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Sunday 25 March 2018

The story of a saw

w tyzack and sons and turner saw

Like many woodcarvers and other woodworkers, I have a lot of old tools: some with names of previous owners stamped on them. Sometimes I wonder about these tools. Were they once used to produce pieces that I have admired in some great cathedral or stately home by a journeyman worker whose name is now forgotten?

It's rare that the story of one of these tools turns up unexpectedly. That happened with this saw. 

It is a tenon saw made by the firm of W Tyzack, Sons and Turner. The blade is stamped with the words 'Made specially for John Hall, High St, Bullring, Birmingham'.

antique tenon saw

I inherited the saw from my grandfather Norman. Although still pretty sharp, it had some damage to the handle and so I've displayed it on the wall of my workshop, rather than risk further damage in use.


Norman was brought up in the slums of Birmingham and wrote about his early years in a few short essays, a copy of which has been preserved in the city archives. I'd never read it until last week.

One of the chapters talks about the Bull Ring, the market area of Birmingham at the time. In a paragraph, the story of the saw came to life:

'Higher up in High Street, stood a gas-lit ironmongers, John Hall. It was from this shop that my father, who had just started work at a cabinet makers, bought his first saw. It was brass-backed and cost three shillings and sixpence, which he paid off at sixpence per week. This saw, of a quality not found today, Is now about 90 years old (author's note: this was in 1989) and is a prized possession in my tool kit.'

I never knew that Fred, Norman's father, was ever a cabinet maker and nothing that he made has been passed down in the family to my knowledge. 

Both men have now passed away (Fred before I was born) but I feel closer to both of them when I look at this saw.