Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Bowsaw Class - Final Day

Too bad this was only a two day class.  It was a lot of fun.

Chris designed this project to be a one day class.  I'm glad we were there for two, as I don't think I would have been able to finish this project in one.

My completed bowsaw.

Dictum had a nice supply of elm for us to make this saw.  I hadn't ever used elm, so I looked forward to it.  On paper, this should be a fantastic wood for a saw due to it's strength and flexibility.

In reality, this wood is fairly difficult to work, which left most of the shaping up to rasps.  I have to say that I am a lot better at rasping to a line now than I was before.

I also took advantage of a few machines that were in the shop since I was there.  I used a bandsaw and the spindle sander to get the parts cut out after laying out the patterns.  I also used a drill press for the hole that the handle went in, and also for the handles to mount the hardware.  Lastly, I used the lathe (for my first experience turning) for the handles.

The rest of the work involved rasping the parts to the layout lines, filing the rasp marks smooth (maybe use some sandpaper to finish that job), and scraping the sanded part smooth.

My saw was a bit unique from the rest in that my bench partner had some boxwood scraps that he gave me (thanks, Andreas!), so i turned my handles and shaped my toggle from boxwood, and I didn't like the look of the synthetic strings that were provided for tensioning the saw, so I used some old twine that must have been left over from when you wrapped postal packages with this stuff.  I think it looks a bit more traditional this way.

Watching the first completed bowsaw take a cut.
I did have one problem with mine.  After final assembly, the handle rotated way too freely in the saw.  CS and I were both stumped as how to fix it (this only happened with my saw).  We tried a few different things including coating the hole with epoxy, filling it up with saw dust, etc.  Finally, the only thing that seemed to work was to place a piece of tape over the hole and jam the brass bit in over the tape.  It seems to hold now.

I think what happened is the inside of the hole was contaminated with wax after I finished it.  I think you could avoid this problem if you were careful.  Alternatively, you could wait until the saw is finished before boring the holes for the hardware.

The class was great.  Nearly everyone left with a completed saw.  No one accidentally stabbed themselves with a mortise chisel.  

I wish I had more pictures of the second day, but I was really stressing that I wouldn't finish this project, so rather than dink around taking pictures all day, I was on a mission to finish this thing.  The only other photo I got was of a couple other vintage bowsaws that were brought to class:  my Swedish bowsaw (a gift from Jonas), and a beautiful English bowsaw that fellow student Bernard brought with him.  

This bowsaw was a great project, and it is a project that could easily be done in your shop.


  1. What a great looking saw.
    I think that the bow saw is Danish by the way.

    1. Thanks, Jonas. I didn't realize I needed it. The saw you gave me works great, and has a sharpenable blade on it. However, the new one has three blades, and the coursest is finer than the Danish bowsaw. I think this will work really great for fine work.

  2. Put a rubber washer between the handle and the frame. That gives more friction and cured mine with the same problem.

    1. One of our unsuccessful solutions was a leather washer. I think this one was spun too freely even for that.

  3. Great looking saw Brian. Isn't that a sweet project?

    As with Chris's class, I used the TFWW hardware, and the Gramercy design to make my own saw a couple of years ago. It has become a favorite in my shop.

    I too had the loose pins symptom. It's not just you, and maybe not even wax contamination. A cure I discovered was to trap a narrow sliver of 600 grit sandpaper in the hole with the pin.

    1. Thanks, Bob. We couldn't get much trapped in there. The tape seems to be holding. If that gives up, I think I will try dipping the pin in shellac and see what that does. Hopefully it will expand it just enough to be tight. I'm hoping that once the wax cures, the brass gets cruddy, and the wood aclimates, that it will tighten up a little all on it's own.

  4. I've never used a bow saw. Is there an advantage over using a coping saw. The bow saw seems like it would be heavier than a coping saw, but I'm not sure if that would be a good thing or a bad thing.


    1. Hi Bill,

      I haven't really got a chance to give it a good workout yet, but the one test cut I made with it was pretty sweet. It acts like a coping saw with a 12" blade. I think that makes it a lot more accurate.

      Surprisingly, all of the shaping of the wood reduces the weight considerably.

      I'll give it a proper workout and report back.