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I've got an old Sandvik handsaw with the "double dragon" embossing, similar to with:

Photo of wooden saw handle with embossed celtic-like dragons; one writing around the rivets and mouthing the topmost rivet, the other knotted across the hand grip area, facing the hand and mouthing its own tail (Image swiped from eBay.)

Unfortunately these were very shallow stampings, and after all these years mine isn't this sharply delineated. I'm not sure whether that's because there was coloring that has faded, or if this individual just did a brilliant job of edge-lighting theirs.

I don't want to do anything that would risk damaging these, but if there was some way to make the embossing on mine more visible, I'd be interested. I realize that I might be ruining the "patina" of use, but I'm more interested in appreciating the artistry of a working tool than in maintaining collecting value.

If anyone has good thoughts on how to accentuate the embossing, I'd welcome them... and they'd be good techniques to know for other kinds of restoration and decoration.

(Best thoughts I've had so far involve trying to use something like a tinted wax, which would hopefully get caught in the pattern but would be polished off the surrounding surface. But I'm not convinced that's a good idea.)

  • Any reason why you could not include a picture of your actual saw? Is yours the same as this one? There is some fine detail on the one pictured..... Only partial idea I could muster is scratching the edges of the design to give more contrast between the dragons and the handle. That or paint it. – Matt Dec 27 '15 at 2:51
  • Also not sure if the tool-repair tag would be a fit for this one...... leaning towards yes – Matt Dec 27 '15 at 2:52
  • Couldn't get what I considered an adequate picture. It does seem to be the same embossing and same design. There is some trace of color in the scales, but not as much contrast here. From what I can still read on the blade, this is a Sandvik 270-something. – keshlam Dec 27 '15 at 3:08
  • Found some nice photos here that really highlight the emboss flickr.com/photos/finnberg68/15214046629/in/photostream – Matt Dec 27 '15 at 3:22
  • Those Sandvik hand saws are really nice top use...but their handles (minus the stampings) are just butt-ugly. – grfrazee Dec 28 '15 at 15:08
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Without knowing the exact condition of your handle it's difficult to say for sure how I'd approach this if it was mine, but it's likely I would remove the last traces of the original finish, clean the wood, do any necessary smoothing (file work, scraping and sanding) and then refinish.

Obviously with any sort of decoration in the wood this is a clear case of where you wouldn't want to even attempt to sand the finish off, and anyway it is usually preferable to use sanding as a last resort to remove finish (safer for the user and the wood).

So chemical stripping is unquestionably the way to go IMO. If you're using a commercial stripper rather than just one very strong solvent I think you should pick a product where the instructions say to clean off the wood afterwards with spirits, not water. If you wet the wood with water there's a risk you could lessen or even remove the embossing (same principle as removing minor dents by wetting the wood). And obviously the shallower the stampings are the less the effect needs to be to reduce their visibility.

Best thoughts I've had so far involve trying to use something like a tinted wax, which would hopefully get caught in the pattern but would be polished off the surrounding surface. But I'm not convinced that's a good idea.

Sounds like the perfect technique to me, as it's very controllable and reversible if desired. I suspect that once the old finish is removed and new finish is on the wood the decoration will anyway look a lot clearer and more sharply defined than it does now.

The one thing I would like to specify in relation to this in case it's not what you were planning, is to apply the tinted wax at the end, after a film finish (shellac or varnish) has been applied. That way the wax is sitting on top of the film and doesn't risk getting into the wood.

In case it's convenient you can use shoe polish for this, rather than making your own tinted wax or having to buy a furniture-specific coloured wax.

  • Sounds good, and maybe even encouraging... Would you then apply a sealing coat over the wax, or just let it dry? (Now I just need to get organized enough to tackle any of my outstanding projects....) – keshlam Dec 27 '15 at 14:42
  • @keshlam, I wouldn't seal the wax but you could if you wanted to. I'd prefer to be able to wipe it away with spirits if/when needed which wouldn't be as easily done if under a further layer of the film finish. If the idea in the first place was to make the highlighting permanent (or at least with a greater assurance of durability) I wouldn't use wax, I'd use oil or enamel paint instead, brushed out and then all the excess wiped away. – Graphus supports Monica Dec 28 '15 at 23:20

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