D-20 etch

Disston D-20, D-21, D-22, and D-23 Handsaws

D-20 saw

D-23 saw
D-20 series lineup, 1911 catalog D-23 etch post-WWII
Disston introduced a mid-priced line of saws, the D-20 series, in 1911. The saws had features from the more expensive saws, such as applewood handles and polished steel. They are excellent saws even though they are not considered the most collectable models.

The saws are as follows:
The D-20, a skewback narrow width saw.
The D-21, a skewback regular width saw.
The D-22, a straight-back regular width saw.
The D-23, a straight-back narrow width saw.

 

The regular width saws were dropped before 1918, and the D-20, which is more commonly found today than the D-21 and D-22, was discontinued in the big product line change of 1928-1931. The D-23 was carried throughout the remainder of the time the company was owned by the Disston family (1955), and there was a lesser-quality version of the saw marketed with the Disston name until the early 1990's.

As to why Disston dropped the skewback version of the saw while the D-23 was one of their best sellers, the skewback must have been less popular in the early 1930's. At that time Disston stopped making saw models that were not selling because of the economic depression and reduced prices on the saws that they continued to offer.

D-20 handle

 

A guide to age of the saw is the handle. Earlier handles are applewood. Sometime shortly after WWII, the handles were changed to beech with a stain that looks like apple. Notice the difference between the pre-1928 and post-1928 handles. The small notch appears at the top of the older handle, the gentle relief for the second hand on the later one. That feature first appears on the D-20/23 models in 1927. Also the hand hole is larger than the earlier saws.

Circa 1927 D-23 Handle with Web on the top
Pre-1928 D-20 etch
D-23 etch post-WWII

The handle changed again in 1928. The handle is a "covertop" with the slot for the blade not showing through the top of the handle. Also the shape of the handle hole is different. The carving is a little more extensive on the pre-1947 saws, with extra wheat carving above the medallion. As with other saws, the medallion helps with the date also. The redesigned D-20 was dropped from production shortly after its introduction in 1928.

Circa 1928 D-20 Handle

The etch was changed in 1928 on all the saws. Pre-1928 saws have the model number inside the letter "D". Starting in 1928, the etches look like the example shown here.

 
D-20 Saw circa 1928 This is the D-20 model that was produced for only a year or two, starting in 1928.

 

Here is the beech-handled D-23. There must have been a problem with obtaining applewood during or after WWII, because once Disston's supply of applewood was gone in 1947 or so, that species never reappeared. The D-23 and D-8 switched from apple to beech, and the D-12 switched from apple to walnut.

post WWII D-23 Handle For a woodworker or carpenter looking for a handsaw to use, the D-23 is an excellent choice.
First, the price is reasonable because they are newer than most of the more collectable saws.
Second, because they aren't as old, they are likely not to have been sharpened more than once or twice, if at all. Handsaws fell into disuse after WWII as power saws came into favor.
Third, you can subject a D-23 to the harsh environment of a worksite without feeling bad about abusing a 100-year-old antique. The handles are thicker and stronger than other saws. Think of all old saws you see with broken horns on the handle. That sort of damage is not found on D-23's.
D-23 saw
D-23 Panel Saw Handle

The larger handle on post-1928 saws may indicate the timing of a change in the sawing method used by carpenters in the U.S. Older saws have smaller handles not because people were smaller, but because the "correct" grip on a saw was a three-finger hold, with the index finger pointing toward the toe of the saw. It is a natural position for the hand, and it aids in control of the saw. For some reason, mechanics started holding a saw like it was a beer mug, and they needed a bigger handle for their hands. Panel saws and small backsaws have even smaller handles than handsaws, and a four-finger grip is all but impossible for an adult.

 

Another good feature of the D-23 is the blade. The steel is a good combination of hardness and toughness. As metallurgic science improved in the 20th century, sawmaking became less "black magic" and quality was more consistant.

This saw is a true workhorse. It's a mid-1940's D-23 with the applewood handle and nickel-plated sawnuts. The handle's wear shows where it is burnished over the carving from use. I replaced the medallion and nuts with examples that were in better condition and sprayed the handle with garnet shellac. The result is a fine user-grade tool. I'm more conservative with the true antiques. No one should expect to see new finish on a 19th century tool.

1945-47 era D-23 handle

 
1950's

Finally, even as Disston began to cut corners and quality decreased in many aspects (look at the saw handle), D-23 saws made before 1955 are better than any handsaw sold since then.

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1911 and 1914 catalogs:

Note: The product line was its broadest at this time. Points per inch are not specified so it may be safe to assume the customer could special order any practical number of points on a saw.

 

D-20 Illustration
D-20

Skewback, Refined Crucible Steel, Highly Polished Blade, Warrented, Apple Handle, Carved and Polished, Brass Screws.
26" Blade is 6 inches wide at butt, 1-3/4 inches at point.

 
 Retail
 per Dozen
Length
18" $18.25
20" $20
22" $22
24" $23.50
26" $25
28" $28

 


D-21 Illustration
D-21
Full Width Skewback Blade, same quality and finish as D-20.

 


D-22 Illustration
D-22
Full Width Straight-Back Blade, same quality and finish as D-20.

 


D-23 Illustration
D-23
Straight-Back Blade
26" Blade is 6 inches wide at butt, 1-3/4 inches at point.

 


The D-21 and D-22 models do not appear in the 1918 catalog.

 



Information taken from Disston 1918 catalog:

D-20 Illustration
D-20

Refined Crucible Steel, Highly Polished Blade, Warranted, Apple Handle,
Carved and Polished, Brass Screws.

Manufactured only in the following lengths and points:
inches points retail
Cross Cut 24 8, 9, 10, 11        $23.50 per dozen
26 7, 8, 9, 10, 11        $25.00
Rip 26 5, 5 ½, 6        $25.00

 

The D-20 saw is made particularly for those who prefer a narrow width blade. This blade, skew back in design, is 1 3/4 inches wide at the point and 6 1/4 inches at the butt instead of 2 3/4 inches at the point and 6 3/4 inches at the butt as in full width saws. This makes the D-20 a very light and easy saw to operate. This feature, together with the comfortable grip, makes the D-20 a favorite with some users.

 


D-23 Illustration
D-23

26-inch Blade, 6 1/4 inches wide at butt, 1 3/4 inches at point.
Same as D-20, except straight back.

 

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1922 catalog:

D-20 1922 catalog illustration
D-20

The D-20 saw is made particularly for those who prefer a narrow width blade. This blade, skew-back in design, is 1 3/4 inches wide at the point and 6 1/4 inches at the butt instead of 2 3/4 inches at the point and 6 3/4 inches at the butt as in the D-8. This makes the D-20 a very light and easy saw to operate. This feature, together with the comfortable grip, makes the D-20 a favorite with some users.

The finish, because it is a grade better than the D-8, makes this saw slightly higher in cost. The blade is of Disston-made Steel. The attractively carved and polished handle is of selected hardwood and is fastened to the blade by brass screws.

 

Lengths (inches):
18, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28.
D-23. This is exactly like the D-20 except that the blade is of straight back design.

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1924 and 1926 catalogs:

D-20 1924 catalog illustration
D-20 Saw

 

The D-20 saw is made particularly for those who prefer a narrow-width blade. This blade, skew-back in design, is 1 3/4 inches wide at the point and 6 1/4 inches at the butt, instead of 2 3/4 inches at the point and 6 3/4 inches at the butt, as in the D-8. This makes the D-20 a very light and easy saw to operate. This feature, together with the comfortable grip, makes the D-20 a favorite with some users.

The finish, because it is a grade better than the D-8, makes this saw slightly higher in cost. The blade is of Disston-made steel. The attractively carved and polished handle is of selected applewood and is fastened to the blade by brass screws.

Lengths (inches):
Crosscut -- 20, 22, 24, 26.
Rip -- 26.

D-23. This is exactly like the D-20, except that the blade is of straight-back design and that the rip saw is made 24 and 26 inches.

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1927 catalog:

 

Choosing a saw for general use is largely a matter of personal preference. The following Disston Saws are all popular. One of the wide-blade patterns or the Lightweight patterns will have the temper, weight, and balance that just suits you.

More and more each year sawing is in lighter work. Carpenters and saw users do not have as much heavy sawing to do. Modern building methods have taken a great deal of it away. Therefore, Disston Lightweight Saws, having less weight and less width to the blade, are very popular. They are easier to handle on many of today's sawing jobs.

 

D-23 1927 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight Saw

 

This saw was one of the first Disston Lightweight Saws manufactured. For several years it has been a favorite with many saw users. The taper-ground, straight back blade is 1 3/4 inches wide at the point and 6 1/4 inches at the butt. A light saw, easy to use, with a large, comfortable grip. Slightly lower in cost than the No. 12. The blade is of Disston-made steel. Attractively carved and polished handle of selected apple-wood, fastened to the blade by five brass screws.

The D-23 is made in lengths from 20 inches to 26 inches cross-cut teeth and 24 and 26 inches rip teeth.

D-20. This is exactly like the D-23 except that the blade is of skew-back design. Made in lengths, 20 inches to 26 inches cross-cut teeth and 24 and 26 inches rip teeth.

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1928 brochure:

D-23 1928 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight, Straight Back

Improved pattern of applewood handle, carved.
New grip, roomy and comfortable. New weatherproof finish.
Brass screws. Greater beauty. Disston true-taper grind.
Price, 26" length, $3.85 each

 
  length points
cross-cut 20" 10, 11
22" 9, 10, 11
24" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
26" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
rip 24" 7
26" 5, 5 ½, 6, 7


 

D-20 1928 catalog illustration
D-20 Lightweight, Skew Back

Same as D-23, except that it has skew back instead of straight back.
Improved pattern of applewood handle, carved. Larger hand-hole.
New grip. New weatherproof finish. Disston true-taper grind.
Price, 26" length, $3.85 each

 
  length points
cross-cut 20" 10, 11
22" 10, 11
24" 8, 9, 10, 11
26" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
rip 26" 5 ½, 6


 

Information taken from Disston 1929 catalog:

D-23 1929 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight Pattern, Straight-back

Improved pattern of applewood handle, carved, new grip, roomy and comfortable;
new weatherproof finish, brass screws. Disston true-taper grind.

 
length points retail (each)
Crosscut 20" 10, 11  
22" 9, 10, 11  
24" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11  
26" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 $3.85
Rip 24" 7  
26" 5, 5 ½, 6, 7 $3.85

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1930 catalog:

D-23 1930 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight, Straight-back

Improved pattern of applewood handle, carved; new grip, roomy and comfortable; new weatherproof finish.
Brass screws. Greater beauty. Disston true-taper grind.

 
length points
Crosscut 20" 10
22" 10, 11
24" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
26" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Rip 26" 5 ½, 6

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1932 catalog:

D-23 1929 catalog illustration
No. D-23 Lightweight Pattern Straight-back

 

The Disston No. D-23 Lightweight Straight-back Pattern Saw -- the largest selling lightweight, straight back saw. Thin back, true-taper ground by a new Disston process. Tooth edge is the same gauge throughout; blade tapers evenly from butt to point and from tooth edge to back. Blade of Disston steel, hardened and tempered; high polish; striped back.

Cover-top handle, applewood; full carved; large hand hole; Disston weatherproof finish; five brass screws in 26-inch length; four brass screws in 24-inch lengths.

 

Length
of Blade
Points to inch
Cross-cut
Points to
inch Rip
Weight
per doz.
Retail Price
per doz.
24 inches 7, 8, 9, 10   18 lbs. $42.00
26 inches 8, 10, 12 5 ½, 6 21 lbs. 42.00

Packed 1/3 dozen in box.
Width of 26-inch blade: Butt 6 3/8 inches; Point 1 ½ inches; 24-inch size in proportion.

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1937 catalog:

D-23 1937 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight, Straight-back

Improved pattern of applewood handle, carved; new grip, roomy and comfortable; new weatherproof finish.
Brass screws. Greater beauty. Disston true-taper grind.

 
  Length Points
Crosscut 24" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
26" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Rip 26" 5 ½, 6

 

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1939, 1940, 1942, and 1945 catalogs:

D-23 1945 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight, Straight-back.

Cover-top, carved applewood handle, weatherproof finish.
Disston Steel blade, high polish, striped back, true-taper ground.

 
  Length Points
Crosscut 20" 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
22" 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
24" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
26" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Rip 26" 5 ½, 6

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1947-50 catalogs:

D-23 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight Pattern Straight-back.

Always popular with saw users demanding quality and workmanship.
Disston steel blade, high polish, striped back, true taper ground.
Cover-top, carved handle, weather-proof finish.

 
length ppi
Crosscut 20" 10, 11
24" 8, 9, 10, 11
26" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
Rip 26" 5 ½

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1951 catalog:

D-23 1951 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight Pattern Straight-back.

Always popular with saw users demanding quality and workmanship.
Disston steel blade, high polish, striped back, true taper ground.
Cover-top, carved handle, weather-proof finish.

 
length ppi
Crosscut 16" 11
20" 10, 11
24" 8, 9, 10, 11
26" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Rip 26" 5 ½

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1953 catalog:

D-23 1953 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight Pattern Straight-back.

Always popular with saw users demanding quality and workmanship.
Disston steel blade, high polish, striped back, true taper ground.
Cover-top, carved handle, weather-proof finish.

 
length ppi
Crosscut 16" 11
20" 10
24" 8, 10
26" 8, 10, 11
Rip 26" 5 ½

 


 

Information taken from Disston 1955 catalog:

D-23 1955 catalog illustration
D-23 Lightweight Pattern Straightback.

Disston steel blade, high polish, striped back, true taper ground.
Cover-top handle, weather-proof finish.

 
length ppi
Crosscut 16" 11
20" 10
24" 8, 10
26" 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
Rip 26" 5 ½

 


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