The Unplugged Woodshop
The Oldwolf Workshop Studio
Bad Lexicon: A primer in Bad Axe saw design
Traditional: Back in the day (well over a century ago), most American sawmakers blued their carbon steel sawbacks, and when matched up with the medium tone of an apple handle and brass fasteners, it was just a great looking saw. You’ll find plenty of them still out there available on eBay today, though the bluing is usually worn off the back. Apple is pretty much the Holy Grail of woods I’m still searching for, but Cherry is a great alternative, with a similar tight grain and lighter tone. So this is the combination Bad Axe started off with: a very traditional mix of cherry, hot-blued (or black pearl nickel-plated) carbon steel, and a brass fastener set that harkens back to an earlier time when communication moved at the speed of a horse.
But then I got to playing around with different alloys and wood species—and here’s what I came up with, which have proven to be very popular with Bad Axe customers. If you ever find yourself confronting choice overload when tricking out your Bad Axe saw, then here are some popular mixes for your consideration.
Here's a look for those propensed to the dark side of the force. Black Oxided (Hot-Blued) or Black Pearl Nickel-Plated Carbon Steel sawback with a Black Walnut Handle and Black Oxided Fastener Set. Very dark; very bad. I used to call this look by another name (think heavy breathing), but George Lucas would have strung me up.
For those of you born on the 4th of July. Stainless sawback matched up with a cherry handle and a niter-blued fastener set. A patriotic, red, white and blue motif that makes you want to snap to attention and salute Old Glory. Another name once applied to this saw as well, but Marvel Comics have joined George’s lynch mob with Captain America leading the charge.
Got a redneck streak in you? Do moonshine and Steve Earle lyrics make sense to you? Here's my newest look showcasing the copper back. An absolutely stunning choice when coupled with a walnut or mesquite handle and the hot-blued (black-oxided) fastener set. This mix grabs your attention like a snakebite in the Oklahoma Wichitas.
This look finds a home wherever the Union Jack sailed. Any of the wood handle species coupled with a brass sawback and brass split-nuts rocks our English brothers. Henry Disston himself was a transplanted Brit, and though he championed the blued carbon steel backs for the American market, he made sure he offered the same saws with brass backs for his exports to the ancestral homeland.
This is the saw all good out-of-the-box-thinking capitalists want, and Dominique would approve. The stainless back and fasteners matched up with a black walnut handle presents a cool, clean look with a dark, ruthless undertone. The medium tones of the mesquite handle also look quite nice in this match-up. Tea Partiers need not apply--you just don't have the gravitas Ayn was writing about.
Pure American Southwest. Mesquite handle, Black pearl nickel-plated carbon steel sawback and niter-blued fasteners evoke the tough beauty of the American southwest and the gamblers and gunfighters that inspired countless westerns in the centuries that followed. Now Megan Fitzgerald has opined that this saw should have been called Annie Oakley, and I think that works just fine as well.
Frankly, Wyatt is good with any of the alloy/species combinations, because this is more of a saw design moniker for my 12” hybrid dovetail/small tenon saw. What’s the connection? Wyatt’s favorite hogleg was a Colt .44 magnum Buntline Special with a 12” barrel. So when some of my customers asked for a longer dovetail saw, I decided to go all out with a 12” sawback/plate assembly to achieve a longer, more accurate precision cut in fewer strokes. This guy is decked out in my copperhead-killer look, one of my faves.