An Overview of Panel Saws 1890 – 1940


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As mentioned in an earlier post, the major limiting factor for hand saw quality was the steel from which they were made. The steel had to be flexible enough to resist kinking, but thin enough to minimize the kerf, thus reducing resistance. The kinking problem was addressed in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries by making saws that cut on the pull stroke, just as oriental saws do to this day. The most common saws at this time were frame saws and backsaws. The solution was the invention of spring steel.

[NOTE: Did you know that in most cases when a saw is kinked, the kink can be restored by slapping the saw flat on quiet water, such as in a swimming pool.]

In 1740, Benjamin Huntsman invented crucible steel which was superior to the steels then produced, but it was produced in small batches and was not embraced by industry for many years

Huntsman Crucible Steel Method

In 1763 R. Tredwell was issued the first patent for the coil spring, British patent No. 792 The original purpose was for the construction of clock springs, which revolutionized clock and watch manufacturing, but that’s a story for another time.

The value of using spring steel in the manufacture of saws wasn’t fully recognized until the 1860s. Up until that time, and even for quite a while after, high-quality saws were made from cast steel based on Huntsman’s crucible steel. During the 1860s. The production of spring steels in large enough quantities enabled these steels to be employed in the manufacture of very high-grade saws, especially panel saws. They were called such brand names as “London Spring Steel,” “Silver Steel,” “German Steel,” and “Refined Cast Steel,” among others. These were primarily marketing terms as testing has shown that most quality saws were composed of 1095 spring steel with a hardness of 52 r.c.

Photo of Early Hand Saw courtesy of Davistown Museum

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What brands of hand saws should you look for?

Historically there were a lot of saw makers, because saws were easier to manufacture than hand planes. Here are some of the old and new quality saw makers (in alphabetical order). The blue links lead to eBay and other searches for those hand saw brands so you can compare different models (some of the antique brands are not always available on eBay, so keep checking back if you don’t see them) For more thorough information, refer to

1. Adria (desirable – new saws) Ceased manufacture in 2015

2. A.F. Shotwell – (very desirable)

3. Atkins (E.C. Atkins & Co.)

4. Belknap Blue Grass Colver (desirable)

5. Colver Bros (desirable – Sheffield)

6. Disston (Henry Disston & Sons – desirable)

7. Drabble & Sanderson

8. E.C. Atkins (desirable) 1855 – 1940

9. E.C. Simmons Keen Kutter Fitchew 1870 – 1940

10. H. Buck (somewhat desirable)

11. G.H. Buck (somewhat desirable)

12. George H. Bishop (desirable) 1880’s – 1920 (merged with James Ohlen & Sons Saw Mfg, Co )

13. Harvey W. Peace (desirable) 1863 – 1871(Major Fire)1890 incorporated in National Saw Company.

14. Hoole Staniforth & Co (desirable – Sheffield) 1850 – ?

15. J. Cranstone (somewhat desirable)

16. Jackson (somewhat desirable)

17. James Howarth (somewhat desirable) 1863 – 1913 (The mark was acquired by Robert Sorby in 1922.

18. Kaye & Sons (desirable – Hull) History

19. Kenyon (desirable) 1757 – early 1900’s

20. Lie-Nielsen (really desirable – new saws) Website

21. Mathieson Moulson Bros Pax (desirable)

22. Richard Groves & Sons (really desirable) 1770 – 1911

23. Richardson (somewhat desirable)

24. Richardson Brothers (really desirable) Company history.

25. Sandvik (desirable) Company history.

26. Simonds (desirable) Company history.

27. Slack Sellars & Co (desirable – Sheffield) Slack Sellars & Co were in business under that name between 1860 – 1963 in Sheffield.

28. Sorby (somewhat desirable) Company history

29. Spear & Jackson (somewhat desirable) Source link

30. Taylor Brothers (desirable – Sheffield) Company history

31. Thomas Flinn (somewhat desirable) Amazon link

32. Wenzloff and Sons saws are the finest saws that have been manufactured in about 100 years. Wenzloff & Sons saws are truly the connoisseur’s saws. Not only are Wenzloff & Sons making far and away the best saws available today, they also have a much broader range of sizes and styles than was ever offered by the other firms of the saw making renaissance.

33. Wheeler, Madden, & Clemson (desirable) WheelerMadden and Clemson made hand saws from 1853 through to 1891, although the company name varied a little during this period until it was bought out by Disston and merged into the National Saw Company along with Woodrough & McParlin, Richardson Bros and Harvey W Peace.

34. Winchester (desirable) The Winchester tool line was started in 1920 and ended in 1931 with the sale of the company to Western Cartridge Co.

35. Woodrough & McParlin (desirable)

  • “The National Saw Company was incorporated in 1890, with a capital of $3,000,000. George N. Clemson was made its president; Louis Duhme, vice-president; R. W. Clemson, secretary; R. L. Woodrough, treasurer; and H. H. Woodrough, treasurer. The company owns and operates the establishments of the Wheeler, Madden & Clemson Manufacturing Company, and the Monhagen Steel Works at Middletown; Woodrough & McParlin at Cincinnati, Ohio; The Richardson Saw Works at Newark; Harvey W. Peace, Brooklyn, N. Y., and Woodrough & Clemson, Montvale, Mass.” 
  •  One of the true “holy grails” of saw collecting is the Woodrough and McParlin “Panther” saw! On Jan. 13, 1880, James R. Woodrough of Cincinnati was issued U.S. Design Patent 11,603 titled simply “Design for Saw-Handles.” The specification is quite short, covering, “A design for handsaw-handles, consisting of the ordinary form of handle, its front end being provided with an ornamental head projecting from said front end over the blade of the saw ….”

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This saw was featured in a 1991 Smithsonian magazine article, which stated that only six of these tools were known to exist. Since then more examples have turned up, but it is estimated that there are less than 80 of these left.

“Panther Saw”
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Sound overwhelming?

Then just start off focusing on buying antique Disston saws. The Disston saws were manufactured by the millions and are the easiest to find, and most are of exceptional quality, especially the common models (see below). Remember to buy pre-1940’s era vintage hand saws. Here are some eBay searches for wood saws. To ensure that you don’t over-pay when you’re on eBay click “sold” to see what they’re selling for, and to see which saws are desirable. It’s fun research. (For more in-depth info go to ):

  • Disston Rip Dovetail Saws (8″-10″) No. 2 , No. 4, No. 5, etc.
  • Disston No. 4 Rip Tenon Saws
  • Disston No. 12 Cross Cut Carcass Saws (12″ blade…probably won’t say “carcass”)
  • Disston No. 7 Hand Saws
  • Disston No. 12 Hand Saws (very nice)
  • Disston No. 16 Hand Saws (very nice)
  • Disston D-8 Hand Saws
  • Disston D100 Hand Saws
  • Disston No. 112 Hand Saws
  • Disston No. 7 Hand Saws
  • This guy (woodnut4) beautifully repairs, sharpens, & sells amazing saws on ebay…very popular.

Disston, the #12 and #16 are recognized as top of the pack. The D8 is also a fine saw which is very common on the old tools market. Simond’s top quality saw was the #4. Also very good were the #4 1/2 and #5. Atkins’ premium handsaw was the #400, although the #68 was also very good. There are a number of books and websites on the Internet that can help identify the brand and product number, and often the year of manufacture by its medallion.

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Boutique Saws

Florip Toolworks – Fine, handmade saws. There is a 10 to 14-week wait for each saw. Pricing is from $115.00 and up depending on the model and handle species.

Blackburn ToolsFor those interested in making their own tools, this company in Ames Iowa provides high-quality parts for those wanting to have the best.

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EBay is a good place to start a search for saws, but you need to be very careful as many sellers are not as knowledgable as one might hope for, so their descriptions might lack some veracity. There are other options from some experienced tool vendors whose expertise can be counted on to provide accurate information as to condition. I list some of them below. The list is not exhaustive and I welcome your input and recommendations for additions to this list.

There are many other vendors that I could list, but many of them do not sell on line or have websites that are awkward to use.

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If You Are into Auctions, Here are a Few Antique Tool Specialty Auctioneers:

  • Brown Tool Auctions – Holding two major tool auctions per year, Brown Auction is a division of The Fine Tool Journal. It is one of the premier tool auction houses in the world.
  • Martin J. Donnelly Auctions – This specialty house is right up there with Brown Tool Auction and has been active since 1983 and holds 9 tool auctions annually.
  • David Stanley Auctions – Based in Leicestershire, England, this house has been active since 1980, and is the primary tool purveyor for collections from across the pond. He is holding 3 tool auctions, so far, in 2020
  • Great Planes Trading Company – Located in St. Louis, MO, this auction house has 5 auctions scheduled for this year (2020).