Adventures in 2×4 Furniture

Anything worth doing, is worth overdoing. I have a roofing/trim project coming up and need some sawhorses. They would make nice sofa tables for a faux industrial interior, even better when they have a few dings and paint spatters.

Sawhorse Flat


My own dear son asked why I’d spend so much time on sawhorses?


The through tenon and lap joints are a challenge. The wedge shape is cut with handsaws, a crosscut backsaw and my dovetail saw which is set to rip with the grain.

Legs splayed at 10° in two directions. You could park are car on these!

Sawhorse in Progress

The dog holes are 3/4″, drilled on the drill press and routed with a chamfer bit. I’m not a total Luddite, hand tool purist.

Mortise Detail with Doghole

End Grain Quartersawn

Examples of quarter sawn 2×4 lumber. Note the difference in annual rings. The bottom board grew 3 or 4 times faster, but there doesn’t seem to be a big difference in strength. I shop often and keep the boards around for a few weeks to acclimate.

Maybe someone knows, what are the odds of getting cypress at the home center? The center board (with dog holes) and the legs are made from two fairly pristine 2×6’s. If it’s not cypress, it sure is similar. Slightly oily and tight grained.




Teeth haven’t been brushed in decades

Sheffield Warrented Rusty Teeth

All together, there are sixteen known iron oxides and oxyhydroxides.

Wikipedia is no source for pick-up lines, but give it a try. Better off grabbing a Bell’s Two Hearted IPA from the fridge and restoring a hand saw. Use the money saved by staying out of the pub to purchase a really nice, used saw vise.

It’s not quite so bad as it looks. This Sheffield Warranted 8 pt crosscut saw has potential. The rust has been enhanced in PhotoShop. There are 2 or 3 hours to be spent scraping and sanding the plate before sharpening the saw. There will be minor pitting, no big deal. This old saw will be back to work by the weekend.

Most importantly, the geometry is ideal for sharpening with a triangular file. This saw has never been sharpened, the teeth are uniform with no signs of damage. After a light jointing of the tops with a long file in a jig, the gullets help guide the direction of the file. By keeping each file stroke at a consistent angle, the file will clear that crud from the gullet and after a stroke or two, smooth the working edge of each tooth.

Put on some music and relax – this is easy.


001 Sheffield Warranted Before002 Sheffield Warranted Medallion Before

Another saw from an old friend’s garage.

I’m not familiar with the Sheffield Warranted saws and will be looking for etching on the blade. The “A” leads me to think this is an Atkins product.

The E.C. Atkins Company of Indianapolis, IN operated from 1856 though the 1950s. The nicely shaped handle makes me think it’s from the 1930s. Atkins’ saws have good blades, but the handles of later tools suck – ugly, cheap looking – as if they had no regard for the implicit value of design.  That’s another story – this one has a good looking handle.  If this were a rare saw, I’d think twice about the aggressive rust removal.

I begin by disassembling the saw and gathering the tools for cleaning the blade. I’ll go at it with razor blades and scrape off the rust. Doing this dry and vacuuming the rust dust is slightly less messy than working with oil or solvents.


Disston D-8 5pt Rip Saw

Disston D-8 5pt Rip Saw

Waxed, polished and very sharp.

One of my pet peeves is when people ask “what’s it worth?”

On the open market, the flea market or online auction, with a moderate coating of rust and dirt – this saw is worth less than a bag of groceries at Whole Foods. If I’d found it at a tag sale, I may have opened my wallet for ten bucks. In spite of my peeve, I catch myself computing the hours spent restoring a tool at a fair wage – say 8 hours x $20 an hour = $160. I consider the price of a top quality new tool; A Lie-Nielsen panel saw can be purchased for $225. This tool isn’t rare, but particularly attractive to me; pre WWII, 5 teeth per inch, filed for ripping, very nicely carved handle with thumbhole, no cracks in the handle or chunkers in the horns, straight blade, used but not abused. There was potential beneath the dirt and rust. It just needed some attention.

The value to me is more warm and fuzzy than U.S. dollars reflect. The satisfaction of a job well done, the potential for future furniture projects, the thoughtful meditation while restoring the tool, the idea that this saw’s history reaches beyond the grave. This saw brings back the dead, bringing memories of past owners, their care and aspirations are alive in my hands, in my shop. It’s impossible to quantify this inspirational value.

On top of that, the saw had belonged to the father of dear friends. That aspect makes this Ted Saw unique and one-of-a-kind. Sotheby’s or Christie’s appraisers would roll their eyes when I put the value at $10,000. I’d take $250 (if someone waved the cash), but I’d possibly donate it to an aspiring furniture maker.

Better yet, I’d recommend that the aspiring galoot hunt down a similar saw; Disston, Atkins, Warranted Superior, Peace or others – and create their own heirloom. It’s not rocket science and there are many excellent online resources. The satisfaction is priceless.

Start here: