Full Chisel Blog

October 30, 2008

Moxon Dovetail Saw

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Proper Tools,Sawing,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 3:31 pm

In Henry Mercer’s Ancient Carpenter Tools, there is a plate from Moxon, 1703 which is inscribed by hand on the plate.  There is one tool, which I think is mis-labeled, and I don’t know what the original text calls this particular saw.

It is called a ‘Compass’ Saw and somehow I don’t think that is correct now that I have made one.

Moxon Saw 1

I used a special chisel made by Richard MacDonald, a Master Woodcarver, and is made from an old saw blade of some sort.  I drilled 1/16″ diameter holes in the end-grain of the handle to define the narrow mortise for the tang of the saw.  I then used this chisel to remove the intervening pieces of wood and finished up the socket for the tang of the saw blade.

I am not sure of the construction of the original but this is my version of that saw.  The handle varies instead of being turned it is octagonal tapered, matching my other straight handled saws and chisel handles.  Moxon also shows this shape handles on the chisels and gouges in the same plate.

Moxon Saw 2

It does not appear that there was a rivet or anything else holding the tang of the blade into the handle.   I used a cold chisel to upset some barbs on the tang to hold it into the handle.  This will allow it to be removed when it needs to be sharpened again.

I sharpened it rip and it is ever so slightly breasted.I can only cut a straight line with this ‘compass’ saw, well maybe a really large curve, but for now, I will be using it for dovetails.  A friend has already expressed an interest in purchasing this saw and it is not even one day old.  I may have to make another.

I also smoothed up the edges of the clock door.  Sometimes it is handy to have a very long shooting board.  I puttied it where needed and filled the exterior of the clock case.

Shooting the clock door

And during the 4 and a half hours in the shop today I also managed to almost finish the spinning wheel.  I applied a coat of shellac, did some touch ups with pigmented shellac and put it all together.  I still have to attach the treadle to the base, drill a hole in the bottom of the pitman and lace it to the treadle and run the string around the wheel, bobbin and pulley.

Whole Wheel

Now that I have it shellacked, I like the look and have reconsidered the pigmented varnish.  A little more shellac and I think it will look great.



  1. Stephen

    I have a 17th/early 18th century saw if youd like to take a gander at it. Actually I own a number of period tools dating to that period.

    Shoot me an email and Ill send you some pics.


    Comment by Drew Young — November 18, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

  2. Also if your on facebook, we have a group

    ” Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and Colonial Furniture and Woodenware ”

    that is growing quite a bit, around 200 members. Please feel free to join us. Id love to have you drop by. Some well known wood craftfolk are there. Lots of photos of tools and furniture.


    Comment by Drew Young — November 18, 2011 @ 11:34 pm

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