Tools for Working Wood
The Gramercy Tools Bow Saw
Plans, Notes, and Tips on Use

Our other document on design considerations explains how we arrived at our production design. This document details just a few additional notes on important items to consider if you are building your own saw.

The Gramercy Tools design is what we would consider the optimum for a general purpose turning saw. Historically every trade used slightly different versions of the saw to meet their own specifications. That said, we think you can have a lot of fun playing with the design and making a frame that suits your needs. You can also make multiple frames for one pair of handles, multiple stretchers for one frame, or a different toggle for each day of the week, if you like.

 

Safety is really important. Always wear eye protection. You never know what might happen and it's not worth the risk.

Our shop drawings are available on our website in Acrobat .PDF format. Click here. You will need to download Adobe Acrobat to read and print them. Make sure you deselect the Acrobat printing option "fit to page" (which is the default when printing the plans, otherwise they will be reduced in size.) In order to create full - sized templates the plans are formatted to print out on 8 1/2" x 14" paper. On sheet 4 of the drawing we have provided a photoscale for you to verify that your printer is not resizing the drawings.

Notes:

  1. The material specification HICKORY is, of course, merely a suggestion. Historically, boxwood and beech were widely used. Any reasonably strong, clear, straight grained wood should suffice for a frame, but the strength of your saw depends largely on the type of wood you use. The cheeks will be under pretty high stress and if there is a flaw in the wood, or if you over tighten the saw, the cheeks can crack, possibly leading to parts flinging about.
  2. Gluing the pins is a fairly straightforward operation. The two most important points to remember here are (1) that the handles must be bored with a tight, 1/4" diameter hole, and (2) the glue must dry with sufficient thickness and hardness to utilize the positive interference provided by the pin's grooves and flat. Aliphatic resin wood glue or polyurethane adhesives will probably work just fine, but you can't go wrong with a good 2-ton epoxy. Mix well and serve.
  3. Our design shows curved mortise faces and tenon shoulders. As our design document states, we did it for flexibility. Since our saws are made on automated production machinery it's pretty easy for us to do. If you are working by hand, squared up mortises, tenons, and faces are the way to go.
  4. The slots in our pins are about .030" wide. If you choose to use a wider, thicker blade you may find you need to grind the ends of your blade thinner or widen the slots with some folded sandpaper.
  5. TENSIONING AND OVER-TENSIONING YOUR SAW - READ CAREFULLY

  6. We use braided fishing line to tension our saws. Its quite strong and doesn't stretch. Tie it in a big loop and then wrap the tops of the cheeks. Use enough to get it around about eight times. That way, when you insert the toggle, you'll have at least four strands on either side. The first time you tension your saw, do it slowly, checking your construction for weaknesses or hidden flaws with each twist of the toggle. Our toggle design offers considerable leverage with which to tension your saw. Once you've reached sufficient tension for comfortable sawing, STOP. While it is always possible to over-tension and break a bow saw, it is especially possible to break a new saw. Read on.
  7. DO NOT rely on the difficulty of turning the toggle to gauge the tension of the blade. This can be highly deceptive. We've found that the blade tension on a pair of identical saws can be exactly the same, but moving the toggles can feel effortless or impossible depending on the thickness of the cord and the design of the toggle. The correct way to tell if your saw is properly tensioned is by using it. A properly tensioned saw will cut smoothly on the push stroke with very little give in the blade. However, no amount of tensioning will prevent a thin blade from twisting in the middle as you turn it into a cut. To avoid twisting the blade when you saw a curve take long full strokes, and saw through the curve.
  8. Bow saws take time to mature. To greatly increase the life of your saw, loosen it by one or two turns of the toggle when you are finished cutting. The cheeks will get a chance to rest and not become permanently bent. Over the first few weeks of using your saw you will get a feeling for the right amount of tension that works for you, your saw design, and your wood.