In the 1939 illustrated book Madeline is a kitchen scene. On the counter are plates (or bowls), a colander, a ladle, a saucepan, a large knife — and a hand saw. Is a hand saw a kitchen implement? If so, what's it for?

  • Does the handsaw look precisely like the sort of cross-cut handsaws that are in that picture? Butcher handsaws of the sort suggested in the answers here tend, as they say, to look more like hacksaws. Butchers generally called then handsaws, but if you'd known that already you wouldn't have been asking that question. It's a long time since I last read Madeline so I can't remember what any saws in it looked like. – Jon Hanna Jun 12 '14 at 9:51
  • @JonHanna, I don't recall what the saw in Madeline looks like, but I recall that the blade is broad (rather than thin and held in place by a frame as is usual, I think, of hacksaws). – msh210 Jun 12 '14 at 22:11

Any Kitchen I worked in –that does a bit of butchering– has one (any butcher also). It's for sawing bones.

At the time you would not throw anything out of an animal, and a lot of people would make their stock or put a piece of bone in a stew or soup for taste. But, as far as I know, they usually look like a hacksaw not like a the one you're showing.

Maybe the illustrator did not know what a kitchen saw looked like. He's been asked to draw one and did a hand saw by mistake.

This type of saw could be also used in a pastry shop. At some stage (and still, apparently according to @divi) wedding and other momumental cakes, but also smaller ones, were consolidated with pieces of wood or other non comestible material.

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  • It's also entirely possible that the illustrator thought a hand saw would be more recognizable to the reader, or that classic handsaws were more common in kitchen usage at the time. Disposable blades for a hacksaw would have been harder to come by in the 1930s than they are today. – logophobe Jun 11 '14 at 18:57
  • I wondered the same,so I checked Wikipedia: hacksaws were already in industrial production in their modern form in 1898. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hacksaw – P. O. Jun 11 '14 at 19:36
  • Yes, but apparently by a single producer; I think it's difficult to assume that would have been the standard in a majority of kitchens at the time, even though it may be the modern choice. Perhaps we can find photographic references instead. – logophobe Jun 11 '14 at 19:52
  • Have a look at p 63 of this 1865 [book] (books.google.fr/…) It's not butchery, but it's still for sawing bones...about 70 years before the book of OP. – P. O. Jun 11 '14 at 20:13
  • I'm not sold on that, since it's a book on surgery and the author goes into great deal about the design, like he's trying to convince an unfamiliar reader. This seems more convincing, it's supposedly from the 1930s and there are clearly some large hacksaws: ci.pinole.ca.us/about/images/history_butcher_lg.jpg but that's still from a professional butcher, not a domestic kitchen. – logophobe Jun 11 '14 at 21:41

In addition to cutting up bones, I've also found the hand saw handy when layering cakes. I've used it for cutting woden and plastic dowels to specific length for cake layering.

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It could conceivably be used for sawing through bones. Or perhaps in the book the saw has been left on the counter by somebody?

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  • Of course in the book the saw may have been just left around. I was asking about saws in kitchen use, not why the saw is in the book: the book was just my motivation for asking. Anyway, thank you (for the bone answer). +1 – msh210 Jun 11 '14 at 16:10

I've used a hand saw to cut up bones when making stock making a long leg of lamb fit a roasting pan, other than that I can't think of any use for them in the kitchen. Serrated knives are commonly used to cut bread, but they don't look like hand saws. There are also tomato knives that are serrated, however they would be hard to mistake for a hand saw as well.

It's possible that the illustrator just added some implements to fill the scene, I wouldn't take that book as a true source of what a 30s kitchen looked like.

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  • It was illustrated by a restauranteur and gourmet, though, which would influence the composition's accuracy. – Jon Hanna Jun 12 '14 at 22:38

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