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Antique Crosscut Saws: The Ultimate Guide to Identification and Valuation

Antique crosscut saws are a favorite among tool collectors and woodworking enthusiasts. These saws, which were used to fell trees and cut lumber before the advent of power saws, represent the height of hand tool craftsmanship. Many were made by skilled sawmakers using high-quality steel and hardwoods, and can still be used today with proper restoration.

Whether you‘re a seasoned collector or just starting out, being able to properly identify and value antique crosscut saws is key. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover everything you need to know, from the history of these saws to the features that determine their worth on the collectibles market.

A Brief History of Crosscut Saws

Crosscut saws have a long and interesting history that closely mirrors the development of the lumber industry in America. The earliest saws were simple "open-ground" saws made by local blacksmiths for felling softwoods. In the mid-1800s, the rise of large sawmills drove demand for more specialized crosscut saws that could handle hardwoods.

According to saw expert and collector Paul Bode, some of the biggest innovations in crosscut saw design came out of the Pacific Northwest. "The old growth forests of Oregon and Washington required saws that could cut massive Douglas fir and redwood trees," he explains. "Sawmakers like Simonds and Atkins developed longer, thicker blades with specialized ‘Great American‘ tooth patterns just for those trees."

Other regional differences emerged as well. Crosscut saws made in Pennsylvania and Maine often had narrower blades and more closely spaced teeth for the smaller hardwoods common in those areas. Midwestern makers like Disston supplied the saws for the many lumber camps of the Great Lakes states.

The golden age of the crosscut saw was the late 1800s through the 1920s, when dozens of manufacturers competed to produce the highest-quality saws. Sadly, the widespread adoption of chainsaws in the 1950s spelled the end of the large crosscut saw industry. Today, only a handful of artisanal sawmakers produce these saws, making antique examples highly prized by collectors.

Types of Antique Crosscut Saws

As discussed earlier, there are several distinct types of antique crosscut saws that you may encounter. While some saws blur the lines, most can be categorized as one of the following:

Saw Type Typical Length Uses
Felling saw 5-7 feet Cutting down large trees
Bucking saw 3-5 feet Cutting felled logs to length
One-man saw 3-5 feet Bucking small logs, cutting firewood
Bow saw 2-3 feet Curved cuts, fine woodworking

Additionally, some crosscut saws were designed for special purposes like cutting ice or railway ties. These specialty saws can be very valuable due to their rarity and historical significance.

Identifying Antique Crosscut Saws

To identify an antique crosscut saw, collectors look at several key features that provide clues to the saw‘s age, maker, and intended use. The most important of these are:

Saw Teeth

The size, spacing, and filing of the teeth are perhaps the most important clue to a crosscut saw‘s identity. Most antique crosscut saws used variations of the following tooth patterns:

Tooth Pattern Description Typical Uses
M tooth Teeth filed straight across Softwood, green wood
Great American M teeth with rakers Hardwood, dry wood
Champion M teeth with rakers and intermediate cutters Hardwood, knotty wood
Perforated Lance Teeth with deep gullets Soft, wet wood and ice

In general, older saws have larger teeth (5-6 points per inch) while newer saws have smaller, more closely spaced teeth (8-10 points per inch). Felling saws often have a "crowning" or upward curve to the tooth line to help maintain a straight cut in large logs.

Blade Style

Antique crosscut saw blades were generally straight and rigid, made of high-carbon steel. The blades taper from the teeth to the back edge, and often have a slightly thicker section in the middle to prevent buckling.

Some of the most prized saws have blades made of special alloy steels like Blue Temper or Silver Steel. These premium materials hold an edge longer and resist rust better than plain carbon steel.

According to saw expert Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works, "The only saws worth more than a premium Disston are the ones made out west by saw smiths like J.E. Henry or Hank Slaymaker using that legendary Silver Steel. Those saws simply have no peers in terms of quality."


The style and material of the handles can help determine a saw‘s age and quality level. The earliest saws had simple wooden handles, often made of beech or apple wood. By the late 1800s, hardwoods like rosewood and cocobolo were popular on high-end saws.

Most two-man crosscut saws have a D-shaped handle on each end. One-man saws may have a straight handle, though some high-quality saws like the Disston No. 12 had a special S-shaped handle for better ergonomics.

The attachment of the handle to the blade is another clue. Older saws used peened split nuts, while newer saws used machined nuts and bolts. Generally, saws with handles secured by only one or two screws are lower quality.

Markings and Medallions

Many saw manufacturers placed a medallion or etching on their saws to identify the maker and model. The most valuable medallions are made of copper, brass, or nickel-silver and are intricately detailed. Some rare medallions can be worth more than the saw itself!

In addition to the medallion, look for patent dates, model numbers, or special edition markings etched on the blade. The style of lettering and any misspellings can help determine the age and maker of the saw.

"I‘ve seen saws with misspelled medallions or etchings that turned out to be quite rare and valuable," notes saw collector Matt Cianci. "Sometimes it‘s the oddball markings that make a saw special."

Valuing Antique Crosscut Saws

With such a wide variety of antique crosscut saws out there, how do you determine what a particular saw is worth? As with any antique tool, the value depends on several key factors:

Age and Rarity

In general, older saws are worth more than newer ones, though the condition plays a big role. A rare saw from the 1850s in poor shape may be worth less than a common saw from the 1920s in excellent condition.

Some of the most valuable antique crosscut saws are those made by obscure regional makers or for a specific industry. For example, a saw made for cutting ice on the Great Lakes will be worth more than a comparable saw made for general logging use.

Maker and Model

The reputation and collectibility of the saw maker has a big impact on value. Top-tier saw makers like Disston, Simonds, and Atkins command higher prices than second-tier makers or hardware store brands.

Certain models from these makers are especially prized by collectors. For example, the Disston No. 12 and No. 16 are considered the Cadillacs of antique crosscut saws and regularly sell for over $200 in good condition.


As with any antique tool, condition is king when it comes to value. Saws that are complete, functional, and free of damage or repairs are worth the most. Some specific things to look for:

  • Straight, intact handles free of cracks or splits
  • Original hardware (nuts, bolts, screws)
  • Bright, shiny blade without major rust or pitting
  • Clearly legible medallion and etchings
  • Evidence of proper sharpening and maintenance

Antique saws with replacement handles or major repairs can still be collectible, but will be worth less than an all-original example. Restored saws can actually lose value if the work is not done correctly.


With two-man crosscut saws, longer is generally better in terms of value. A 7-foot saw will usually be worth more than a 5-foot saw by the same maker. The exceptions are saws under 4 feet, which can be quite rare and valuable if in good condition.

Selling Prices

To get an idea of what your saw might be worth, it helps to look at recent selling prices for similar saws. Some good resources are:

  • Antique tool auction sites like and
  • Price guides like "Antique Trader Tools Price Guide" by Clarence Blanchard
  • Realized prices on eBay (searching closed listings)

Keep in mind that retail prices will be higher than auction prices, as dealers need to make a profit. However, auctions can sometimes result in record prices for rare or high-quality saws.

For example, a rare 7-foot Simonds No. 1100 felling saw in excellent condition sold for $1,900 on HyperKitten in 2020. More commonly, a nice 5-foot Disston No. 12 bucking saw might sell for $250-$400.

Collecting Antique Crosscut Saws

Ready to start your own collection of these fascinating saws? The best place to begin is by learning as much as you can about the different types and makers. Some great resources include:

  • Vintage saw collector groups on Facebook
  • The Disstonian Institute website
  • "Kerf in Time: A Chronology of Handsaws in North America" by Erwin L. Schaffer
  • "Crosscut Saw Manual" published by the US Forest Service

Start by focusing on a specific type or maker of saw that interests you. For example, you might collect only Disston saws, or specialize in two-man felling saws from the Pacific Northwest.

When buying antique saws, always inspect them carefully for damage or repairs. Don‘t be afraid to ask questions about the saw‘s history and condition before purchasing. If buying online, request additional photos if needed.

Some of the best places to find antique crosscut saws include:

  • Local antique stores and flea markets
  • Specialty tool dealers and auction houses
  • Online marketplaces like eBay and Etsy
  • Farm and estate sales in rural areas
  • Tool collector swap meets and events

With patience and persistence, you can build an impressive collection of these iconic American tools. Not only will you be preserving a piece of history, but you‘ll gain a deeper appreciation for the skill and craftsmanship that went into making them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the most valuable antique crosscut saw?
A: While there is no single "holy grail" saw, some of the most valuable examples are the large two-man felling saws made by premier West Coast makers like Simonds and Atkins using premium Silver Steel. These saws in original condition can sell for over $1,000.

Q: How do I date my crosscut saw?
A: There is no precise formula, but you can narrow down the age based on features like the medallion, tooth pattern, handle style, and hardware. Compare your saw to known examples or consult a expert for help.

Q: Can I still use my antique crosscut saw?

A: Many antique saws are still perfectly functional and can be used for cutting wood. However, very rare or valuable saws should probably be preserved rather than used. If you do use an antique saw, be sure it is properly sharpened and maintained to prevent damage.

Q: How much are antique crosscut saws worth?
A: Values can range from under $50 for a common hardware store saw to over $1,000 for a rare, premium model in excellent condition. The majority of antique crosscut saws sell in the $100-$500 range depending on factors like age, maker, model, and condition.

Q: I have an rusty old saw in my barn. Is it worth anything?
A: It‘s possible! Many valuable antique saws have been discovered in barns, basements, and garages. The key is determining the saw‘s maker, age, and condition. If the medallion is intact, that is often a good clue. Post clear pictures on a vintage tool forum or show it to a experienced collector for help identifying and valuing it.

Whether you‘re a serious collector or just appreciate the beauty of these historic tools, antique crosscut saws make a fascinating and rewarding hobby. By following the tips in this guide, you‘ll be well on your way to becoming an expert yourself. Happy sawing!

Special thanks to Mark Harrell of Bad Axe Tool Works and saw collectors Paul Bode, Matt Cianci, and Chris Osborn for sharing their knowledge.