Fitting the Handle to the Saw Blade and Back Installation Instructions - Part I

Posted by Robert Streeper on

0.0     BE SAFE!!! If you don’t know what you’re doing or you are unfamiliar with the tools and techniques described don’t do this! Find somebody who has the knowledge you need and ask for their help. Always exercise extreme care when working with tools. Always wear eye protection and other personal protective equipment as appropriate.
 0.1 Note: This procedure is NOT the only way to accomplish this task but it is the way that I use. I have found that it suits both my skills and my tool set perfectly.
1.0     Materials and Supplies
 1.1    Saw handle blank
 1.2    Mortise chisels
 1.3    Paring chisels
 1.4    Marking gauge
 1.5    Vise firmly mounted to a stout workbench
 1.6    Small chisel mallet
 1.7    Bed float.
 1.8    Cheek or side float.
 1.9    Edge float
 1.10  Saw blade or saw blade with fitted back
 1.11 Carpenters and 0.5 mm mechanical pencils
 1.12  A good ruler 6” to 12” long
 1.13 Rip cut zero kerf 0.015” thick plate gentlemans saw
 1.14  Rip cut dovetail saw with 0.015” saw plate.
 1.15 Rip cut tenon saw with kerf width corresponding to the thickness of the saw plate to be installed.
 1.16 Other type(s) of saws such as Japanese pull saws with kerf widths up to the thickness of your saw blade.
2.0     Procedure
2.1    First lay your handle or you blade with attached back on your work bench and place the handle in the approximate final position. Mark the outline of the recess needed for the blade slot on the handle using the 0.5 mm mechanical pencil. See Figure 1.

Figure 1. Lay the blade over the handle and judge the fit.

 2.2    Adjust the blade as appropriate by grinding or cutting such that it will slot neatly into the handle. (Fig. 2)

Figure 2. Removal of metal from the back of the blade by grinding.

 2.3    Strike a line across the handle to define the ends of the blade slot to be cut and compare the saw blade to the line – remove metal from the back of the blade until it corresponds to the line giving its final position. (Figure 3)

Figure 3. Line indicating final position of blade within the handle.

 2.4    Using a marking gauge strike a line in the exact center of the handle blank from the step to the bottom furthest extent of the blade slot. (Figure 4) Ensure that you gauge is set correctly!

Figure 4. Begin the blade slot by cutting a mark using a marking gauge.

 2.5  After the center line is marked it is helpful to highlight the mark by filling it with a pencil mark. 0.5mm lead mechanical pencils work well for this task. (Figure 5)

Figure 5. Highlighting the marking gauge line with pencil.

 2.6  Begin cutting the blade slot with a zero kerf rip filed saw having a 0.015” thick saw plate. (Figure 6)

Figure 6. Zero kerf fine toothed saw to begin blade slot.

 2.7  Carefully follow the gauge mark around the saw handle, repositioning it in the vise as necessary. Mistakes here are particularly critical. Only cut down to the depth of the gullets of the teeth of the zero kerf saw. (Figure 7)

Figure 7. Cut only as deep as the teeth of the saw.

 2.8  Now switch saw and use a narrow set 0.015” thick plate dovetail saw. Follow the slot cut by the zero kerf saw and slowly work your way around the handle cutting no more than 1/4” deep. (Figures 8 and 9)

Figure 8. Using a narrow set dovetail to further deepen and open the blade slot.


Figure 9. Cut the slot approximately ¼ inch deep all of the way around.

2.9   Now switch to a narrow kerf taper ground tenon saw that cuts a kerf width equivalent to the thickness of the blade you plan to fit. (Figure 10)

Figure 10. Narrow kerf tenon saw.

Figure 11. Further widen the slot using the tenon saw.

 2.10 As before, work slowly and carefully around the handle deepening and widening the cut made in the previous step. Cut approximately ½” deep all of the way round with this saw to firmly establish the blade slot position. (Figure 12)

Figure 12. Cut all of the way round approximately ½” deep.

 2.11 Now cut the blade slot to full depth. Pause frequently and ensure that the blade is tracking the intended direction. (Figure 13)

Figure 13. Cutting the slot to full depth.

 2.12 Cut down until the saw blade is as deep as the mark made on the cheek of the handle. (Figure 14)

Figure 14. Slot is cut to full depth.

 2.13 Now you’re ready to cut the mortise for the back (if you are installing one of course). Begin by inserting the blade with back installed into the slot you just cut from the top as shown below in Figure 15. Mark the outside edge of the back using the 0.5mm mechanical pencil.

Figure 15. Mark the top of the handle for the back mortise.

 2.16 Now move the blade/back assembly around to the front of the handle into a position corresponding to your desired final location of the blade. Mark both sides of the edge of the back and the bottom. (Figures 16 and 17)

Figure 16. Mark the front of the handle for the back mortise.

Figure 17. Mark the bottom of the blade mortise.

 2.17 Extend the lines on the top of the handle all of the way back to the step using a ruler and pencil


Figure 18. Extend the mortise boundaries back to the step.

 2.18 Using the zero kerf saw cut along each line just inside the pencil marks as shown. (Figure 19)

Figure 19. Use zero kerf saw to begin mortise side cuts.

 2.19 Deepen the slots at the sides of the mortise using the rip cut dovetail saw.   Work very carefully and stay inside the lines. (Figure 20)

Figure 20. Use the narrow kerf dovetail saw to deepen the back mortise margins.

 2.20 Cut as deep as practical at the back end of the mortise. (Figure 21)

To be continued in part II...


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