The St Paul’s Cathedral Saw
Standing at a staggering 365ft and with its iconic dome, St Paul’s Cathedral in London dominates the skyline. It’s magnificence in design and awe-inspiring interior of course is credited to notably one of Britain’s most famous architects, Sir Christopher Wren. His vision for such an aesthetically enchanting building being brought to life between 1675 and 1710 after the previous cathedral had burnt to the ground amidst the ‘Great Fire of 1666’
In 2018 1.66 million people visited St Paul’s Cathedral and it’s really not difficult to see why. The famous ‘West Door’ towers at an impressive 29ft and is only ever opened for ceremonial occasions, the most prominent including the wedding of The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and Winston Churchill’s funeral in 1965. More recently the cathedral held a thanksgiving service for Queen Elizabeth 11 to mark her 90th birthday and one imagines that something will be planned to honour her Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
If you are ever fortunate enough to visit St Paul’s, as well as marvelling at its opulence, you will also come across the renowned ‘Whispering Gallery’ whereby words whispered against the wall of the dome can be heard on the opposite side of the gallery (Am sat thinking that’s a great proposal idea…!) Furthermore, you will also find the tombs of many of the ‘greats’ including Nelson, Wellington, Florence Nightingale, poet John Donne, painter J.M.W Turner and of course the aforementioned, Sir Christopher Wren who lived to a fine age of 91 and whose plain stone reads (translated from Latin)
‘If you seek his memorial look about you’
St Paul’s Cathedral London (Image en.wikipedia.org)
Sir Christopher Wren 1632-1723 (Image en.wikipedia.org
The St Paul’s Cathedral Saw
Firstly, let me give you a short insight into Bells of St Paul’s … There are a number of bells in the cathedral including Europe’s largest swinging bell ‘Great Paul’ housed in the south west tower which although currently out of action, used to strike at 1pm every day. Furthermore, there’s ‘Great Tom’ weighing 5 tons, it is one of three clock bells and strikes both on the hour and to mark the death of senior members of the royal family and heads of the church. The bells we are concerned with though are the ones housed in the North West Tower. Besides ‘Banger’ dating from 1700 which is rung for 8am services there is also a ring of 12 bells cast by John Taylor & Co of Loughborough hung for change ringing. Change ringing demands a reasonable level of physical fitness and is an extremely skilled practice that takes a number of years to master. Peals (long periods of ringing) of these 12 bells are rung for special occasions such as State weddings and more recently the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and also on New Year’s Day and Easter Monday respectively.
Back in January 2018 the twelve bells for the first time in their 140 years were removed for restoration. The bell frame / headstocks from which the bells hung was both strengthened and replaced. It was the first time since the war that the bells had remained silent for any length of time. Some of the heritage oak from the original headstocks was donated to ‘The Worshipful Company of Turners of London’ for the £30,000 they were raising to help support the restoration work. In 2019 at The North of England Woodworking Show we met up with professional woodturner and teacher Andy Pickard, who we’ve known for a number of years through the woodworking community and shows. He was telling us about being in possession of some of this historic timber and I was stood thinking how amazing this would be for a saw handle. A number of months later I negotiated a small piece from Andy and the idea of the Cathedral Saw started to take shape. Following their refurbishment, the twelve bells were re-hung in September 2018 and rang for the first time again on ‘All Saints Day’
Ordinarily oak is unsuitable for a saw handle due to the fact that the tannins in the wood corrode steel. However, Shane knew that this wouldn’t be a problem if we made this handle to fit one of our elegant Chippendale Saws. With Shane’s uniquely designed and crafted bronze dual-tensioning device, the back of the Chippendale Saw ensured that the oak of the handle wouldn’t come into contact with the steel plate. Seeing that Thomas Chippendale who was born in the infancy of the Cathedral being built and with his workshops being little more than a mile down the road this saw seemed very fitting.
The oak is without doubt in Shane’s mind centuries old. Whilst the bells date to 1878, it could be plausible that the timber is original to the building of the cathedral. Oak really does stand the test of time, for example the foundations of York Minster are actually oak and you only have to see ships that have been sat at the bottom of the sea made from oak, but still to a degree preserved despite the elements. Unfortunately, despite my best efforts I’ve not been able to find any archival evidence to prove that the wood dates to then as only the bells ever being removed appear to have been logged – maybe actually this suggests that it is original. However, Shane believes that the oak is likely to date to Wren’s time anyway and maybe before – it is definitely old and rather rare. The piece of oak we acquired was very small and Shane, has had to be very clever in how he has fashioned a handle from it, as like most woods not all of it is suitable. He found that we are able to make two handles from this wood, although only one pistol grip style and then maybe in the future a smaller straight handled Gents Saw. Therefore, the St Paul’s Cathedral Chippendale Saw will be the only one ever made in the world.
As this is a very special one-off piece and to make it always identifiable, we’ve had the bronze saw back hand-engraved by Ian Houghton of Chalco Stamp & Die Company to read:
‘Oak From The Headstocks Of The Bells Of St Paul’s Cathedral 1878’
This has been more of a personal project for us and something that Shane has enjoyed and worked on outside of the normal working week. It has taken around 80 hours to complete and incorporates some of Chippendale’s innovate design features, such as hand shaped bronze flutes. It is, like all of our saws a precision tool that is equally luxurious and elegant at the same time. Someone very lucky is going to acquire a true piece of handmade British Craftsmanship at its best packed with history. I suspect (and hopefully) that in years to come this will also be the saw that was once in time the most expensive saw in the world and one to look out for. From our perspective running a small heritage crafts business, it’s important that occasionally we make a saw for the luxury / collectors market in order to appeal to everyone and also for us to sustain and keep the critically endangered craft of saw making in Britain alive.
The price of this exquisite and unique saw which fits up to a 10cm palm and comes with certification to prove it is heritage wood from St Paul’s Cathedral is £2850.00
11-3/8” Dovetail Saw
Canted Blade 2” at the heel to 1.5” at the toe
Open pistol grip handle in heritage oak from St Paul’s Cathedral fits up to 10cm palm
0.015” Plate thickness
Luxurious innovative ‘Dual Spring Adjust’ bronze back with stop flute details
Incurvate Spear Top
Struck with ‘Chippendale’ signature
0.002 Set per side
Rip 17ppi / 16tpi
Engraved ‘Oak From The Headstocks Of The Bells Of St Paul’s Cathedral 1878’
1/1 Price £2850.00