A CHALLENGE! -- R Williamson Brass Backsaw

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by enjuneer, Jan 24, 2020.

  1. enjuneer

    enjuneer Member

    I shared these photos of a brass saw marked "R Williamson & Co. Cast ● Steel" with Simon Barley, but he is unsure if it is English or American. He did state that the ● between Cast Steel and the low position of the stamp indicate a probable date of pre-1840. He has a steel-backed example of the mark in BSSM, but indicates in the book that he is unsure of its heritage. He did mention that the handle on my saw is likely a replacement and was probably an open handle originally.

    The mark is included in the EAIA database, however it is based on a single example that was in the hands of a collector, briefly mentioned in a 1983 article in the Gristmill publication of the Mid-west Tool Collectors Association. I have checked a few early city directories, including Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago, but have not yet located an R. Williamson who was a saw maker or similar profession.

    Does anyone have thoughts on who R. Williamson was and where he worked?

    Williamson_0001.jpg Williamson_0002.jpg Williamson_0003.jpg
  2. Joe S

    Joe S Most Valued Member

    Hey Everyone
    The R Williamson and Co has come up a couple of time on this site. David might chime in on the saw he saw a few years ago and was mentioned as having been in Cincinnati Ohio in 1839-40. http://www.backsaw.net/forum/index.php?threads/mystery-handle-info.502/#post-3047 Erwin Schaffer in "Hand saws Makers of North America" references the same with the only REF as a saw. Cincinnati records also might be a start. So many of the tell tale marks suggest an English trained maker. The Williamson saw mark I have looks nothing like yours but who knows if there was a connection.
    Hope that is a start.
    Joe S.
  3. David

    David Most Valued Member

    Hello folks,
    Well, since I made that post I've done some more research. Schaffer's book notes R Williamson & Co as being in Cincinnati. I did a project a while ago for the Cincinnati Public Library, and while I was there I consulted with their archivist about Mr Williamson. Long story short, after the archivist spent several hours on the problem, it seems that there is no R Williamson listed in the records of the town or the city directories from that time period. He wasn't there.

    I have two R Williamson saws, both with the stamp low on the spine and looking like English saws. I think we can't put much weight on either the listing in DATAMP or in Schaffer's book, since those listings were solely based on the existence of a saw without any documentation as to where it was made.

    The other saws that fit in this category (stamped low on the spine, looks English, Simon can find no records, we can find no records, where's it from?) are the Hanshaw saws. I've seen at least a dozen from North America in the past few years, and they don't seem to ever show up in England. I'd guess, on that basis alone, that they were made here (both Hanshaw and Williamson) but lack any other proof.
    It's another mystery for us to solve.
  4. Dusty Shed Dweller

    Dusty Shed Dweller Most Valued Member

    I've seen a Hanshaw carcass saw down under. It had all the hallmarks of pre 1850 saws EG tapered spine, small font stamp etc. Beech handles and other aspects scream English made IMO.

    I'll post some pictures.
  5. David

    David Most Valued Member

    I agree completely that Hanshaw saws look completely English made in all their details.
    There certainly were known makers in the United States of America who made saws that looked like English made London Pattern saws; Welch & Griffiths, Irenus Atkins, and Josiah Bakewell are three that I have examples of and there must have been others, with R Williamson and Hanshaw possibly being among them. W & G and Bakewell were English immigrants while Irenus Atkins' family had been in Connecticut for several generations.
    Most American saws with dolphin handles made before 1845 or so also look no different from English-made examples. Without some kind of documentation of a saws origin we just can't know where they were made, and trying to judge their origin based on stylistic features is uncertain. One day I hope we resolve the question of these two puzzling makers.
  6. Dusty Shed Dweller

    Dusty Shed Dweller Most Valued Member

    Yes, it becomes a bit blurry when an immigrant toolmaker replicates old world production in a new location. The handle is beech, but it's the densest, tightest grained and most red coloured I've seen, which is different to the typical stuff used in routine British production. Otherwise the stylistic features are very English.

    Anyway, some pictures of the Hanshaw. I'm in the process of revamping it (starting with a 20 thou plate) because it was a wreck.

    Note the detail at the nose - rounded lower corner - this seems to be very common with pre 1840 saws.


    Tiny italic font.

  7. David

    David Most Valued Member

    That's a real good looking example you show, Dusty.
    Here are some other photos of the saws under discussion; Hanshaw and R Williamson & Co. Just to add to the image bank. They all have beech handles.
    The open handled Hanshaw has the same rounded bottom edge to the spine as yours, while the closed handle example has been cut down to 14.5 inches so we can't tell. The very different hang angles on the Williamsons is curious. The higher angle is on the 10" and the lower on the 12". Seems a great change in angle for a small change in length.

    Attached Files:

  8. Force

    Force Active Member

    52152201-DD21-4E9C-AC7B-39E57EF7453A.jpeg 42A821D0-CE7E-4335-9E3D-5D0AD7D9961D.jpeg 59B424F1-F02C-45F3-AFFB-E14583005952.jpeg Here’s my example of a Hanshaw albeit in very poor condition to add to the challenge and confusion. 18” plate.