W. & S. Butcher


Keystone Saw Works - H. Disston & Sons, Inc. - Phila., PA


A Henry Disston Full-back Mystery Saw by Philip Baker


It seems to never fail that just when you think you have seen it all, something brand new shows up. No matter what type of tool you are into, there's another around the corner.

At a tool meet in St. Charles, Louisiana, in the fall of 2005, an EAIA member displayed a Henry Disston saw circa 1847. It was very similar to the Disston half back except that its back extended to just before the tip which was shaped in an ogee curve. This oddity drew a group of saw buffs and generated no small amount of interest.

The tool was in marvelous condition, just like new. The label screw was Disston's first type, the handle fit the period, and the mark on which seemed to verify the circa 1847 date.


Philip W. Baker

A Disston full back saw with an unusual blade shape.  It's not a one-off,
and the author would like to learn more about his recent acquisition.

The handle looked as if it had just come off the shelf. The finish of the blade and back was bright steel with no blemishes, but the blade did not fit tightly into the back. The loose fit caused some speculation that it was a removable back such as the example shown on page 42 of the 1876 Disston catalog. But, this saw's back did not butt against the handle, like the saw in the Disston catalog. The back on this saw entered a slot in the handle that is 1 inches long. That distance is an even greater distance than the 1 to 1 inches found on most backsaws, which would indicate that it wasn't meant to be removed.

The label screw on the handle updates the saw to circa 1852.

With the evidence at hand, it seemed that this saw was simply a one-off, but in February 2006, I acquired the full back 16-inch saw in Figure 1. Based on the label screw and handle design, I estimated that the date of this saw was circa 1852.  The back is marked "HENRY DISSTON PHILADA" and "CAST-STEEL, WARRANTED" - the same mark as the saw at the earlier meet. The blade has twelve teeth (thirteen points) to the inch.

The mark on the saw back.

I cleaned it and removed the handle. There was bluing under the wood indicating the saw had originally been blued. I also noted that the back was tapered from [fraction seven-sixteenths] inch at the toe to 5/8 inch at the handle. In addition, a thorough examination of the back showed that it was permanent and not meant to be removed.

I believe that this saw was probably meant to be used in a workshop. It is lighter than a backsaw of equal length and feels very good in your hand. The saw would have been the very thing to use for roughing out window sash parts or some similar work. 

If anyone has information to add, please let me know, so it can be shared.

Philip W. Baker
revised April, 2008
Philip W. Baker
Contact:  Philip W. Baker

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