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Thread: Bow Saw -- Preferred Wood Species?

  1. #1
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    Bow Saw -- Preferred Wood Species?

    A friend and I are going to try making some bow (frame) saws using blades from Traditional Woodworker. We'll do them in a similar "classic" style as what's depicted at the Traditional Woodworker web site. The size of the saws will be based on the length of the blades which are either 15" or 24".

    I've got some questions for those of you that have experience making and using these types of saws:


    1. What's the preferred species of wood to use, if you have access to any species? What's the next best choice if you're limited to whatever is at a typical U.S. hardwood supplier?
    2. What's the preferred material to use for the cord used to tension the saw?

  2. #2
    I have an antique one made of beech but I would think any relatively stiff, dense hardwood would work just fine (oak, ash, hickory, maple, birch, etc.). I would pay more attention to grain than species. For the strongest and lightest parts you want straight grained wood with the absolute minimum amount of grain runout. If you can find riven wood that has subsequently been air dried, I would think it to be the best. However, in the absence of riven wood, the straightest grained quarter or rift sawn stuff should be good.
    Bob

    "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

  3. #3
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    I use walnut or oak because I have it, I have an old Disston Bow Turning Saw that I got one end and the handle at a flea mkt, I am pretty sure it was made of beech or birch, I found a scrap that a friend had of Birch and used that to make the parts I was missing. Fortunately I got the end that had the Disston name on it.

    I use a cord I got from Lee Valley for the tightner, I am not sure they carry it anymore. Before I found the Lee Valley Cord, I used Jute packing cord and waxed it some as it has a tendency to unravel and come apart easily in its natural state.

    The Disston saw with Jute tension cord.


    Walnut Bow Saw.


    Oak Bowsaw with Walnut stretcher and contoured hand holds.


    All the pictures are before I found the Lee Valley Cord.
    Jr.
    Hand tools are very modern- they are all cordless
    NORMAL is just a setting on the washing machine.
    Be who you are and say what you feel... because those that matter... don't mind...and those that mind...don't matter!
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  4. #4
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    I also twist the cord so that the paddle used to twist it is always on the right side when using it, so I know which way the teeth are going without having to check the teeth to make sure.
    Jr.
    Hand tools are very modern- they are all cordless
    NORMAL is just a setting on the washing machine.
    Be who you are and say what you feel... because those that matter... don't mind...and those that mind...don't matter!
    By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand

  5. #5
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    Ash

    I used ash for my two saws. I got a great deal on some straight grained, air dried ash (1000 bf for $200) and the first thing I made with it was my first bow saw. Works great.

    For the tension cord, I used some 20lb hemp cord, waxed it, and ran about 15 loops of it around the saw. This also works great.

    A recommendation is to use a light weight wood for the center stretcher. I believe Frank Klausz recommends cedar.

    Zach
    Your endgrain is like your bellybutton. Yes, I know you have it. No, I don't want to see it.

    Ask me why I use hand tools, and I'll tell you

  6. #6
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    I just got my saw blade in and bought a piece of hickory to make the saw...

  7. #7
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    I made mine out of straight-grained hickory. I also used the Tools for Working Wood parts and plan. It's the 12" blade.
    Veni Vidi Vendi Vente! I came, I saw, I bought a large coffee!

  8. #8
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    Michael, I didn't see the pins for sale. Can you get those from Traditional Woodworker or will you make your own?

    Tools for Working Wood sells a different style pin.

    Brian
    Veni Vidi Vendi Vente! I came, I saw, I bought a large coffee!

  9. #9
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    http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=12603 Bob Smalser had a nice thread on this....
    Crown Molding: cut, cope, cuss, caulk, chill....

    Did you know SMC is user supported? Please help.

  10. #10
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    I use a synthetic string (something like spectra) on mine and it is great. It behaves almost like steel with near zero stretch. When tightened it makes the frame very rigid.

  11. #11
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    Robert,

    Thanks for the thoughts on grain versus species. I do have some Beech, Oak, and Ash on hand and will go through those to see which has the best grain pattern.

    Harry,

    Thanks for posting the pictures of your bow saws and thoughts on the tensioning cord. Regarding your walnut and oak bow saws. Could you tell me more about the pins used to hold the blade and/or a close up or three of how those work? I'll be using blades that have holes in them, and not pins, so I'm still deciding on the best way to fabricate those bits. Regarding the cord you got from Lee Valley is it by chance their Utility Cord? How about Lee Valley's Garden Twine?

    Zach,

    Thanks for the tips on hemp and light weight center stretcher.

    Chris,

    Thanks for the link to Bob Smalser article on bow saws.

    Thanks to everyone else that has replied or commented.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian Kent View Post
    Michael, I didn't see the pins for sale. Can you get those from Traditional Woodworker or will you make your own?
    I think I'm going to have to make my own pins, as it doesn't appear that Traditional Woodworker sells them. If I continue with my plan to have turned handles on the ends. The blades from Traditional Woodworker have holes, instead of pins like on scroll/coping saw blades. I'm thinking I may use something like round bar stock, drill a hole through one end, tap it with some threads, and then split it about 3/8"-1/2" inch with a hacksaw and then put some kind of knurling on the ends. Then I'll just epoxy that into a turned handle. If someone knows of a source for hardware like this, I'd rather it buy it, than fabricate it.

    From what I can tell, by looking at the pictures of Harry Strasil's Walnut and Oak saws, is they have a mortise/slot for the blades to fit in and then a metal pin just goes through the wood and the blade. Those look pretty easy to do. Assuming I'm interpreting the pictures correctly.

  13. #13
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    been gone for a couple of days, I just sawed a slot in the saw handle and drilled a hole and cut off ordinary nails and used them to hold the blade.
    Jr.
    Hand tools are very modern- they are all cordless
    NORMAL is just a setting on the washing machine.
    Be who you are and say what you feel... because those that matter... don't mind...and those that mind...don't matter!
    By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand

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