Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sawing out the Waste

The Bow Saw Approach

This post was inspired by Chris Schwarz' blog this morning dealing with the plus and minus' of using a Fret saw or a Coping saw for removing the waste between dovetails.
I too have struggled with the thicker blade of the coping saw and the seemingly less than ideal Fret saw market that exists; I have yet to find one I've enjoyed using...
'All you saw makers out there better get your gear on! '
Now that said I've been using my bow saw for the past few months and will probably never go back to the shorter throw of a Fret saw nor the clumsy feel and lack of decent blades for my Coping saw...
The Gramercy Tools 12" Bow saw, fitted with it's finest blade, (it came with three, a fine, medium and heavy) is hard to beat. I challenge anyone who has this saw to tell me what coping or fret saw on the market today does a better job at removing the waste when cutting dovetails. Seriously, I would love to know of a well made Fret saw.
If you don't already own a bow saw, maybe putting it on your-'list of tools to buy' is a good idea, you'll be surprised at how many times you'll be reaching for it. So a bow saw...when you get one...more specifically, get this one, try it out for cutting out the waste between dovetails; you won't be disappointed. It's a great deal at $139.00...actually I just checked the Tools for Working Wood website and it's 10% off right now! Geeze, like 'ol Joel was reading my mind!

This is a shot from two weeks ago; the bow saw on the bench in the background was used to saw out the waste in this difficult,'finger-jointed dovetailed' cabinet I'm building. Tough to beat indeed...


  1. Hear here!!!

    My bow saw is one of the most used tools in the boat shop. Ooooops, not many dovetails in my boats, but lots of reasons to use a bow saw. I swear BY it, never AT it, quite the opposite of any coping saw I've owned.

    Mine is made to Gramercy's plan using Gramercy pins and blades, and my own wooden parts.

  2. I'm glad you posted about this. I haven't been overly thrilled with my coping saw either, and was thinking that this would be a job better suited to a bow saw.

    Now, where can I find $140?

  3. Bob,

    Thanks for the comment, I too made one a few years back while building wooden father in law borrowed it to saw some limbs off an old apple tree can probably guess what happened.
    Note: For anyone else reading this comment, Bob Easton has an absolutely incredible blog worth checking out. Hand tools, wooden boat building and an inspriratinal philosophy of working wood; what could be better than that? I've just added his link on the side bar.

  4. Just found your blog on Evenfall's blog. I came to the same belief that that bow saw was the answer but I haven't got the kit yet. Glad you reminded of that.

    Really liked the dovetail/finger joint as well.

    Charlie Mastro

  5. Hey Woodjoint,
    Thanks for the comments...funny, I stumbled onto your blog last year and for some mental gap, forgot to bookmark it...the whale tail work is incredible!! Anyhow, now that I have your link again, I've got some reading to do...

  6. Hi Tom,
    How do you pronounce your last name, fid/gen, fidg (as in refridgerator)/en, or with a french pronunciation? I'm curious about the name's history.

    Your toolbox design is excellent and the price is very reasonable.

    Could you talk about how you've dealt with lighting in your basement shop? I, too, work "down in the dungeon" and am starting to focus on that. It has probably been the cause of more errors than anything. Recently I got some "anglepoise lamps", as David Charlesworth calls them, and am working on a sliding track system for my bench and other work areas, so that there can be a source of raking light as needed.

    Also, what does your sharpening station look like?

    Best, Tico

  7. Tico,

    Thanks so much for the comments.
    My name is pronounced like 'pidgeon' with an F.
    As for lighting a basment shop I agree with's my greatest challenge and find it to be the cause of alot of mishap in my work. Nothing can beat or replace natural lighting. I presently have a couple of flourecent fixtures with those 'natural sunlight' light strips in them. I have two more of those 'clip on' style desk lights that I move around constantly depending on where exactly I'm working at the time. I have a bench light near my tail vise...the kind with a magnifying glass and one of those home center style worklight stands that I only use when I'm really feeling the 'pressure'!! They throw off an incredible amount of heat. Nice in these Canadian, late Febuary deep freezes but a real furnace otherwise.
    I'm going to be moving my shop back up out of the mine and onto ground level this coming fall/winter...I'll be blogging my way through the move so stay tuned for that.
    As for my sharpening station, I'll post something later this week to show you my set up and process.
    Happy shavings and thanks again for the suggestion.

  8. Hi Tom

    Does the blade of the gramercy bow saw fit in the kerf of a dosuki or would one need to first cut to the baseline.

    Have you tried the bow saw for cutting dovetails?


  9. Martin,

    The bow saw blade thickness does indeed fit within the kerf of my Dozuki saw which happens to be the one from Lee Valley Tools. They call it the Japanese Rip-Tooth Dozuki and it sells for $102.00 Canadian dollars.
    That said I don't actually use my Japanese saws for cutting dovetails but prefer my Lie Nielsen dovetail saw; you can't beat it.
    As for cutting dovetails with the bow saw...the above also should give you an answer...although I'll have to try it out, I personally wouldn't think you'd have too many enjoyable hours at the bench cutting the main body of a dovetail with a bow saw...maybe one or two in some uncommon situation but the 1100 plus dovetails I've cut over the past few months would have no other vehicle than the Lie Nielsen. Now a 'Frame saw' such as the one Frank Klausz performs with is another story altogether. He uses that thing like a Ginsu knife! Incredible...
    Hope this helps...
    Thanks again for the comments.

  10. I use a German made fret saw, purchased from Traditional Woodworker:

    It is very nice for the intended purpose of a fretsaw. For cutting out the waste of dovetails, I have actually thought about the Gramercy bowsaw, but have learned to use my coping saw with good results. The trick for me is using two hands, holding both ends the frame. That yields very good control. I think the thicker blade is much better for cutting through 3/4" stock than a fretsaw.