A Shop Made Bowsaw

The traditional bowsaw is a magical thing. Almost entirely made from wood, with only the minimum quantity of metal involved. The essence of the design is a mortise and tenoned 'H' shape, but on this simple canvas, the scope for elegant shaping, moulding and discreet chamfering seem unlimited (except by your own good taste and judgement ;-)

I'd always wanted to make my own bowsaw. I had long ago seen and purchased a spare pair of boxwood handles with brass blade holders at a flea market. These are actually quite common; the frames are often made of lesser wood, and rot or break, but boxwood handles are verydurable. Older catalogues actually list handles (in pairs) in addition to complete saws, so building your own bowsaw is nothing new.

But many of the plans published in magazines and books are a little clumsy. Then I saw a very fine example on a dealer's table. Just the sort of shape I had in mind. A remarkably small amount of money changed hands, and I had a model for my self built saw. The flaw in this plan (which you may have spotted) is that having bought a bowsaw to use as a pattern, the impetetus went out of the dream to build my own. But my loss is your gain. I crawled all over the saw with rule and caliper, and here's the resulting plan(67K, pdf)

If you build a saw, I'd love to hear from you; even better send me a picture, or a link to a picture (if you have your own website) and I'll add you to the gallery below

If (on the other hand) you're looking to do some resawing (i.e. making thin boards out of thick boards) you've typed in the wrong type of saw, and ended up in the wrong place. Josh Clark's site will show you how to make and use a "Frame Saw" (here's another by Christopher Swingley) , which is what you need for this task.

Plans from Other Sources

picture of bowsaw

Gallery of saws made from this plan

Brian Buckner

This industrious gentleman appears to have making his own tools as a hobby; his website is heaving with beautifully crafted items. Which (for the purpose of this gallery) include both a full size and scaled down version of the bug-saw

2 saws

Tony 'S'

Living in Merrye Englande, posted a tale of success on Badger Pond's handtool forum

bow saw

Darrell La Rue...

Made a small version, that takes a standard modern coping saw blade. The metallic circle is a Canadian 25 cent coin.

bow saw

William R. Duffield

A woodworker of high ability, made a lovely version from curly maple, cherry, olive burl, purpleheart, with seine twine. Ironically the (modern, super strong) kevlar he initially used wore out! His fancy paddle is documented on his website.
bow saw

William Claspy

Who has a web page with some other shop made tools made this one...

bow saw

James Roadman

(who has his own web site) used maple to make this example, and certainly showed his woodturning skills on those beautiful handles.
bow saw

David Clapp

This OLDTOOLs denizen attended a shaker box making class, and saw Gil Chesbro's bowsaw making class (see below) going on at the same time. Being latheless, the rather good looking handles were scavenged from an old file and an old screwdriver. Every good Galoot has a few of those, right? The result looks (IMHO) very fine.

bow saw

Alan Bierbaum

Who also graces my bench page, was caught (;-) using this one in a photo he posted to woodcentral.

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Frank D. in Montreal

Posted to Woodcentral. His saw is cherry and maple, with boxwood chisels handles sourced from Lee Valley.
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Roy Griggs

A member of the OLDTOOLS list made this version in Brazilian cherry, using a bandsaw blade.

bow saw

Ted Reischl (of Rock River Wood Werks)

This saw is made from walnut and brass, finished in tung oil and three coats of shellec (which accounts for the splendid shine). Ted also chose to create the "fancy" tensioning device instead of the 'umble paddle, and very sweet it looks too.

bow saw

Pete Mueller

Made one from a kit of parts supplied by Dave Tobbe . The completion was duly announced (after an appropriate and proper delay) on the OLDTOOLS list

bow saw

And a special tale of success

Rather a lot of saws (10 if I've counted correctly), based on this design and a Marples original were made at a shop class hosted by Gil Chesbro

Wes Groot's story and photos from the same event

bow saw
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