Not the Atom Powered Table Saw, I'm talking about the meat and potatoes powered table saw. The one that we always argue about. Why is this called a table and pruning saw? Sold by the big guys, Disston, Simonds, Atkins and others, in the 19th Century and the early part of the 20th Century, makers termed this peculiar beast a Table and/or Pruning Saw. All kinds of theories have been advanced as to how and why this saw came to receive two names.
One theory is that the saw was used to cut out the tops of really large round tables. Well, it does have sort of a narrow blade. But I suspect that the table top would have to be King Arthur's round table in size in order to accomodate the minimum circumference this blade would handle.
Another Theory is the saw was used in the ship-building industries to shape the gentle curves of planks destined to become part of the Tall Ships. Given the importance of ship-building, I could never see why the manufacturers wouldn't have given this poor saw it's own label, not a shared one.
A little thinking and searching turned up an interesting tidbit:
table (n.) c.1175, "board, slab, plate," from O.Fr. table "board, plank, writing table, picture" (11c.), and late O.E. tabele, from W.Gmc. *tabal (cf. O.H.G. zabel, Ger. Tafel), both from L. tabula "a board, plank, table,"
To my way of thinking, a pruning saw must have a fairly narrow blade that is also stiff enough to reduce flexing while cutting through wet, sticky, grainy woods. What sort of saw would you use if you had to cut, by hand, a very green plank of milled lumber? I wonder if the Table Saw, aka the Pruning Saw would have sufficed? Ok, so that may be a jump in supposition.
What do you think? What possible relation could the Table and Pruning Saw have to the original work, Table?
Here is an image from Hodgson, who by any means is not the last word on most anything. A prolific author and editor, but I can never be sure what words were his and what words were 'borrowed'. I guess this could be an answer. Grimshaw also describes the saw as used for cutting curves. Perhaps the typical placement of the Table saw with the Pruning saw was just a habit that caught on and never left?
Any shipwrights out there who can shed light on this question?
Yet more on the Table Saw...
On a tip from Stephen Shephard of the Full Chisel Blog, I checked Holtzappfel:
"The table-saw, and the compass or lock-saw... which only differ in size, resemble the hand-saws in their general structure and in the forms of their teeth, except that the blades are smaller and narrower, to allow them to lie as a tangent to the curve. ... Pruning Saws are often made exactly like the table and compass saws... but with teeth which are coarser, thicker and keener than those for dry wood." Same blade, different teeth.
To further confuse the matter, there is this definition from a compendium of shipbuilding terminology:
- Letting one piece of timber into another by alternate scores or projections from the middle, so that it cannot be drawn asunder either lengthwise or sidewise.