Tillotson Rip Saw

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by wilji3035, Oct 9, 2014.

  1. David

    David Most Valued Member

    I think Summerfi's comment is very much to the point. Are we trying to use the terms used by the makers and manufacturers who sold these saws? Or are we concerned with the vernacular terms employed by the saw users of that day? Or do we just want to be understood by our fellow enthusiasts today? Each of us will have our own choices and reasons for them.

    Personally, when speaking historically, I'd most like to use the terms spoken by the woodworkers of those days, but how can I find out what terms they used? Perhaps there are some direct quotes from a journalist, author or diarist, but that's not very likely, save for some examples like Bill's recent Roubo quote. (How many of us commonly call our material "stuff" today?) I might have more luck finding the terms for things that the manufacturers employed because they at least published some catalogs. Of course, when speaking to a fellow enthusiast, I have no problem at all since we all speak the language of our day. So I just try to use the terms closest to my main interest, when it's possible.

    I've no desire to be dogmatic about it though, which perhaps incited my slight resistance to only using the term" register plate". In that same vein, I can completely understand Simon's exasperation with the term escutcheon, which does seems to have a primary meaning of a plate to prevent wear from handling. The side plate on a saw handle seems to have a primary use of strengthening the handle across the grain. The whole subject of historical language is fraught with speculation. Even the dictionaries can't agree on when the use of "tote" as a handle came into use (1670's or 1888?) or where it originated (Africa or Virginia?)

    For me, trying to find appropriate language is just another frame through which I can view my interest in old tools and crafts. That's my main driver; the old ways of making and the tools that were used. I don't want the "correctness" of my language to be a distraction to that interest.
    Regards to all,
  2. summerfi

    summerfi Most Valued Member

    That's interesting, Bill, but I would take exception to Moxon's words. In that a saw's rip teeth are likened to a series of small chisels, and crosscut teeth are likened to a series of small knives, I would say a saw most definitely cuts. It would be ridiculous to say neither a chisel nor knife cuts, but rather breaks or tears the wood. I suppose on a microscopic level, and depending on the sharpness of the tool, one could say it breaks or tears, but that would be outside the normal use of the words and seems silly. Moxon got a lot right, but that one I believe he got wrong.
  3. wiktor48

    wiktor48 Most Valued Member

    I think Moxon was making the same mistake as some of us today. Although in scientific sense he is correct, he completely missed the fact that no one will communicate that way in common language of the time or for that matter today. We would do the same if we would force to use a term that was used in historical literature, "Label Screw" - once in a patent or "Register Plate" in a patent, and try to force it into vernacular of today. I would agree that these terms should be exposed in discussions, research papers, or historical review writings, but forcing their use on todays society is "missing the boat".

    On slightly different matter - I would question the ultimate reason for which side plate on a saw handle was used. It maybe was used for strengthening, but it was also used for decorative purposes. If it was proposed or justified by some makers as reinforcement device, it was not really widely accepted or adopted. Majority of use I have seen, I would surmise, was for decorative purposes.

    These who are interested in English tools and specifically in Sheffield history, can easily find several dictionaries of Sheffield Old Terms, published in the second part of 19th century. The intent of these was to show how old language was used and what it means in contemporary language. There was no intent to propose the use of that old language because it was historically correct.

    My interest in old terminology is driven by desire to understand the language of past makers of implements, whatever they are, and not to use it as a dogmatic gospel. The language is an adaptive tool we have and this is the fun quality of it.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2014
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  4. David

    David Most Valued Member

    Hi Wiktor,
    Yep, I think you're on the money about the primary use being decorative. I was going to correct my post this morning, having thought about how many times horns and lamb's tongues break compared to saw cheeks. But you beat me to it. So...a decorative metal plate fastened to the cheek of a saw. I think it's easier if we just call it an escutcheon plate or a register plate or a side plate or a cheek plate. Any will work.
  5. wiktor48

    wiktor48 Most Valued Member

    The escutcheon works for me in a casual conversation. Primarily because everybody use it and understand it. If I would write an article that reviews different plates and their application, including in England, I would not hesitate to use known and mentioned names in history and their meaning. BTW, this reminds me your article on great Disston saws - I can't rmember what did you use for description of these plates.

    And don't make look for it now... it is Saturday and I need some rest from books and magazines...
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2014
  6. wilji3035

    wilji3035 Member

    Based on the latest posts, it seems that we are all (those of us posting anyway) agreeable to the idea that vernacular terminology cannot be changed, nor should it be attempted? David basically asked "when?" to use what terms. Recently, I started thinking about hand plane terminology, as compared to saws. Most of the time when I read something about planes, there is a statement something like, "this is a plane blade or iron, where "iron" is the older term because historically...". This example seems like a good "when" to me, but I haven't seen that written for saws yet (that I can remember); only indications or lists of multiple terms.

    A couple of weeks ago, I read a post on another forum, where someone stated that in his training (he seemed to be trained in sawmill operation) "face" was not a reference to any surface of a board. That surprised me, but I know that some terms I read are not terms I was taught. These things seem to point back to summerfi's comments about regional differences. (It occurs to me that regional differences can often be traced through historic events. I'm sure no-one wants to dig into that idea, though. I know I'd rather be in the shop with my old tools or researching one of them while taking a break.) It is good to learn new things, but I think that avoiding the addition of terms not already used in history or common circulation should be considered when communicating. This is an additional reason I think "escutcheon" makes sense.

    In the present, some people now refer to those portable corded things often called "circular saws" as "hand saws". That always causes me to stop and think for a second, because my brain is accustomed to "hand saw" being a non-corded tool. The only way to understand the term is via the context of the conversation. Given that thought, I am reminded that when communicating something, the intended audience has to be considered. It makes sense to me that any terms are fine - so long as we're careful that the meaning is clear - remembering that historic terms can be taught. As a newbie, not to research or saw use, but to saw history, I am constantly reminded of this, and that not all of us reading these posts is one of the very knowledgeable minds that make this forum interesting.

    In summerfi's latest post, there was "exception" to Moxon's writing about the use of "cut". I completely agree, from a present point of view. It's almost incomprehensible that we wouldn't "cut" "Stuff" with a hand saw. Summerfi, your explanation reminds me of chapters 1 and 2 and appendix 1 of Leonard Lee's "The Complete Guide to Sharpening". :) Maybe Moxon's tools were dull?! If true (I don't have a reason to believe otherwise), Moxon's examples of phrases used in his time period are interesting from a historic perspective, but they have obviously fallen out of favor. It definitely proves how language changes with time and technological advancement. I think that's the fun part of exploring past points of view - seeing and understanding things in a different way. Sometimes it's even amusing.

    Given the above, I think it also seems agreeable that we don't mind using historical terms in historical context? David also asked "...but how can I find out what terms they used?" Wiktor responded that interested people "...can easily find several dictionaries of Sheffield Old Terms." Wiktor, can you offer some recommendations? I am inclined to believe that these dictionaries contain additional evidence for the early saw terms we have been looking for. At the same time, David has explained that the dictionaries don't agree on certain terms. I'm not sure if we're talking about the same dictionaries? With evidence, it could at least be said that a certain term was most common in the early years of saw manufacture, and that "so-and-so" terms sprung up through history as the industry changed. This idea spurs some historical interest on my part, given the conversation that has led up to this post.

    My new interest strikes me a little funny in a way, because when I wrote my first post on the subject of terminology, my only thought was to somehow state that an attempt to force a change of term usage wasn't possible, but the teaching of terms through use was a good exercise during discussion. I never thought for a minute that I would write anything beyond post #20 regarding the use of terms. My main concern was that I was learning to communicate properly on this forum.

    I would also surmise the "escutcheon" was used mainly as a decorative part. With the additional decoration applied to the saw, it comes across to me as a signal to a high end tool, at least in a manufacturer's marketing sense. David, my first thought was some form of decorative protection, too, but more along the line of protecting the wood underneath the screw head from being crushed. Anyway, I have to wonder if the idea of decorative elements didn't stem from an earlier purpose, as in the "register plate"?

    Last edited: Nov 10, 2014
  7. nkrech

    nkrech New Member

    Hi everyone, I feel that I'm a couple years behind on this post but had some photos I'd like to add to the Tillotson part of this conversation. A couple of days ago I acquired a Tillotson handsaw that is 26 inches long with 6 PPI. The saw is interesting because it seems to incorporate a lot of the Tillotson markings that were previously discussed but most of them seemed on separate saws or tools.

    On the blades reads "Tillotson" with a crown and a left facing harp below it. Below that is

    Further over towards the handle in a vertical inch-worm type line is stamped EXTRA-QUALITY

    The handle has one screw with three medallions. The largest in the middle reads "patent crystalized cast steel" with a smaller inner circle of EXTRA QUALITY. Inside of that from top to bottom is a crown, X, then a heart. On the top and bottom of the larger medallion are two warranted superior medallions that look to be the same. In the middle is a crown above a type of crest (I can't make out what is in the crest but there is something) and then on the outside of the crest are two animals. The one of the right looks to be a unicorn but the one on the left is hard to make out. I can see a face with hair around it, maybe a lion? IMG_20170606_163539329.jpg IMG_20170606_163607402.jpg IMG_20170606_163615308.jpg Tillotson Medallion.jpg WS screw.jpg
  8. Barleys

    Barleys Most Valued Member

    Welcome to the forum, Niles. Very nice pictures of a very desirable saw; I am guessing that this is a US export model, with its three medallions and the extravagant marketing language – i don't think there was any such thing as a "patented crystallized cast steel", but marketing language was not subject to much control in the 19th century (I'm not going to get in to trying to date this – see previous posts– beyond suggesting it's sometime between 1860 and 1880). I can't recall seeing any creature other than a lion sitting opposite the unicorn, and it's often the case that the die producing the images on medallions could get damaged and the result look blurred like this.