Unusual E.C. Atkins Backsaw with Brass Plate

Discussion in 'Forum: Saw Identification and Discussion' started by enjuneer, Aug 26, 2018.

  1. enjuneer

    enjuneer Member

    Messages:
    18
    This saw was posted on WoodNet a couple of days ago. At first, it looks like a typical Atkins backsaw, albeit one with a brass spine. However, the other side of the handle has an unusual brass plate. Has anyone seen a saw like this? Is it factory or a user modification?

    By the way, the saw was found in Finland even though it is clearly marked "E.C. Atkins, Indianapolis".

    The OP added this information in his post:

    The text on the back says: E.C.Atkins&Co Silver Steel, Indpls USA
    The still readable etch says: E.C.Atkins&Co
    Silver Steel Warranted
    Indianapolis. Ind
    No. 3
    The medallion says: E.C.Atkins&Co Indianapolis.Ind
    Pat dec 27 1887

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  2. TraditionalToolworks

    TraditionalToolworks Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    175
    I saw it over on Woodnet, it's a cool saw. It's very similar to a Disston No 5, which was sold mostly to the Brits, AFAIK. This is especially cool with the plate on the handle, that must be one heavy saw...that brass back looks beefy also. I was looking in Schaffer's book trying to see if E.C. Atkins and Disston were partners, but it doesn't seem so. In fact, it seems that Atkins was possibly one of the only makers to fend off Disston if that is so. This handle has a very automated look to it, like the Disston saws, at least to me. This is a very nice saw and could be a main saw for someone.

    In the Schaffer book the only non steel back saw is listed as No 1 with a "Polished Edge" in 1909, I don't know what that means. The rest of the back saws are either cast steel, blued steel or miter. It's a cool saw and seems to be a Disston No 5 copy. I have a couple Atkins saw but have not seen a brass backed one. The only No 3 listed is a Blued back. The only other backsaw is a No 25 Dovetail saw that Atkins made from 1930-1935, and an aluminum cutting saw.

    By the looks of that tooth line it could use a sharpening. The TPI looks a bit fine, I would joint it down and retooth it to about 14 TPI. That would look spanky if the brass was all polished up. A great saw to refurbish as it's quite unique. :)

    Alan
     
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2018
  3. Dusty Shed Dweller

    Dusty Shed Dweller Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    93
    Do you mind if I ask some questions as I have an interest in Atkins products?

    Atkins was Disston's only real competitor and they had as little to do with each other as possible. Atkins were always looking for means in which to differentiate their products from Disston's, which was a mega-multinational corporation and dominated the market.

    Is that a brass protective plate on the back of the handle? If so, it is a unique variation on this theme - like Disstons No. 5 but different. The abbreviation on the spine for Indianapolis is also different to every other Atkins saw I have (I have about 25). I suspect that this saw had a very short production run or could have been perhaps a batch to test the market.

    Medallion also looks like an earlier period Atkins one to me, could you please post a nice close up photo? There are some subtle variations in the Atkins medallions which are dateable.

    The handle is an odd colour - does the resin still remain? Can your determine if the underlying handle is apple (typical) or cherry (very uncommon)?

    Full etch extant on plate - this saw hasn't seen a lot of work.
    .

    Clean the brass up but if you remove that beautiful subtle patina it will take a long time to come back.
     
  4. TraditionalToolworks

    TraditionalToolworks Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    175
    Tis the reason I don't care for Disston saws. A remarkable production and marketing machine, but just looses some of the hand craftiness that was offered by other makers.

    Wouldn't surprise me if Atkins made it prior to Disston offering the No 5. Wasn't like Disston didn't take other people's ideas, he often bought them and put them out of business. A typical megalomaniac type action.:rolleyes:

    The spine looks like a very early saw, IMO.

    Do you have a No 25 by chance, Dusty?

    Alan
     
  5. Dusty Shed Dweller

    Dusty Shed Dweller Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    93
    Sorry Alan, I don't have an Atkins No. 25, although I wish I did. Going through the Atkins catalogues, models 21 through 24 are variations on specialized metal cutting saws, and I didn't see any mention of a model 25.

    There is another feature that indicates that Enjuneer's saw may be unique; the etch indicates that it is a Model No.3. The basic Atkins backsaw was the steel-backed No.2; the model No. 3 is a lesser grade product ascribed as the "Sheffield Saw Works No .3". In addition, no Atkins backsaw is listed in the catalogues with a brass spine, although I have seen at least one other.

    The Atkins medallion in the images is what I colloquially call the 'early one', in use ca. 1900-1915. However, I don't think that Enjunneer's saw is super early in Atkins' production history as the etch looks post the earliest generation variations.

    I agree that the spine looks hand-rolled or hand finished - it has the rounded look of a hand finished product. There are no machine cut champhers for example. The top bolt also looks like it might go through the spine - another point of difference to the Disston product, and something emulated by smaller manufactures, including Spear & Jackson. This is another feature that requires careful hand-fitting.

    I'm going with a WAG that this was part of a small production batch, requiring a lot of careful hand fitting (especially looking at that back plate, which also looks recessed) designed to test the market.

    When I see pictures of Henry Disston I think of Henry Ford - they both established mega-corporations based upon machine fabrication and systemized, high-volume unit production. As you pointed out, Disston's No. 5 brass-backed variation of their basic No. 4 backsaw is very similar in appearance but existed in this guise from about 1890. Thus, the Disston product pre-dates the Atkins product and it is more likely that the Atkins is a copy - with the brass plate added as a differentiating feature.

    I wouldn't mind filing Enjuneer's saw - love to feel how that plate has been finished. All the Atkins backsaws I've filed have been first grade - very hard, tough steel, damn good users.
     
  6. Dusty Shed Dweller

    Dusty Shed Dweller Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    93
    Alan, I was going through a later Atkins catalogue last night looking for information re a cross cut and I note that the model 25 was denoted as a gent's style dovetail saw as you alluded to.
     
  7. TraditionalToolworks

    TraditionalToolworks Most Valued Member

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    175
    <sound of palm slapping forehead>
    For some reason I didn't think about a gent saw, but that makes sense. I've seen some Atkins gent saws I'm pretty sure. I think I have an Atkins patternmaker's saw, unusual small saw but I like it. So many in the wild are kinked/bent/damaged as they do not have a back on them. I always visualize some old patternmaker at the Edison R&D place using one of them...;-)
    </sound of palm slapping forehead>
     
  8. TraditionalToolworks

    TraditionalToolworks Most Valued Member

    Messages:
    175
    Even I don't care for Henry Disston, comparing him to Henry Ford is a disgrace to Disston. I had been interested in Model AAs and Model BBs for quite a number of years. In doing some research I found out what an @$$#O!E Henry Ford actually was. He was a bigot, racist and even a vocal antisemitic. It is rumored that he often treated the workers horrible as well as his servants. I will never get another Ford after learning how bad he was. I currently have a Ford flatbed, one day I will get rid of it. Since the AAs and BBs are larger trucks, I know a pickup would be much more practical. Fords designs were most often unattractive in those days. Then I started to think about cars and trucks I've owned and most have been Chevys. I do feel the most comfortable working on Chevys. I narrowed down my next truck to a '41-'46 Chevy/GMC pickup, they refer to these as the Art Deco era trucks. Also, '42-'45 were the war years and few non-government models shipped and all had to be sanctioned by the government.

    I like the Atkins saws I have, definite good quality saws. I like the Peace saws the best of most of the common American makers.