great Neck Manufacturing. In 1941, they purchased a handsaw company and constructed a new plant in Mineola, NY where they remain today. - Great Neck Tools website

The Inspection

Taking saws apart are the easiest thing in the world - a few screws and that's it.  This saw turned out to be in okay shape, especially compared to the rip saw I did a couple weeks ago.  The rip saw was badly rusted and the handle had some rot, but this saw was pretty clean in comparison.  The blade was in decent shape and the handle was in excellent condition:  


The Teeth

Just a quick step back.  Before I took the saw apart, I decided to test the saw, and it turned out the teeth were pretty dull.  Fortunately, I was able to secure it in my saw sharpening clamp I made back in 2017.  It only took about ten minutes of filing to get the teeth back in shape.


The Blade

A quick look at this blade just shows minor rust and that it's a little dirty.  But the dirty part was a bear to clean.  It was some kind of goo that took some serious elbow grease to remove. But after a few grits of sandpaper and some polishing compound, the blade came out pretty good, leaving a minimal amount of staining from surface rust...


The Handle

There's absolutely nothing wrong with the blonde handle for this saw, but the varnish on it was gatoring and flaking off.  So I took a razor blade and scraped it all off - only took maybe 15 minutes.


The wood was in excellent shape, but I'm terrible at identifying wood species.  The best I can tell, the handle is pine, but I'm not sure they may saw handles from pine.  Every website I visited simply described the handle as being "made from hardwood" but never mention what species.  I guess I'll just go with a pine-looking hardwood until I learn differently!


The thing is, hardwood or not, the handle was waaaay too plain for my liking.  This saw, not being a collectible antique, was about to have a significant change.  I decided to go with General Finishes Georgian Cherry as the base.  It's a striking color...


But that wasn't the end of the plan, only a part of the master plan!  To get to the color I wanted, I applied two coats of amber shellac, and wound up with the color I had in my mind's eye...


I just noticed I skipped a step, so I'll squeeze it in here.  The rivets weren't in bad shape, but they were scuffed and had a smidge of rust on them.  So I soaked them in vinegar for a couple hours and polished them up with some metal polish and the rotary tool.  


Then it was about 45 seconds of reassembly and the saw was finished!

Drum Roll Please!

A few stains left on the blade but newly sharpened and dressed up with a snazzy looking (totally subjective opinion!) handle and mirror-finished rivets.  And here she is.  


Sure, this was a really simple project, with no more than an hour-and-a-half of work involved, but my Great Neck backsaw is now positioned to long outlast me!  My little $1 saw has got to be worth close to the price of a new backsaw - about $20.  But that doesn't matter as much as the fin of cleaning these things up, sometimes these simple projects are just what the doctor ordered!  Can't wait for the next project that needs a backsaw.  Heck, I just might conjure up a project just to use this little beauty.


Thanks for stopping by!
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