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Thread: Saw nib?

  1. #1

    Saw nib?

    I know this is probably a dumb question but what is the nib for on a hand saw? I have seen them before and thought is was a manufacturing mistake or something. Now I have bought a few Disstons and noticed people apoligizing for the nib missing on a saw! Is it just a Disston thing? I'm sure there's many of you who know (Mike W.) but I'm clueless!! Thanks.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
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    Sebastopol, California
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    This comes up periodically

    There are lots of old galoot tales:

    *They're there to hold a tooth guard on.
    *They can be sharpened to start a cut (why this would be easier than the traditional pulling back of the saw is not clear to me).
    etc.

    My theory is that they exist so people will ask why they exist, but that's a bit tautological and so probably not true.

    I'm told Henry Disston himself said, more or less, that they were the fashion, so they put them on. They do add a nice fillip to the end of the blade.

  3. #3
    Like Bill mentions, Disston said they served no useful purpose but to break the sightline on the long straight back.

    Truth is, they existed long before ol' Henry. But what they were for, if anything but decoration is yet to be discovered in some dusty tome.

    Take care, Mike

  4. #4
    Thanks guys. Interesting stuff. The tale of the nib! I had a feeling you could help Mike, especially after I went to your site(for the 600th time) and saw that some of yours have it as well.

  5. #5
    There was a very interesting thread about this, actually I think there were a couple of 'em. I believe it was on the UK workshop forum. Both were quite informative.
    -Ryan C.

  6. #6

    Re:Nib starting the cut.

    Bill,so thats the etymology of nibbling? Sorry couldn't resist a little low humor on the subject at this time in the AM!
    Regards,Ralph

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Rochester, NY
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    I hate to admit my ignorance but I don't know what a "saw nib" is. Even Goggle doesn't direct me to an answer. I went to the Wenzloff website and it had some beautiful saws but none indicated they had the mysterious nib.

    Can someone post a link or a picture of a saw nib?

    Thanks,
    Dave

  8. #8
    On the end opposite of the handle on the top of the blade it's that little hump. If that helps any lol
    -Ryan C.

  9. #9
    Dave,
    As Ryan stated - the little 'nib' toward the top front.




  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Rochester, NY
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    Thanks for the information

    I appreciate your speedy replies.

    Now that I know what it is I will keep my eyes open for them......

    Thanks,

  11. #11
    Join Date
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    Modern usefulness of saw nibs

    David Gilbert's post reminds me that saw nibs do serve a useful purpose in modern life: the nib serves as the quickest way to spot an older saw at garage sales.

    Just as the full oval tote on a metal bench plane serves as the immediate clue that the plane is worth picking up for further inspection.

  12. #12
    Join Date
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    Neat sight about older saws. It also states that the nib is only for decoration.

    http://disstonianinstitute.com/glossary.html

  13. #13
    I recently bought a couple of old saws with nibs. Never had nibs before. I sharpened them up and had a go - and the reason for the nib was immediately obvious: they work as a depth gauge to tell you not to withdraw the saw any(much) further before starting on the down stroke.
    Really useful esp if you have several saws of different lengths, or a new and unfamiliar saw.
    I'm going to add nibs to my other nibless saws.

    cheers
    Jacob
    PS The fact that Disston says they are for decoration only can probably be ignored - traditional knowledge can be passed on without the particular bearer, however expert in the field, necessarily knowing the whys and wherefores.
    Last edited by jacob butler; 01-14-2008 at 10:51 AM.

  14. #14
    Jacob,

    That is one of the oft told reasons for a nib. Problem is, skew-backs that do not have a nib outsold nib'd saws once they began to appear. So much so straight-backed saws (with nibs) eventually were dropped by makers altogether.

    Why? Worth pondering if one has a spare moment.

    Truth is, if one is at "working speed", it is too difficult to see the nib. Like all other hand tool functions, sawing is a muscle memory skill. A workman might have had 2-3 different length hand saws, but knowing when to stop the withdrawl isn't a difficult thing to learn.

    As for Disston, well, his account cannot be completely ignored either. Like I mentioned above, because nibs existed so long before him I suspect that the whys were lost. That he, like his peers before and during his lifetime, added the nib was simply tradition by then.

    Good luck finding attribution in an old text. But if you find one, please share it. This question has been discussed longer than most issues in woodworking.

    Take care, Mike

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Central Florida
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    The nib is there to keep you from accidentally using the saw upside down!!!
    The early bird gets the worm... but the second mouse gets the cheese!

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