British Saws and Saw Makers

Regular visitors to the site will be already aware of Simon Barley's long anticipated new book on British Saws and Saw makers from 1660.  The standard reference for many years has been Handsaw Makers of Britain,  by Erwin L Schaffer and Don McConnell,  abbreviated as HSMOB.   British Saws and Saw Makers  (abbreviated as BSSM),  will rapidly become the new standard reference work.    It's not easy for someone new to the somewhat arcane world of researching British saw makers to really appreciate fully the amount of work that goes into creating such a reference work.  The many thousands of hours of painstaking trawling through trade directories and publications of the time.  Organizing thousands of details into a coherent whole.

Our congratulations go to Simon Barley for a truly outstanding contribution to research on British saws and sawmakers.  I commend the book to anyone interested in the history of toolmaking.

Regular updates on the book with reviews, additions, errata and revisions will be available on here as the need arises.  Feedback and questions for Simon may be posted in the forum as usual.

The details of how to purchase the book can be found on the TATHS web site

Historians of the various tool trades have long wanted a work specifically on saws and this, the first, is an attempt to match the detail and scholarship of the best that cover planes, cutlery, spanners and measuring tools. The author is a frequent writer and lecturer on saws and the history of their manufacture, and is able to base his work on 15 years of original research and the building of a personal collection of saws - possibly the largest in the world - which is housed with the renowned Ken Hawley Collection in Sheffield's Kelham Island Industrial Museum. Together, these collections form a unique research base and visitor attraction. This scholarly book is illustrated with almost 2000 photographs, the majority by the author, and with its listings of saw makers and dealers forms the most comprehensive directory to date of British names in the tool trades.

A New Beginning
This site is all about woodworking handsaws, There has been a resurgence of interest in woodworking with hand tools and consequent proliferation of high quality handtool makers. When the powered circular saw became popular, the availability of quality handsaws decreased. Now there are a number of companies dedicated to re-capturing the high quality of early saws. Mike Wenzloff and Sons are one such example.

The saw that started it all, back in the 1990's, when Peter Taran and Patrick Leach, fed up with the poor quality saws available, decided to make their own, inspired by a R.Groves & Sons dovetail saw, later they sold to Lie Nielsen who continue to make this beautiful saw available.

My aim with this web site is to bring a sense of appreciation for the skill and craftsmanship of the 19th Century British saw makers. How some of what they knew and took for granted has been lost, and now is being re-discovered. I hope this site can further some of that research, into things like how to taper grind saw blades, some non-traditional saw filing and other saw-related stuff, that seems worthy of investigation.

Site Policy
None of the original material presented here is subject to copyright, you may use freely, provided that you attribute the source. (can you say plaugerism). Other copyrighted material presented here will be attributed to the source, and where I can I will contact the copyright holder to seek permission. If you find anything here which you believe is infringing on your copyright, let me know and it will be removed.

Copyright is a very confused and difficult area, most of the issues revolve around questions relating to "fair use", in this respect, this site seeks to follow "best practice" as far as it is known to me. Main points are, this is a non-profit site, with educational bias, most of the information presented here is of a factual nature (except my opinions), and I will honour any requests to remove any material that is brought to my attention that is infringing on someone else's copyright.

Contributed Images
Images contributed to the gallery, remain the property of those who uploaded them. I assert no rights whatsoever in respect of those images, and if you wish to use them, you should talk to the owner, not me. (oh wait, I retain the right to remove any thing I deem to be inapropriate, power tools etc)

Classical Revival

The last few years has seen the art of making saws rise to higher and higher levels of craftsmanship,  a nunber of small specialist firms are now making saws in limited numbers for a growing market of hand tools users.  One of the most impressive of these is Two Lawyers Tools, a German partnership between Pedder and Klaus , together they have made some of the most beautifully crafted saws you could wish to see.  Here is one of my favourites.


One of the many nice touches with these saws is that the design inspiration comes from  the earlier designs of Kenyon, Groves, Taylor Bros and others, some of the features such as tapered spines and thin tapered saw blades not to mention the elegant handle styles that they are reviving,  These saws are really the great-great grandchildren of the early 19th century Sheffield makers.
You can find out more from Pedder's Blog and the Two Lawyers Tools web site.

Disclaimer: I have no commercial affiliation of any kind with Two Lawyers Tools, I just like and appreciate the fine craftsmanship embodied in their saws,  I wish them all the best with their new venture.

File Forging
File Cutting at the Cyclops Works Sheffield 1914-1918 by EF Skinner
Reproduced with permission of

File Forging at the Cyclops Works Sheffield 1914-1918 by EF Skinner
Reproduced with permission of

These, somewhat idealised images, were produced as a part of a series of postcards for sale, by Cammell Laird, and proceeds went to the Red Cross war effort. I doubt that working conditions were anything like that portrayed, but I like the paintings, it conveys some sense of what it might have been like working in one of the large saw makers's factories around the early part of the 20th Century. Just about every large saw maker also made files. They used some of the files produced in their own saw manufacturing, after which used files were re-introduced into the steel making processes.

Funding Policy
Who pays the bills?
This site is run as a, not-for-profit exercise on my own behalf, you won't see any advertising here, donations are neither sought nor accepted.
I am semi-retired and I have a lifelong interest in woodworking, lately I have gotten interested in 19th Century British Saws. Hopefully this site will be of some small benefit to others.

July 2008 Ray Gardiner


Handle Templates

Open Handles
Closed Handles