how to disassemble split nuts saw handles?

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    veaceslav chicu

    I have bought a couple of old rusty backsaws. Handles are quite loose, I suppose because wood is dry. Handle is attached using brass split nuts. Problem with this saws, split nuts don’t have the full split on the nut, looks like after they were screwed they were polished level together with the handle and more or less cut away.

    I cleaned up rust around the handle, I suppose there is rust also inside the handle. I think there could be two options. One is to unscrew, for example I could try to glue something on the nut and unscrew it, should I put some WD-40 to be sure it will go easy? Another option, would be to leave them like that, and try to treat wood somehow so it expands back (one is quite loose, no grip at all, another is firm but is playing a little bit). Eventually I could put inside the handle something to stop rust reaction, something like a rust converter.

    Which direction to go and how to do it best? Eventually how to execute best both options.

    David Perrott

    I may not be completely understanding but you could just remove the saw nuts. You may need a special split nut driver to unscrew them. You can just shorten the threaded screws a bit. Just rub the screw on some sandpaper or file it a bit to make it shorter

    Dave Ring

    Regarding rust, it shouldn’t affect brass . Anyway, even on rusty saws the area covered by the handle will usually be mostly rust free.

    As for the nuts, if the slots are completely gone and you can’t recut them you could drill two small holes on opposite sides of the nut, and either remove them with round nosed lock ring pliers or insert tight fitting pieces of steel rod (drill bits for instance), stick a suitable lever (screwdriver, punch, big nail…) between them and turn counterclockwise to loosen or clockwise to tighten (as you would with most other nuts).

    Good luck!


    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by Dave Ring.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by Dave Ring.
    veaceslav chicu

    I’ve made a photo. Left nut was sanded level with wood, bottom groove is missing. I don’t want to destroy this nuts. I’ve found this with this method I don’t have to drill holes.

    Between the handle and the plate it’s loose, there should be rusty, I’m worried about plate rust.

    There is a way to treat wood with something, so it will expand back? If I put some raw linseed oil, theoretically he should suck it and expand back.


    You can sometimes file a suitable slot in an old screwdriver to get the nuts off.

    In my experience, what usually happens with play in a saw handle is that years of forward and backward movement loosens the handle and whilst the saw plate may be rusted, (you won’t know until you see it) an intact saw plate of steel is harder than the brass bolt and it wears a groove in the side of the bolt. This is the area of play…. Not necessarily shrinkage in the handle.

    (If the edges of the slots are burred over, then it’s a sure sign that previous users have had the same problem and tried to tighten the nut).

    You won’t see any wear in the bolts or plate until you take it apart. The act of taking the whole thing apart will probably wreck the threads on the nut; whatever you do don’t push the bolt through once the nut is off – it will strip the treads on the inside as it is pushed against the saw plate – turn it gently anti-clockwise.

    What I’m trying to say is that you will probably need a new set of bolts and nuts – the old ones may be unusable.

    When you have the handle off, a soak in Linseed for a few days/weeks is a good idea, but from what I can see of the plate and remaining teeth, it looks as if it needs a complete jointing, file and set.

    All best

    veaceslav chicu

    One of the bolts is the medallion. So, if possible I would try safest method to restore. Saw looks old and not used for long time. Before cleaning nuts and bolts, color was black, plate rusted. I just removed rust from the plate. Scratch pattern on the nut and bolt is continuous, so it was sanded probably long time ago. Problem is handle is moving 5mm up/down, it’s not fixed to the plate at all, I can pass a sheet of paper between handle and the plate.

    Teeth are in a relative good shape, 15 TPI, there are only 3-4 shorter than others, but I plan to joint, file, set and sharpen it.

    David B

    I once took an old flat-head screwdriver and used an angle grinder to cut out a slot so that I could use the screwdriver on the split-nuts–it did work though it took some determination (as another posted suggested). Another tool that I thought might work was a golf-spike replacement tool but I did not have as much success with it.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 11 months ago by David B.

    They don’t always come out cleanly. Although yours don’t look too bad.
    Be careful to always ensure a perfect fit with your tool before attempting to unscrew these. The brass is very soft and the threaded rods even more fragile. The threads are sometimes quite chewed-up inside and the rods are seldom straight. The heads will probably want to spin while you turn the nuts.

    I’d use my Dremel (with tiny engraving bit) or a Needle-file, to carefully complete the groove on the left-hand nut. Soak with Penetrating Oil (WD40). Use a split-nut screwdriver (made by filing the centre of an old screwdriver or hex-bit). A Tack-Remover can sometimes be filed to work in place of the split-nut screwdriver and gives better leverage. I’ve also used Security-Bolt-Heads which fit into standard hex-drivers/socket sets. They’re like split-nut drivers but smaller. You can buy a set of different sizes for not much money.

    Be prepared to replace them. Sometimes you can attach the old Medallion to new threaded rods & split-nuts. Although I haven’t done this, I’ve read where others have. Look for BRIT (Andy) on He is a genius when it comes to refurbishing old saws and his videos show you everything you’ll need to know.

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