Bow Saw Build

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Blog entry by paratrooper34 posted 01-04-2016 01:37 AM 765 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I have been wanting a bow saw to take over curved cutting duties from my crappy 5 Euro coping saw that I have been putting up with for about ten years now. So here is my build of a bow saw.

In the summer of 2013, I attended a class at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright School in Pittsboro, NC. While there, I met Bill Anderson. First, let me just say for anyone who never met him, what a great guy. Friendly, personable, just an all-around good guy. So we were talking about his bow saw (which is what mine is made from) and I asked where I could get the brass fittings for the blade. He said he has them custom made and he will sell me a pair. He took my info and sure enough, about a week after the class, they arrived in the mail (they were not pre-paid, I sent him a check when I got them). So I had the parts that were necessary and I never got around to working on the saw until this summer.

I now have the parts, my life schedule allows work on the bow saw to begin, but what to use for wood. Bill used QS Beech for his. I don’t have any of that on hand, but I do have a couple of big chunks of some other species. I have Lignum Vitae, Hard Maple, and Osage Orange that are all big enough to cull quarter sawn pieces from. I went with the Osage Orange as I never worked with it before and figured it would be a challenge. I was right about that; it was challenging to work with. More on that later.

Here is the big block I started with. It was completely encased in wax, that’s what is piled up on the bench.

I used my band saw to cut it to take advantage of the growth rings and produce quartersawn pieces. These were used for the arms.

You will notice that the arms are oriented so that the grain is straight for the finial portion of the arms. This is because that area will see the greatest stress, so the best the grain can offer is there. Here is a picture of all the pieces rough cut. Two arms, one stretcher, one whorl, one toggle, and two handles.

The whorl is the name given to the piece that the twine used to tension the blade wraps around. The toggle and the whorl are collectively called the windlass. I used a round rasp to cut the groove in the whorl.

The plans I am following for the bow saw call for a spline in the bottom of the arms installed cross grain to provide additional strength where the brass pieces are. The plans called for a 3/8” spline which somehow was lost in translation to me and I made the ones for mine 3/4”. I didn’t notice the error until the glue set. Chalk this one up to pay better attention.

The part of the brass piece that passes through the arm is tapered and the hole in the arm needs to be tapered as well. The taper is made by a #2 Brown and Sharp reamer. I had to buy that tool; $32 off According to the plans, the smallest diameter of that taper is 5/16” so I drilled a hole in each arm at that size. Since my Delta drill press blew up on me, I busted out the old school Millers Falls drill press and made some holes.

Now time to watch some football, I will continue this later.

-- Mike

6 comments so far

View onoitsmatt's profile


215 posts in 594 days

#1 posted 01-04-2016 02:22 AM

Will be watching with interest. Thanks for posting, Mike! And love that MF Drill press.

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

View theoldfart's profile


7934 posts in 1870 days

#2 posted 01-04-2016 02:25 AM

Mike, this looks to be a much needed(by me) blog. Pretty brave using Osage as well. Good to see your posts again.

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Reaperwoodworks's profile


94 posts in 353 days

#3 posted 01-04-2016 02:27 AM

Watching. Looks good so far! What a great old drill press!

-- Website:, Youtube:

View onoitsmatt's profile


215 posts in 594 days

#4 posted 01-04-2016 02:40 AM

Seriously, I have to have one of those drill presses now.

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

View Handtooler's profile


1355 posts in 1551 days

#5 posted 01-04-2016 04:18 AM

Great Blog. I’ll certainly be watching for the continuation. I want one also. Does yours differ considerably from the Gramercy pattern?

-- Russell Pitner Hixson, TN 37343

View paratrooper34's profile


865 posts in 2370 days

#6 posted 01-04-2016 11:08 PM

Russ, I don’t think there is much difference. My version is using the blades from Grammercy, so the length will be the same.

-- Mike

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