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Thread: It's Finished! Coping Saw-sized Japanese-Pull-Type Bow Saw (for Dovetails)

  1. #1
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    It's Finished! Coping Saw-sized Japanese-Pull-Type Bow Saw (for Dovetails)

    Anybody ever seen or heard of making a bow-type saw with a pistol grip instead of a turned ball-type thingie?

    The reason I ask is because I am thinking about trying to build a small bow-saw (patterned for the most part after Bob Smalser's Improved Coping Saw) for cutting dovetails.

    Bow saws have always looked unwieldy to me, what with most of the weight positioned above the handle when the saw is in a horizontal mode. I'm thinking that switching to a pistol grip would help with this and also allow the user to hold an index finger along the side of the blade for better control.

    Comments???
    Last edited by Tom LaRussa; 01-12-2005 at 10:50 AM. Reason: Fix Typo
    ---------------------------------------
    James Krenov says that "the craftsman lives in a
    condition where the size of his public is almost in
    inverse proportion to the quality of his work."
    (James Krenov, A Cabinetmaker's Notebook, 1976.)

    I guess my public must be pretty huge then.

  2. #2

    Form follows function in tool design Design

    Tom,

    I've never seen what you're thinking of doing but that doesn't mean it can't work. I doubt adding a modern saw handle will much improve your control though, and with a little practice with the tried and true one in your hand you might discover that the century's old design has merit of it's own. There is a feeling of a real hand full of tool when you wrap your hand around the frame of a bow saw. I can't speak for others but I've never held onto the "handle" of a bow in use. Your hand and wrist would be in a very unwieldy and painful angle if you held it that way. I alway's wrapped my hand around the frame/blade anchor. Anyway, IMHO, that handle sticking out of each end is mostly there to artfully terminate the blade anchor pin and twist the blade.

    IMHO, I've always believed it is a fairly graceful and delicate work of art with balance and proportions. I'm sure you've already considered other type of saws for cutting dovetails. I'd be interested in your reason for rejecting those and striking out on your own adding a modern modification?

    Finally, take another look at the saws on my web site I just finished. The bow saw carries a 16" blade and weighs less than a pound. There just isn't any awkward mass or imbalance apparent when you use it.

    Jerry
    Last edited by Jerry Crawford; 12-09-2004 at 12:33 AM. Reason: adding text

  3. #3
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    Mornin' Tom,

    Your idea sounds intriguing...it's just a question of balancing esthetics with form and function. We're so used to seeing the traditional style that anything else would seem like heresy! I always applaud innovation and creativity, but the bottom line is comfort and funcionality for the given task. In this case, it seems like an area that could be revisited...and perhaps even improved upon.

    I agree with Jerry about the use of handles on the trad. bowsaws...I just use em as blade tighteners/twisters. I actually hold the frame when sawing...and Jerry, you're actually holding the handle in the last pic of your bowsaw article!!! I'm sure you're doing that simply to take the photo with your right hand! OOPS!!!

    Keep us posted on your design developments Tom...always interesting. How are you enjoying your hacker bench BTW?!?
    Louis Bois
    "and so it goes..." Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Louis Bois
    Mornin' Tom,

    I agree with Jerry about the use of handles on the trad. bowsaws...I just use em as blade tighteners/twisters. I actually hold the frame when sawing...and Jerry, you're actually holding the handle in the last pic of your bowsaw article!!! I'm sure you're doing that simply to take the photo with your right hand! OOPS!!! :
    HA - another early riser

    but, you are correct about the handling of the saw in my site picture. I was trying to snap the picture with my right hand and hold the wobbly saw upright in the kerf and that's just how it came out.

    nevertheless, your point is well taken. I have another saw on the bench this week and when finished that one will be photographed more correctly
    Last edited by Jerry Crawford; 12-09-2004 at 8:17 AM.

  5. #5

    Tool design is a living process

    Tom:

    While I'm generally in agreement with Jerry that the current bowsaw design is probably the near perfect result of design evolution, I'd like to encourage you to try out your pistol grip idea.

    In this minor renaissance of hand tool usage, we shouldn't necessarally be beholden to traditional designs. True, the classic tool forms, borne of generations of trial and error, probably do represent the near epitome of hand tool design. But as Veritas is showing us on an almost seasonal basis, it doesn't mean old designs can't be improved upon.

    If you've got the time and inclination, I say go for it. One design consideration I'd like to suggest however. I propose that you incorporate your pistol grip as an extension of one of the two upright arms, rather than where the ball grip would normally go. If you do this, I think that you'll achieve a hand grip position that affords both better control and leverage over the cutting action.

    If you go this route however, you'll have to really think through wood choice and grain orientation, or even consider a laminated tool component. A combined bow saw upright and pistol grip will need to handle both tensile and shear forces, and depending on how you design and lay out the pistol grip, those forces could be concentrated in a small area that runs across, rather than with, the wood grain.

    Naturally, if you proceed, we expect to see pictures of the result, whether or not you meet with success. Remember, at SMC, we have very long memories.
    Marc

  6. #6
    hear-hear Marc, I support the idea that experimentation is necessary for the learning and creation of new and improved usefulness. I did that when I designed in those doglegs on the frame saw I made so Tom and I parallel thinkers. I've had fun experimenting and documenting my process & I look forward to seeing what Tom comes up with.

  7. #7


    I've got these out for trial with two West Coast shipwrights and two local high-end finish carpenters who are using them regularly, and this is the consensus on how small saws like this should be held. The closer the hand is to the blade the more precise the control.

    The knob handle should be sized to fit the individual hand, as there is a lot of preference variation there.
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  8. #8
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    Bob ,

    That is beautiful! And a nice size for small joinery. Are you selling them?
    "All great work starts with love .... then it is no longer work"

  9. #9
    That's why I post the design for folks to make their own. Too many steps and the resulting too many hours, Mark...and I've made one or two before over the decades.

    6 hours @ 40 bucks a shop hour simply isn't reasonable for a 15-dollar coping saw....and I've already plenty of work backed up for that amount of money. I wouldn't sell anything at a lesser level of finish, either.

    http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthre...ghlight=coping

    Last edited by Bob Smalser; 12-09-2004 at 2:09 PM.
    “Perhaps then, you will say, ‘But where can one have a boat like that built today?’ And I will tell you that there are still some honest men who can sharpen a saw, plane, or adze...men (who) live and work in out of the way places, but that is lucky, for they can acquire materials for one third of city prices. Best, some of these gentlemen’s boatshops are in places where nothing but the occasional honk of a wild goose will distract them from their work.” -- L Francis Herreshoff

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Smalser
    6 hours @ 40 bucks a shop hour simply isn't reasonable for a 15-dollar coping saw....and I've already plenty of work backed up for that amount of money. I wouldn't sell anything at a lesser level of finish, either.

    I hear that! I have over 40 hours in my first pair, but that was mostly learning curve. Besides, something like this is best made by the user and it's a personal gloat when it's finished. OTOH, they make perfect gifts to son's and brothers who are also woodworkers.


  11. #11
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    Here ya go, Tom:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...135953353&rd=1


    Ok, its more of a hacksaw, but it might provide some inspiration.

    FWIW I recently made a Smalser-style coping saw. The grip shown above is actually quite comfortable...and the tension you can apply with this design is incredible.

    When the digicam is operational I'll post a pic.
    ~Dan

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Crawford
    I can't speak for others but I've never held onto the "handle" of a bow in use. Your hand and wrist would be in a very unwieldy and painful angle if you held it that way. I alway's wrapped my hand around the frame/blade anchor. Anyway, IMHO, that handle sticking out of each end is mostly there to artfully terminate the blade anchor pin and twist the blade.

    {{{snip}}}

    I'd be interested in your reason for rejecting those and striking out on your own adding a modern modification?
    Jerry,

    Part of the answer to your question lies in your statement above it. If the only reason for the knob is as an anchor to the blade, then why not make something with a proper handle instead? This is especially so since for my purpose I do not want the blade to be able to spin on its axis; indeed, I want it anchored parallel to the frame of the saw.

    I have tried other saws -- a couple pull saws, some rigid-backed saws like Leif makes, and one of those ambidextrous (sp?) dovetail saws -- you know, where the handle can be reversed so that it offsets either right or left.

    But the saw I like best of all for accurate cutting is my Nobex Champion -- which is essentially an aluminum bow saw attached to a miter device. So what I'm really trying to do is create a much smaller, wooden version of the Nobex for use on dovetails.

    Does that make sense?
    ---------------------------------------
    James Krenov says that "the craftsman lives in a
    condition where the size of his public is almost in
    inverse proportion to the quality of his work."
    (James Krenov, A Cabinetmaker's Notebook, 1976.)

    I guess my public must be pretty huge then.

  13. #13
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    937
    Quote Originally Posted by Marc Hills
    Tom:

    While I'm generally in agreement with Jerry that the current bowsaw design is probably the near perfect result of design evolution, I'd like to encourage you to try out your pistol grip idea.

    In this minor renaissance of hand tool usage, we shouldn't necessarally be beholden to traditional designs. True, the classic tool forms, borne of generations of trial and error, probably do represent the near epitome of hand tool design. But as Veritas is showing us on an almost seasonal basis, it doesn't mean old designs can't be improved upon.
    Thanks Mark!



    If you've got the time and inclination, I say go for it. One design consideration I'd like to suggest however. I propose that you incorporate your pistol grip as an extension of one of the two upright arms, rather than where the ball grip would normally go. If you do this, I think that you'll achieve a hand grip position that affords both better control and leverage over the cutting action.
    Gee, nobody's gonna believe me now, but that's what I've been planning all along.


    If you go this route however, you'll have to really think through wood choice and grain orientation, or even consider a laminated tool component. A combined bow saw upright and pistol grip will need to handle both tensile and shear forces, and depending on how you design and lay out the pistol grip, those forces could be concentrated in a small area that runs across, rather than with, the wood grain.
    Hmm... Now that I hadn't really thought of. I just figured that so long as I used a nice strong wood and kept it reasonably thick I wouldn't have to worry about it.


    Naturally, if you proceed, we expect to see pictures of the result, whether or not you meet with success. Remember, at SMC, we have very long memories.
    Oh don't worry, as a part-time member of the Pic Police, I know the rules!

    In fact, here is the first pic for you. It's just a mock-up. I have one handle roughed out, so I posed it with a blade, a piece of wood to represent a stretcher, and a piece of metal rod to represent the tensioning thingie. Then I flipped the pic and pasted the flipped version next to the original so it sort of looks like a complete saw, except that the proportions are way off and it's sort of bent in the middle.

    Let me know what you think.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    ---------------------------------------
    James Krenov says that "the craftsman lives in a
    condition where the size of his public is almost in
    inverse proportion to the quality of his work."
    (James Krenov, A Cabinetmaker's Notebook, 1976.)

    I guess my public must be pretty huge then.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Smalser
    6 hours @ 40 bucks a shop hour simply isn't reasonable for a 15-dollar coping saw....and I've already plenty of work backed up for that amount of money. I wouldn't sell anything at a lesser level of finish, either.
    Bob,

    I'm no expert on woodworking, but I've surfed every fine tool site out there and I can say with absolute certainty that what you made ain't no $15 coping saw! (Not that I'm arguing for you to go into tool making -- what you do is your business.)

    BTW, thanks for posting your plan. If you look at my mockup above you'll see (I think?) that I started with your plan but kind of mushed things together a tiny bit so I'd have room to extend a handle below the blade.
    ---------------------------------------
    James Krenov says that "the craftsman lives in a
    condition where the size of his public is almost in
    inverse proportion to the quality of his work."
    (James Krenov, A Cabinetmaker's Notebook, 1976.)

    I guess my public must be pretty huge then.

  15. #15
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    Posts
    937
    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Moening
    Here ya go, Tom:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...135953353&rd=1


    Ok, its more of a hacksaw, but it might provide some inspiration.
    Dan,

    Actually I think it's a bone saw -- for cutting through joints of meat.


    FWIW I recently made a Smalser-style coping saw. The grip shown above is actually quite comfortable...and the tension you can apply with this design is incredible.

    When the digicam is operational I'll post a pic.
    Hey, you know the rules. No pic, no tool!
    ---------------------------------------
    James Krenov says that "the craftsman lives in a
    condition where the size of his public is almost in
    inverse proportion to the quality of his work."
    (James Krenov, A Cabinetmaker's Notebook, 1976.)

    I guess my public must be pretty huge then.

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