The Limited-Edition Platinum Jubilee Saw

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was never a question of if we were going to make something to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th year on the throne, but more what? It had to be something that resonated with her Majesty and her reign and therefore be something that was unique, rare, true and timeless.

I am writing this after the amazing Jubilee celebrations at the weekend and must say how proud and privileged I feel to have been able to witness such a historic event for a truly remarkable woman. A true Royalist, I was always brought up to love and respect the Queen. I can remember the excitement I felt even as a young girl when my great aunts told me ‘We’re going to London to see the Queen!’ It was never likely of course that we were ever going to get even a glimpse even of her, but she has in my eyes and will always remain this magical figure.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to realise that it has been her steadfastness and continuity of work that has been quite extraordinary, and really her magic has reached far and wide around the globe. For myself and I guess many others she has been a constant in life even when everything else has seemed a little crazy.

Me and Auntie Eye-Eye going to see the Queen!

The saw we chose to replicate and mark this special occasion is we believe ‘Fit for a Queen!’ An 18th Century dovetail saw by prominent London maker Isaac Manwaring, that is both simple and elegant in design. There are seven in total, one to mark each decade of the Queen’s reign. We feel honoured that we can be part of this historic moment, and love the idea that we are taking a saw from history (in the reign of King George 111 – The Queen’s great-great-grandfather) to commemorate a unique historic moment in the present, and then creating a saw that will hopefully in 250 years too be part of history itself.

Isaac Manwaring London Saw Maker 1761-1791

Isaac Manwaring is probably one of the most interesting saw makers that that I’ve researched to date. He is a man whose story is the complete opposite of the rags to riches fairytale! We first meet Manwaring in 1761 in an area of London called, Clerkenwell. Part of the borough of Islington, Clerkenwell has always been an area synonymous with the arts and crafts movement. He had just taken on an apprentice by the name of Charles Hinton and had bought a brand-new building, suggesting he was reasonably wealthy. This is echoed in a survey discussed by British History Online (BHO)

 

‘When new in the 1760’s, Brayne’s Row had views across the fields to the north, and was seemingly in single family occupation. Isaac Manwaring a saw maker of some substance and an early chairman of the Clerkenwell Society at what became Spa Fields Chapel was among the first residents at was is now No.30 Exmouth Market. A number of artists established themselves here, perhaps selling from their ground-floor rooms, though they did not have shop fronts.’

Survey of London Vol 47 Northern Clerkenwell and Pentonville’ pp52-53 ed Philip Temple (2008)

 

How Manwaring had become so rich and notable at that point in time is a bit of a mystery. However, he is of the same era as furniture maker Thomas Chippendale and saw

maker William Squire (Whom I discuss in the story of the Chippendale Saw) If you were to pin-point on a map where these three makers were working at almost equal distance apart you would create a triangle. Almost the golden triangle of makers. No doubt all acquainted through business and possibly church. There’s nothing to say that Manwaring, like Squire also actually didn’t make saws for the cabinetmakers in Chippendale’s workshop, especially after the fire in 1755. Manwaring, is first documented as being a saw maker in Simon Barley’s book in 1761, but where did he do his apprenticeship and learn his trade prior, and was he already working before that date? It is quite an unusual coincidence that both William Squire and Isaac Manwaring both had the means to move into brand new properties around 1760 and little more than a mile apart.

 

It is then noted by Jane & Mark Rees in their book ‘Christopher Gabriel and the Tool Trade In 18th Century London’ 1997 pp 43-44 that as time passed on Manwaring, began to run into trouble. In 1769 The New River Company, had allowed Manwaring to enclose a ½ acre field of land in Islington and have use of the company’s water for a payment of £35. On this land Manwaring, built a brick workshop powered by waterwheels which allowed for his saw making business. There is some speculation that this is at a separate site namely ‘Rosamon Street’ in Islington and that the business was actually running from two sites, with presumably his son J Manwaring carrying this business on at a later date. Then in 1781 The New River Company it is documented cut off his water supply forcing him to erect a horse mill to keep going. Manwaring, therefore does it appear seem quite an undeterred character! He filed for £250 in compensation, but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that he actually received any of this. It is maybe not so surprising therefore as to what happened next…

According to Dr Simon Barley in ‘British Saws & Saw Makers from c1600’ 2014 pg390 this happened:

‘In 1788 Isaac I was declared bankrupt, the proceedings naming him a Saw Maker, Dealer and Chapman; his creditors continued to be paid until 1791’

 

Again, one can only make an educated guess as to why Manwaring, a once prosperous man ended up in the bankruptcy courts. Initially one might think it’s because of all the legal wrangles and he’s constantly paying out money to keep his business afloat. However, he’s also regarded as a ‘Dealer and Chapman’ I think he probably had his fingers in a number of pies and was a bit of a wheeler-dealer if you like who was good at making connections. Maybe he made some other bad business decisions or bought and sold the wrong things? This aside we must not forget that essentially Manwaring, was a prominent London Saw Maker of the time and selling his fine tools through the wealthy retailer, Christopher Gabriel. Manwaring started out at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in 1760 and by the end of the 18th Century retailers like Gabriel were selling more tools from the north, notably the Sheffield makers who could produce goods cheaper. We can see this by looking at Gabriel’s list of creditors in 1789. John Kenyon, of Sheffield being owed a healthy sum of over 17 pounds whilst there isn’t any mention of Manwaring at all.

It would’ve been great to find out more about Manwaring, but unless you end up in the newspapers or courts history from that time tends to be lost. What is evident though is that Manwaring’s life was probably quite eventful and he met many people. However, above all he was a prolific and talented London Saw Maker, who made a dovetail saw that caught the eye of Shane more than 250 years later.

The Limited-Edition Platinum Jubilee Saw

At just 8½” in length the Manwaring / Jubilee Saw is the smallest pistol grip handled saw that Shane has made to date. He first came across a photo of Manwaring’s saw online maybe four or five years ago, and given that there was a ruler against the blade he was able to dimension from that the rest of the saw. Shane, then drew the saw over a year ago and until a few months ago it has just been sat waiting to shine in our living room sideboard drawer…

We chose Manwaring’s saw in particular because of its simple yet elegant lines, and added an English apple handle (a popular wood for saw handles in the 18th century) thus making it very traditional and almost quintessentially English. Manwaring’s dovetail saw like the Queen has also stood the test of time. Likely made at the beginning of Manwaring’s career, Shane was particularly taken by the shape of the cheek. This not only tells us that it is an earlier saw, but the way in which it slants slightly he feels is quite stylistic. Later saws in the 18th Century tend to have flat / straight lines on the top of the cheek. Furthermore, the upper horn gives the illusion that there is more height to the handle than there is giving the impression of a tall slimmer handle. With a nice overall shape, it has a more pronounced curve on the bead whereas with other saws of the same period one can see that actually where the horn meets the bead it is much shallower. Manwaring, appears to therefore have his own subtle trademarks and the ability to stand out from the crowd, just like the Queen!

Shane, has of course sympathetically incorporated some unique Skelton features into the saw, including a fully tensioned and pinned brass back with the upper saw bolt going through the back itself. Furthermore, the brass back features our unique Skelton incurvate spear.

A rare chance to add a piece of unique handmade saw making history to your tool box that will be fit for a King or Queen in another 250 years’ time.

HRH Queen Elizabeth 11 70 years 1952-2022 Congratulations!

 

 

 

This Photo has been kindly supplied for use by Erik Goldstein - Senior Curator of Mechanical Arts and Numismatics at The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Virginia, USA This slightly later Manwaring Saw, but of the same pattern accession number 1986-268,65 is in ‘The Cartwright Chest’ which was gifted to the museum. George Cartwright born in 1785, was a London cabinetmaker, who travelled to New York in 1819 with his chest of mostly 2nd hand tools. Fancy visiting this rare and interesting living history museum -visitwilliamsburg.com

 

  • 8 ½” Limited-Edition dovetail saw (7 only)

  • Unique retaining fully tensioned and pinned brass back with incurvate spear

  • Stamped S.SKELTON in the traditional 18th Century way to show the maker and also with a crown in honour of  the Platinum Jubilee of HRH Queen Elizabeth II

  • Canted blade 1-3/4” at heel to 1-5/8” at toe

  • 0.015” Plate thickness

  • Open pistol grip handle in rippled English Apple

  • Rip Cut 20ppi / 19tpi

  • 0.002.5” Set per side

  • Cost £950 Plus £15 Postage per saw in the UK or £25 per saw for overseas destinations

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