bow saw

The big brother to the coping saw is the cabinetmaker’s bow saw. The blade is longer and tensioning is the result of twisted cord in the levered frame. It does not look like a bow at all, more of a frame saw. But tradition prevails in naming it. What they do have in common is the ability to make curves. They both have latch pins that swivel, and thin blades that cut a tight radius.

The frame makes a nice shop project. The shape allows for giving expression to the curves and fitting the tenoned center bar. The key to an effective saw is the blade. In my early attempts at making bow saws, the blade was a length of band saw blade. They worked, but not well enough to give that sense of ownership deserving of a new found traditional tool.

The solution to this was found in a kit made by Gramercy Tools. It was reviewed in the December 2006 issue of Popular Woodworking magazine by Christopher Schwarz, editor. Let him tell his experience:

My problem with the modern manufactured bow saws was they were difficult to steer, they cut slowly and were unbalanced. The new 12″ bow saw from Gramercy Tools, however, is another animal entirely. The first time I used it was like the first time I used a premium hand plane — it was almost a religious experience. Thanks to the saw’s sharp and narrow blade, its featherweight frame and its remarkable balance, the saw absolutely flies through your work, tracks a line and is so balanced that you use it one-handed.

The price tag on the saw is $140, but Gramercy sells blades separately. This solves the problem of sourcing the non-wood parts, and gives you proper blades to be effective. (Call 800-426-4613 or go to toolsforworkingwood.com. Product #GT-BOWS. Also see woodjoytools.com.)

Their web site, gramercytools.com, gives measured drawings of the saw. They say “our saw looks conspicuously like a 200-year-old saw, confirming that 18th-century craftsmen knew what they were doing.” The blades are a 12″ version of the 6″ coping saw blades and work as well. The ⅛″ blade width, number of teeth 10, 18 and 24 tpi, and the small amount of set all add to making this a fine turning saw. The latch pins can be made from ¼″ brass rod in shop, or purchased in the 3 blade and brass pin kit for $26. The Gramercy saw uses fish line for tensioning whereas the saw shown here has jute string waxed with canning paraffin.