Along with knives, hammers and axes, the saw is a tool that has been used by humans for thousands of years. A toothed piece of metal fitted with a handle has been applied to cutting almost every material ever invented, from the softest wood to the hardest metals. In Britain, an industry to supply the nation's saw users began to grow rapidly in the eighteenth century, and marched with the Industrial Revolution to become the largest in the world. Millions of saws were made, and like most other tools, they were exported worldwide, but they don't survive very well, because their blades are thin, can break, are used up by sharpening and rust away. The nineteenth century was the peak of British output, when saws made chiefly in Sheffield, from that city's unique crucible steel, poured out of dozens of works, all employing specially skilled men to make beautiful tools of steel, brass and wood. These attractive objects are highly collectable, and an enlarging international community of tool enthusiasts is becoming avidly knowledgeable about the huge range of saws that are still to be had from car boot sales, specialist auction houses and online.
Using a wide range of photographs, Simon Barley provides a collector's guide to British saws.
Simon Barley has used his medical qualifications to do several jobs in different countries. His retirement has been taken up with researching, collecting and writing about saws of all kinds, based on voluntary work in the huge Ken Hawley Collection of tools in Sheffield.