Antique Crosscut Saw: History, Identification, and Value Guide

Antique Crosscut Saw

No matter how far technology advances, the antique crosscut saw is one woodwork tool that refuses to leave. It doesn’t matter that there are chainsaws and circular saws now – this primitive tool is here to stay.

Then you wonder, what’s special about the antique crosscut saw that makes it preferable to its modern counterparts?

A brief history lesson would enlighten you on why the antique crosscut saw is still more expensive than modern saws. You’ll also learn a few identification tips, so you don’t make a mistake when you’re ready to buy.

Evolution of the Antique Crosscut Saw

History recanted by word of mouth has many faces. Some say the antique crosscut saw is from the Neolithic age, whereas others insist it’s older than that. The Ancient Egyptians used it for woodwork.

Chinese legend says Lu Ban, a structural engineer invented the saw when he turned a leaf texture into a tree-cutting material. Greek mythology, however, attributes this invention to Talos, son of Daedalus, while archeologists maintain it’s from the primitive man of the Stone Age.

Lu Ban saw
Lu Ban saw

However, one thing holds; in the diverse stories, crosscut saws became popular in the 15th century. The invention of rolled steel in 1650 gave rise to a need for a competent tool. “Necessity is the mother of Invention,” after all.

The Crosscut Saw arrived in the US two centuries after, in the 1800s. Before 1880, sawyers used Axes for felling trees and Rip Saws for bucking. However, things changed that year in Pennsylvania with the innovation of the two-person antique crosscut saw.

By the end of the 19th century, the Crosscut saw was a staple in most homes across the US. Artisans handcrafted them for customers who passed them as family heirlooms through generations. You shouldn’t be surprised that owning such a historic tool may cost a fortune.

How to Identify an Antique Crosscut Saw

Every hand saw has a special purpose. It looks like all hand saws do the same thing on the surface, but that’s wrong. The first step in identification is differentiating an antique crosscut saw from other hand saws.

There are two types of Crosscut saws, the Single handle and the Two-man Crosscut saw. The Two-man design has a handle on each end of the blade and can be as long as 12ft. Sawyers use this type to buck and fall trees.

The most common error new collectors make is thinking Rip Saws and Crosscut Saws are the same. Yes, their teeth look similar, but they’re so different in mechanism and cut.

Differentiate an Antique Crosscut Saw from a Rip Saw

In the identification process of a crosscut saw, the first thing you need to do is differentiate it from a rip saw. Here’s how to identify the differences between these two saw types.

Observe the Teeth

The bottom part of your hand saw’s blade is the teeth. It’s a jagged edge that gives the tool a precise cut. When you pick up an antique crosscut saw, look closely at the jagged edge.

Crosscut Saws have sharp teeth that look like a row of knives. Each file’s angle slants the blade’s frame, unlike those in Rip saws with 90° files looking like a chisel row. Additionally, the crosscut saw has more teeth than the Rip saw.

Differentiate an Antique Crosscut Saw from a Rip Saw
(Credit: Wonkee Donkee Tools)

Understand the Sawing Mechanism

Naturally, since both tools have different teeth, their cuts also differ. Whereas Rip saws shave off wood like a chisel, Crosscut saws slice across the grain like knives. Even though you can use them interchangeably, you’ll only get the best results when you stick to their purpose.

Now that you are can properly decipher the differences between an antique crosscut saw and a ripsaw, let’s show you how to identify if that crosscut blade is a true antique.

You’re probably wondering, is there a sign? Does it need to sparkle under a light? Do you need to pull it out of a tree, like Excalibur from stone? Well, it’s nothing dramatic, but it may seem like magic to the untrained eye. It’s time to make a “Magician” of you.

Here are additional things to look out for when trying to identify an antique crosscut saw.

The Material

There are a few signs to observe when identifying an antique item, and the first is the material. What makes up the antique Crosscut saw? Before we go ahead, let’s identify the parts.

Crosscut saws Parts

Antique Crosscut saws have Handles, blades, and Teeth. The blade part close to the handle is the “Heel,” while the extended one is the “Toe.”

Handle

Pre-World War II (1939-1945) antique crosscut saws have wooden handles. Assess the wood as you would any typical timbered relic. Look for aging marks – scratches, chips, shrinkage, and smell. Old wood has a unique scent; it’s like the aftermath of a rainy day in a wooden cottage.

Modern Crosscut saws often have a plastic handle. The design is another story entirely. Keep reading to find out.

Blade

Antique crosscut saws have top-quality steel because they were built for resilience. Also, it’s taper-grounded, meaning the Toe is narrow while the Heel is wide. Again, check for aging signs like rust and slight chips.

Antique Crosscut saws have thin, light, and easy-to-use straight-backed blades. Modern Crosscut saws, on the other hand, are stiff, so they succumb to gravity.

Teeth

Earlier, we discussed distinguishing antique Crosscut saws with their teeth. Here’s a recap. You’re looking for a saw with knife-like teeth. You might find an antique Crosscut saw with blunt teeth, but that doesn’t change its age.

Note the spacing in the teeth legion – antique Crosscut saws have uniform arcs to deliver equal cuts.

Crosscut_saw_tooth_patterns
Illustration of six types of logging cross cut saw teeth. (Credit: Wikimedia)

Design

You can tell the age of a crosscut saw through the shape. Each era had a signature design – the Egyptians made their Crosscut saws with very wide toes and narrow heels. The Chinese formed their handles like bows, and the 19th-century design had thick wood.

Chinese traditional woodworking saw
Chinese traditional woodworking saw

The brand also matters because most antique Crosscut saw manufacturers labeled their medallion. You can tell a Disston’s age from its design number on the medallion. We advise that you read the Disston Handbook of Saws for a detailed account.

Mechanism

How the Crosscut saw works also indicates its origin. The Japanese and Egyptian designs work in a pull-stroke (you draw the saw towards yourself as you cut.) They’re from the early centuries, before the 1800s.

The Western Crosscut saw of the 19th century uses a Push-stroke motion. You move your hands forward as you slice through wood.

Valuing Your Antique Crosscut Saw

You can sell, restore, resharpen, recycle, or donate your antique Crosscut saw to a museum. Whichever route you take, you must understand the value of your tool to make the best decision. There’s no fixed price for all antique Crosscut saws because they’re not the same.

Rare tools attract higher value than common ones, and the same goes for antique Crosscut saws in good condition. You can buy or sell between $8-$425. If you decide to keep your relic, it appreciates.

Factors that influence the price of an antique Crosscut saw include – Age, Design, Blade Quality, and Brand.

Age

All antique Crosscut saws before 1950 are top-shelf material. You’re probably thinking that year is specific, and you’re right. It’s the first year post World War II and the beginning of the Chainsaw decade.

Chainsaws are significant because they phased out the necessity of the hand saw. With reduced production of the Crosscut saw, the relics became rare hence the high value.

Design

Japanese, Chinese, and antique Egyptian Crosscut saws are more expensive than Western ones because they’re older and rarer. Many people get them for decoration rather than use.

If you’re buying an antique Crosscut saw for use, consider the purpose before you choose. It would be best if you didn’t spend more than you have to buy a two-person saw when a single-handle one would suffice.

Blade Quality

Antique Crosscut saws have high-quality steel, which makes them durable and coveted. They deliver clean-finished cuts with their smaller teeth.

The quality is so good that experts suggest it’s better to sharpen the teeth than buy a modern design. Owners of modern hand saws can testify to getting rid of them at the hint of bluntness. They aren’t worth much because they’re replaceable.

Brand

Notorious brands like Disston, E.C. Atkins, Simmonds, and Harvey Peace cost more than unknown manufacturers. That’s because they delivered top-notch Crosscut saws in their prime. Since consumers could vouch for their quality back then, it follows that it stays the same today.

That’s why education matters – not the one you learn in a classroom but what you discover as you study history and its tools.

Concluding Thoughts

The market for antique Crosscut Saws is smaller than the demand. Many collectors favor this design because of its durability, efficiency, and history.

There are so many things you can do with your antique Crosscut saw. They travel far and wide in search of these pieces of history rather than buy new ones.

As an antique Crosscut saw collector, these are the words to live by;

  • Antique Crosscut saws are taper-grounded
  • They have knife-like teeth to slice across the grain.
  • Pre-World War II designs are high-value pieces. (Be careful not to giveaway your grandpa’s antique Crosscut saw cheaply.)

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