Choosing Your Hand Saw: Bowsaws Part 1

"Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking", "All my advanced students use a bowsaw, and I don’t brainwash my students. It has several advantages."

Choosing Your Hand Saw: Bowsaws Part 1

All start with the simplest task of dividing our wood into pieces.

You make furniture or any other kind of woodwork by preparing your wood, cutting it, slicing it, planing it, etc. The most basic pieces can be simple wood splits. You can cut it with a saw or you can split it with an axe.

Here is an example of a nice build/carved with splitting wood techniques.


Alex Walshaw

Let's move that aside for a moment... let's focus on cutting with a saw. How do you choose your hand saw? Well, you have many kinds of hand saws, different styles, techniques, and uses.

Traditionally, over the last century, the Western or English panel saw and broadly speaking, backsaw, have been the favorites for most renowned furniture makers and builders. Do not fool yourself into thinking they will be subpar compared to cutting on a table saw; it's all in the hands of the craftsman, not the tool.

How did I go about choosing my saw now that I am diving into the rabbit hole of hand tools? Well, needless to say to those that know me, but you who are reading this likely do not know me as well, I chose the least traveled road, the hardest path, or more unique adventures. I chose a traditional Continental European saw, a bowsaw, or a frame saw.

It's the simplest of them all. It used to be the norm for all of Europe until not too long ago. A simple thin blade within a frame with some sort of tensioner system, normally a string.

Jacob Andre Roubo, in his writings in the 18th century, shed some light on the milling process with what we know today as a Roubo Frame Saw, a monster that can be used to mill logs. Ironically, Roubo's writings are a call to recover the lost art of craftsmanship. Imagine if more than 200 years ago this was an issue, how much we have lost today.

Sawing the Roubo Way
One of the daunting tasks Michele, Philippe, and I face in bringing “To Make As Perfectly As Possible” – the furniture-making sections of Jacob Andre Roubo’s “L’Art du Menuisier&#…

Among modern master craftsmen and designers, two convinced me that this is the path I should go for and give it a try: Frank Klausz, a native of Hungary, and Tage Frid, who was a Danish woodworker brought to the USA by the American Craft Council and later became a professor of Woodworking and Furniture Design at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Tage, whom I am spending a considerable amount of time on his writing, said about the bowsaw in his three-part volume "Tage Frid Teaches Woodworking", "All my advanced students use a bowsaw, and I don’t brainwash my students. It has several advantages." Then he continues to enumerate some of the most important and unique features of the bowsaw, which is the equivalent of a modern bandsaw but a far simpler tool, yet difficult to master, "Because the blade is narrower and thinner than other saws, there is less friction in the kerf. The blade does not whip because it is kept in tension."

You can see both of these real master woodworkers making some dovetails in a matter of minutes. Something really worth watching. I have no doubt that the English-style panel saw and backsaw are amazing, but I am attracted to the simplicity and affordability of the bowsaw.

Watch (2:00 to 3:00 mark)

This is another fun read, Paul uses different lenses both make great points.

Frame saw or bow saw, what’s the difference?
I recently progressed the videos on making different types of frame saw using different ingredients to maximise performance. Visitors stopped by over the days I was working and we were filming and…

I have some new blades and some frames with me now and will keep you updated during my journey!

My new bowsaw.

Until the next one,