Bad Axe Tool Works D8 Panel Saws and Handsaws
— aka 'The Henry Disston'

$395 (Delivery: 20-24 weeks*)

Philadelphia, Spring 1840: A thin, determined youth of 21 carted a heaping pile of coal from the Delaware River docks along the mile-long trek to the basement hovel of his tenement on 21 Bread Street, his strong jaw set and jutting forward in the breeze like Captain Ahab seeking a whale. The crimson flush of blood pulsating beneath the white pallor of his skin powered a wiry physique, tempered by hand-planing boards flat, lifting and storing metal blanks and lumber throughout the day, hammering metal into proper tension on a live anvil. He wiped his grime-smudged face with the sleeve of a well-worn linen shirt, promising himself—God willing—that for the first time in two weeks, he would actually bathe that night.

He was a sawmaker. He was a very young and very determined sawmaker on a mission that would see him either flourish in his chosen trade, or seeking employment laying track for the new railroad out west. He paused at the thought, breathing heavily, sweat pouring into his eyes. Pondering. Then he shook his head with a snort and continued powering the mountain of coal on his wheelbarrow through the offal-littered streets.

British by birth and American citizen by destiny, seven years previously, a 14-year-old Henry DIsston stared in horror as his father... Read more »»

England...convulsed with a stroke and died before his very eyes not three days after arriving in Philadelphia with his father and older sister Marianna on board the ship that had spirited the family members from Derby, England to the former colonies now known as the United States. His father’s abrupt death at the docks and loss of income that was to have been generated through the sale of a lace machine stranded the orphans in a new country with no return trip in sight. Marianna’s main imperative in life was to quickly find a husband, and young Henry’s to find employment.

Now it was seven years later, Henry’s apprenticeship with a struggling saw shop had run its course, and he was determined to beat his former countrymen at their own game. Arriving at his spare lodgings, Henry dumped the coal onto a tarp next to the clay furnace he’d built the week before, swept back a shock of thick brown hair, and considered the week ahead of him, replete with the kind of tasks that sent most young men into despondency and retreat: Fire up the furnace, temper the plate, cut the teeth, grind the taper, and hammer-tension and set the toothline, followed by sharpening to joint. Then he would mill the fasteners, cut the handle to rough form and rasp an elegant contour to the final shape, lacquer them, then bolt the handle onto a finished saw. He had the next five days to make twelve of them, because he was no longer just an apprentice who had surpassed his former masters—he was hungry, and had to eat.

The week flew by in a series of 16, 18, 20-hour work days, a blur of metal ringing in his ears, rasping wood and screeching files. Then it was Saturday. He paused to take stock of the sheer audacity of what he had accomplished, his malnourished body humming along on pure adrenaline, a pint of beer, a crust of bread, and a stout supply of black Jamaican coffee—his only luxury. Henry loaded his product into the wheelbarrow, and without missing a beat shrugged on his cleanest dirty shirt, buffed his brass shoe buckles, and off he went, carting his dozen handsaws while dodging the horse droppings through the downtown cobblestoned streets of Philadelphia, the purported city of brotherly love: a pre-Civil War cacophony of fishmongers flinging the day’s catch from cart to ice-packed shelves for passersby to inspect, the ringing staccato of blacksmith hammers and coopers stretching metal bands over barrel staves, their product bound for the whiskey-making trade in faraway Kentucky, peddlers and tinsmiths jostling their carts beside him, plowing their own goods through the competitive fray of the boulevards. Saturday mornings in 1840 Philadelphia presented a chaotic, noisy, and entrepreneurial dance of 19th century cutthroat competition, back in a time when communication traveled at the speed of a horse and street disputes were settled through bare-knuckled combat.

The young sawmaker found his destination in a tall, three-story structure on the south side of Market Street: Bowlby & Weaver’s Hardware Store. Henry flagged down a boy and tossed him a penny to watch his cart before slicking back his hair and mounting the steps two at a time, his mind racing. Old Billy Weaver was a cranky old fart who’d scoffed at Lindley, Johnson & Whitcraft’s saw manufactory not 18 months ago where Henry had apprenticed. Billy had strolled into the shop like he owned the place, all but sneering at their product line. Henry watched out the corner of his eye while tensioning a sawplate with mixed success, realizing immediately that Billy was right: American saws couldn’t compete against those made by their erstwhile masters across the pond, and were forced as most fledgling American sawmakers were to import British steel—and their second-class metal at that.

Which is exactly why Henry took it upon himself to master the art of tempering. He frowned, unsure whether to reveal his secret to the hardware stores upon which he had set his sights, Billy Weaver’s in particular. All the best carpenters and furniture makers in town bought their wares from that tough old coot, who was always muttering “Quality sells, dammit. Quality sells. . . .” Henry allowed himself a tight grin. No. He had something else in mind altogether to set that old codger straight.

Sudden memories flashed through his mind highlighting the journey he had undertaken to this very moment. A bead of sweat formed between his shoulder blades and trickled down the small of his back, sending a shiver up his spine. Young Henry shook his head, inhaling deeply. Worry—always an unexpected gut punch. He willed the momentary self-doubt away, knowing perfectly damned well what he had made, and what his saws were worth.

That two-word phrase—quality sells—had become the young sawmaker’s mantra, getting him through that tough initial period when he parted ways with LJ&W. It had taken him one entire week alone to build the clay oven in the sparse patch of dirt behind the slum where he lived, his thin frame laboring on watered-down beer and lentil soup he’d warm up on an alcohol burner.

The basic materials were the easiest to source: Because LJ&W was too poor of a business to pay him in wages due, they had been more than generous with quartersawn beech and apple, the brass rod he’d need for milling fasteners, mild steel for sawbacks and second-rate plate blanks from England that he'd have to re-temper. That alone was the real trick many sawmakers never figured out—how to change imperfect metal into something that outperformed other saws: first came the heat treat in the oven, followed by a rapid quench at just the right moment. Then grinding, scrubbing, cleaning, tensioning—and finally . . . a sawplate. The hours Henry spent in his backyard saw manufactory quickly blurred into days, days into a week, then another, and another. By his fourth week he had the tasks worked out, a rhythm established—and a stack of 12 saws ready for Old Billy's scowling review.

His mind now back in the space where he wanted it, Henry grinned and pushed open the heavy oak-framed door to Bowlby & Weaver’s, a cheery brass bell announcing his entrance with a sharp clang. A wiry old man in his 50’s with a beaked nose and a fringe of white hair hanging over his ears and collar popped over the counter, reminding Henry of a rooster spotting a fat grub in a manure pile.

“You!” the old man barked in a nasal, Yankee accent Henry found pushy, abrupt. Americans were always in such a hurry. Then he grinned. And now I’m one of them, he thought, and his grin broadened.

“Sir!” Henry popped back smartly, remembering his old Eaton schoolmaster. His left hand found the corner edge of the stout oak countertop running the length of the store.

“Well, I ain’t got all day, boy! You here to look at another saw? Maybe buy one this time?”

“Yes, Sir!” Henry glanced at the boy watching his wheelbarrow outside, then returned his gaze to a gleaming row of the most prominent saw works on the wall above Billy Weaver's bald head: Groves & Sons, Spear & Jackson, Garlick & Sons. His eyes widened and he hitched in a breath. “Only your best, Sir, if you please! An eight-point crosscut should fit the bill quite nicely."

The old man plucked one down and marched around the counter, thumbing the plate with a resounding twang. Henry took the saw in his calloused hands. “Two dollars, young man, for this fine Spear & Jackson. And not a cent less. You’ll find none finer—Sheffield Steel that is!”

Henry flexed the saw, finding the tension where he knew it had a loose spot in the plate from his earlier visit a week before.

Old Billy squinted at him. “Well? Oh, never mind—a youngster like you can’t afford that kind of saw anyway, what was I thinking?” He reached out to grab it back.

Turning away, Henry held the saw up to the light, eyed the countertop on his left, then with a flash of his arm whacked the plate over the hard corner edge. The ringing sound of poorly tempered metal snapped in the air like a crack in the Liberty Bell, and the toe half of the plate clattered onto the floor.

Billy Weaver's eyes popped open and he sputtered a string of obscenities. “What in God’s name did you just do! What the hell, boy!”

"Disston, Mr. Weaver. If you please, Sir. My name is Henry Disston."

"I don't give a good goddam what the hell your name is, boy—."

Henry waved at the lad outside to cart in his wheelbarrow, in which Henry had crafted a beautiful saw till the week before, each plate of the dozen handsaws nestled in kerfs cut perfectly square into quartersawn and ammonia-fumed white oak, finished in garnet shellac. Old Billy stopped swearing in mid-sentence, and arched an eyebrow at the saw till and a dozen gleaming, apple-handled handsaws.

Henry plucked one out of the till, flexed the plate, and thumbed it hard in the center. Spring steel sang in the air. “Mr. Weaver, Sir," Henry said, handing over the saw. "May I suggest you snap one of mine over that countertop? If you can?”

Not a half hour later, Old Billy wound up buying the entire lot that day from young Henry Disston. And in the days and the weeks that followed, so did every other hardware store throughout Philadelphia.

Because quality sells.

* * *


Welcome to a line of hand and panel saws long in demand from those who frequent the hand tool world! The Bad Axe Team now introduces our new Bad Axe D8, aka, the 'Henry Disston,' so named in honor of the greatest Sawmaker of them all. We're pretty proud of what has taken us several years to get the taper-grind right without compromising the metal during the grinding process such that it results in a floppy, ill-tempered plate prone to kinking, or a poorly executed handle ranging well-outside the main body of the plate. For such a simple tool, there's quite a bit going on with the entire cocktail of design considerations: a deeply embedded handle sized to fit your hand with the kind of hang angle that gets you behind the cut for maximum cutting leverage; a stable plate where even the bottom of the handle secures the lower third of real estate firmly; a stiff plate guaranteed to plow through the toughest of American hardwoods; and finally, the kind of visual aesthetic one may customize to suit his or her individual taste.

We explain all of these design imperatives below and how to size a handle guaranteed to fit your hand, so here are some quick-links designed to navigate to the chunk of information most interesting to you.

Design Specifications:

  • Bottom line up front: We designed 26", 24" and 22" taper-ground hand and panel saws, patterned closely after the venerable Disston D8 and Simonds skewbacked handsaws. While our saw's overall plate and handsaw pattern resembles that of the Disston D8, we incorporated the pre-1928 Simonds handsaw let-in mounting pattern for the handle, available in both standard and thumbhole-grip versions.
  • Traditional 1887-1896 Disston-pattern closed handle, the most elegant pattern Disston ever produced at the apogee of handsaw manufacturing. Available in standard quartersawn white oak, or optional QS cherry, QS walnut, & QS hard maple. three sizes available in Small (S), Regular (R), and Large (L). These handles are available in both standard and thumb-hole grip, the latter also available for southpaws. Read more about how we make and finish our handles.
  • Read more at Why Choose a Bad Axe
    Good news for southpaws! Are you a left-handed sawyer? Lefties and Southpaws unite! Bad Axe will get you into a thumbhole-grip handle with the contours reversed for a really nice fit.
  • Taper-Ground Sawplate: We grind our plates from .04 at the toothline up to .025 at the spine on the heel end, and .034 at the toe end, such that the deeper you plunge the saw into the cut, the more metal gets out of the way as you're pushing the saw through the inside the kerf. (22" panel saws tapers from .035 to .018 at the heel, and from .035 to .028 at the toe).
  • Stiff and hammer-tensioned. Great care is exercised to wet-grind the plate evenly, so the plate becomes neither s-rolled or too floppy due to loss in temper from careless grinding, which generates heat. You'll find that our taper-ground plates are hammer-tensioned and quite stiff—one of the most important assets of a hand or panel saw when making big cuts with confidence.
  • Fasteners available in standard brass or optional black-oxided, niter-blued, bright nickel-plated steel.
  • Plate Depth:
    26" plate: 7 1/4" at the heel, skewing to 25/8" at the toe.
    24" plate: 7" at the heel, skewing to 2 5/8" at the toe.
    22" plate: 6 3/8" at the heel, skewing to 2 7/16" at the toe.
  • US 1095 Spring steel Hammer-Tensioned sawplate, with a Rockwell hardness range of 49-52. Toothline is hammer-set & sharpened in configurations optimized for hardwood requirements. We will add more set for customers working predominantly in softwood. Read more about Bad Axe's hammer-setting technique and obsessive dedication to sharpening excellence here.

Protect your Toothline


Your toothline will remain sharp for 3-4 years if you're not running it acrosse any nails, or letting the teeth bang around on metal surfaces—but why leave that sort of thing to chance?

Check out our hardwood toothguards, kerfed just right to slip on and off your toothline for your new Bad Axe hand or panel saw. Available in 22", 24" and 26" lengths.

Just click the 'yes' option upon ordering your saw above.

Want more than one? Go to our accessories page and order as many as you want for your other saws.

And be sure to watch the 10-second video to see how to slip them on and off so they'll remain in place without having to secure the toothguard with a strap.

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Hand Measurement

Sizing Handles that Fit Your Hand

Here's my hand: it measures about 3 3/4" across. That's what I'm calling regular, and it will work with a range from 3 5/8" and start getting tight at 3 7/8." Bigger hands just under 4" up to 4 1/8" spans will require the size Large handle. Going the opposite direction, if the span of your hand measures in the 3 ¼ up to 3 1/2" range, then we're looking at a size small handle.

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Bad Axe D8 Handle Types

Our D8 handles are patterned quite closely after the vintage Disston D8 handles, the only exception being that we let in the sawplates by kerfing through the top of the handle common with Simonds hand and panel saws, rather than milling a covertop common in Disston saws where the upper edge of the sawplate is hidden from view. I've always found the covertop too easily splintered when removing the plate for maintenance, and would invite undue expense to the handle milling process.

Pictured on the left is a grouping of our two types of Disston-pattern D8 handles. Moving clockwise starting with the maple standard handle on the upper left, we have the thumbhole-grip handle in hickory on the upper right, followed by thumbhole-grip in walnut lower right, and the standard handle in cherry on the lower left. All Bad Axe D8 handles, whether standard or thumbhole-grip are are available in all four species, or in the species of your choosing for customer-supplied wood. Though the thumbhole-grip variant is intended for rip-filed saws, many people enjoy seeing it on their crosscut-filed saws. It's all about personal preference, and Bad Axe is happy to trick out your saw with the look, species and allow of your choosing.

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See the Bad Axe D8 in actionyouTube

We test-cut all Bad Axe saws in hardwoods native to North America, because frankly—anyone can blow through pine. We subject our saws to an array of hardwoods, such as white and red oak, maple, walnut, even black locust on occasion. If our saws pass the test—that is to say—they'll fly through the kind of woods YOU use in your projects—then you're getting a saw that works with no chatter, no drift, no snags. Only smooth, productive action that cuts to the line every time. Here's a look at our new Bad Axe D8 line in action, plowing through some 4/4 walnut.

"My God. Mark. Why-oh-why did you not make panel saws before now?"
— (and other reviews from our customers)

Vic Tesolin, Lee Valley/Veritas Lead Technical Advisor and author, The Minimalist Woodworker

"The most critical cut I make when breaking out lumber for any project is the crosscut. My Bad Axe D8 sings through anything I put in front of it and tracks dead-straight. I have used many panel saws but this one has a bit of magic built in it."

— Visit Vic's blog,
'the Minimalist Woodworker.'

"My God. Mark. Why-oh-why did you not make panel saws before now? Mark, I am telling you that I nearly was sent into ecstasy. This saw tracks a line like it’s on rails. It cuts with such ease that I did a double take . . . did I pick up the oak or the poplar? It inspires such confidence, and I don’t dread long crosscuts anymore, or feel i have to spend a whole lot of time warming up and “holding my mouth just right” . . . you know that feeling. It was just simply too easy. You’ve really, really outdone yourself."

— Jim Burton
Sr. Lecturer, Drawing & Painting
College of Visual Art and Design
University of North Texas

Feedback about our new 22" D8 Panel Saw


". . . it's fantastic. It's a little more nimble than the 24" and 26" but it retains just the right amount of spring and stiffness. Even though I'm a big guy, I've tended to use smaller saws for cabinetmaking because I'm usually dealing with shorter cuts in 4/4 stock. If I have a really long rip in 8/4 I reach for the big guns (5ppi D23) but for most things, this 22" length is just right. It's also more maneuverable at the bench. I could honestly put my D20 out to pasture and that has been one of my favorite fine tooth crosscut saws. The cut is effortlessly fast." 

— James McConnell
The Daily Skep

Here's what Richard Spry of Orepass: Woodworking for Sanity blogged as one of our earliest users shortly we released the the D8 in August:

olson"Wow! Grabbing an Oak board, a line was struck and with saw in hand I sliced off a few inches, next I found a piece of Cherry, that too became smaller, leaning against the wall some Sapele left over from my tool chest, then Walnut. Looking around I noticed a longer piece of Oak and “don’t tell anyone” ripped it in half with my new crosscut! At 9PPI I anticipated a rougher cut, but was surprised with a relatively clean cut, the saw started easily and the cuts were quick and smooth. Mark Harrell obviously put a little magic in the saw sharpening. I’m very impressed with the saw and know that it will give years of great service."

— (Read Richard's full review here).

"Mark—I've been using your D8 hand saw for about a month, and you've hit a homer! It cuts as good as it looks, which is high praise. I've never used a big saw that starts as easily as the D8. It tracks like a dream and cuts like a daemon—thanks for developing such a great tool.."

— Byron Williams, Hamilton, MT


"My Bad Axe Custom Made D8 cuts through hardwood nearly as fast and smooth as I can empty my 1911! (That’s very fast and very smooth)!"

— Bob Hickock, Oct 2017

All Bad Axe Tool Works Saws are highly customizable, and Feature the Following:

  • Highly-figured 19th-century patterned white oak handles, also available in cherry, walnut and hard maple.
  • Three handle sizes available: Small, Regular & Large.
  • Flush-face slotted sawbolts/nuts in brass or carbon steel finished in optional black-oxide or niter-blue with 13/16" deep-dish decorative medallion.
  • Traditional Folded Carbon Steel sawback.
  • Standard black-oxided or optional titanium-nitrided (TiN)-plated finish on saw backs.
  • Premium-grade Swedish Spring Steel Sawplates, RC50-52.
  • Traditional hammer-set toothline, sharpened to joint.
  • Bad Axe saw re-sharpening rate $25 nominal fee.
  • Lifetime guarantee against all material defects.

Learn more about our material choices and saw design rationale.

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