For a long time now, I have been on a mission to discover the best
way possible to enhance the etches on handsaws. Several old
saws I have cleaned up over the years have had some beautiful old
scroll type etches, but they had lightened up to the point that they
were very hard to read. I have experimented with numerous ways
of trying to achieve the seemingly impossible task of darkening
these etches. I have tried magic marker, shoe polish and
several other chemical concoctions, but was never really satisfied
with the results.
I have been communicating with a good friend of mine, Jim Brown of
Keokuk, Iowa on his method of cleaning handsaws using electrolysis,
which by the way does cut out a tremendous amount of hand cleaning
and sanding and does not affect the base metal of the saw.
While conversing on this subject, we got around to talking about
etch enhancement. Jim told me that he had tried several
different things and then came upon a Brass Darkening Solution,
normally used to put an antique patina on brass hinges. Jim is
semi-retired from his antique furniture restoration business.
Jim was nice enough to send me a sample bottle of the darkening
solution for me to try. I tried it on several saw etches and
the results were quite remarkable as I think you will see in the
These pictures were taken by Jim and are
of one of his Disston No. 7ís. The first picture shows the saw
just after cleaning in electrolysis. The second picture is
after one application of the darkening solution. The third
picture shows the result after a second application. I will
give a detailed description of this method following the pictures.
Etch just after cleaning with
After one application of Darkening
After second application of
Brass Darkening Solution, available in
2 oz., 8 oz., and 32 oz.
After final cleaning, whether by electrolysis or hand cleaning, just
make sure there is no oil or grease on the blade. If the
solution doesnít seem to want to take, rub over the etch area with a
little steel wool to break the tension. Coat the etch and the
entire side of the saw with the darkening solution until it is
almost black. Uniformity of the coat is not all that important
except in the area of the etch. By coating the entire side of
the saw, no feathering is necessary around the etch. It will
blend in very well.
Let the solution dry for a few minutes (It dries quickly), then sand
the black off with 400 grit wet or dry sandpaper. The sanding
can be done dry, or a little water or mineral spirits as a
lubricant, works equally well either way. The black comes off
easily. Sand carefully over the area of the etch in order to
leave the black down in the etch. If the etch is not as dark
as you wish, put on another coat and sand again.
Once you are satisfied, give the blade a wash with water or mineral
spirits and let dry. Then apply a good coat of paste wax to
protect from rust.
This is the best product I have found, that can give the look I
want. I think if you will give this method a try, you will be
very pleased with the results.
This Brass Darkening Solution can be found on the following web
Happy Rust Hunting,