Episode #41: Re-sawing Hand Tool Style

Note: All of my old podcast videos have been moved to my YouTube channel.  You can now watch this video here:



47 thoughts on “Episode #41: Re-sawing Hand Tool Style

    • My friend Mike Siemsen wrote about how to build the saw http://schoolofwood.com/node/59. Most of the materials can be sourced from McMaster Carr. The blade is 1095 spring steel shim stock. I wasn’t able to find the 1/4″ wall thickness rectangular tubing at McMaster Carr though. Metals Depot does have it. The hardware, blades and end pieces for this saw were a gift to me, so I only had to make the long stretchers. But I did search for the materials to make the parts before I received them from Mike. I found everything at McMaster Carr except for the rectangular tubing (and the wood ;)).

  1. Hey Bob,
    Happy New Year!
    Great post. Wow, that thing is a real monster eh? well done indeed – 😉
    I have a smaller version I’ve been messing around with over the past few months and it’s been a hell of a lot of fun. Screw the budget and the space, we do this stuff for the joy of doing it!
    It certainly isn’t for everyone but those of us who get it, really GET IT.
    all the best and looking forward to more in 2012.

  2. Making the blade from a steel plate is probably a significant amount of work and requires tools few woodworkers have. For a smaller version, would it be possible to use a band saw blade and cut it to length? I occasionally need to resaw small pieces. I do have access to a band saw but don’t have one in my shop, and this seems like a potentially good option. Thanks a lot for the video!

    • Making the blade from a steel plate is probably a significant amount of work and requires tools few woodworkers have.

      Not so at all. Making the blade from a piece of spring steel can be accomplished with nothing more than a file and a pair of snips. Use the snips to cut the coil to length, then file in the teeth. I’ve done this dozens of times. The only specialty tool required is a saw set to add set to the teeth. Even that can be accomplished with a nail set and hammer if you are careful.

      I do not recommend using bandsaw blade. I have built and used numerous saws using bandsaw blade and none of them worked well. There are a couple of problems with bandsaw blade stock. First, it’s too narrow in my opinion. The blade on my saw is 2″ wide, which is about as narrow as I would care to go. The wider blade helps the saw track straight. The narrower the blade, the harder it is to track a straight line. I’ve not seen bandsaw blade this wide before. Second, and more importantly, bandsaw blade teeth are not shaped correctly for hand sawing. They are too aggressive with their positive rake angle, they typically have too much set, and the hook shape of the teeth is not friendly to hand sawing. At a minimum, if you were going to use bandsaw blade stock, I’d recommend grinding or breaking all of the teeth off and filing new ones. But then you are taking that narrow blade and making it even narrower. Since you would then have to file new teeth anyway, it doesn’t seem worth the effort to me. It’s easier to just start with a steel blank and just file the teeth in.

      I know that some folks have use bandsaw blade successfully, but I’ve never had any luck with it.

      • That looks like a fun saw. It would seem, though, that it could be improved by rounding over the square edges of the end pieces and even the ends of the long runners.

        I second your comments about bandsaw blades. They will cut but not straight and not well.

        Cheers — Larry

        • I did break the edges on everything with a small chamfer/round over, so it’s not as sharp as it appears. It’s not significant though. I don’t want to round the ears of the end pieces over too much though because I’m carving some volutes there ala Roubo. I may shape them slightly, but I want to make sure to leave room for the carving. Film at 11!

      • Just a quick comment on the bandsaw blade being too narrow. If you can get a piece of blade from a supplier of blades for sawmills is the answer. The stock they use is up to 6″ wide or more. A 3″ to 4″ by 4′ bit of blade would be just the thing. Just make sure you order a single sided blade as they do come in double edged. Anyway, that is my 2 bits worth on the subject. Thanks Bob for the video and the inspiration.

        • Thanks John for the suggestion. While these blades can be made to work, in my opinion, they still suffer from the same problem as the narrower bandsaw blades for home shop saws. Specifically, the teeth are the wrong shape for hand sawing. Some will even have carbide teeth, which will be very difficult to sharpen in the home shop, and they’ll still have the wrong shape. So basically, one would still be faced with grinding off all of the old teeth and filing in new ones. Easier, in my opinion, to just buy a length of 1095 spring steel from a place like McMaster Carr and file the teeth in from scratch. Or, you can buy a blade from Isaac Smith at Blackburn Tools. He’s making them now.

  3. Well timed, I was giving this subject some thought recently.

    I have a bandsaw, but it’s a pile of crud and will not saw straight no matter how much I try to adjust it, tune it, and curse at it.

    Since I am going more and more hand tool, I was wondering if I might have better luck with what you’re describing…

    I picked up a couple of blades from Traditional Woodworker a while ago with the intent of building a bow saw, and one of those blades is Rip, which might be a good thing.

    I can make two frames, one of them a Bow, and the other a Frame saw, and since both the blades are the same length I can interchange them as needed in the Bow, and use the Frame for ripping 1/2″ stock from bigger stock for making smaller boxes, and dividers.


  4. So cool. I’m seriously jealous.

    I have also been building a smaller frame saw this winter. I looked at Mike’s site and while I love that Roubo saw – I settled on the simpler “Josh Clark” design. I wanted to get something built sort of quickly as I have some cherry logs I want to resaw. Now that I think about I guess mine is very similar to the one Kari recenty built – including using the same blade from highland. I’ve ony used it a little bit, as I still need to shape the ends as it is sort of hard to hold right now (I am planning to shape my handles sort of like the one in Roubo).

    So far, I really like mine, except that the rip blade I got from Highland is about 5 1/2 ppi – so that really isn’t much different from one of my existing rip saws. That said, I still like it better for resawing. it seems easier to cut with – not sure if it is due to different set of the blades or just the form factor. Something for me to experiment with…

    I suspect in the future I may play with some different blades. I was thinking maybe 3 ppi would be better, but did I hear you right, 1-1/2?

    Which brings me to my question. Did you cut all the teeth by hand or did you get the blade with the teeth already roughed in?

    • Three PPI will be close to this saw. This one is 8 points in three inches, which works out to 2-2/3 points per inch or 1-2/3 teeth per inch. For this kind of work, 5-1/2 PPI is just too fine to be efficient. The teeth can be filed in from scratch, and I’ve done this dozens of times with other saws. This particular saw was deliverd to me with the teeth punched in. The blade required that the shaping of the teeth be finished with the file and then set and sharpened. The punch saves some time and gets the tooth spacing exact, but it’s not a necessity. The teeth can just be filed in. It takes a 10″ regular taper file. If you want to file them in from scratch, it will probably take 2-3 files. One to two files for cutting and shaping the teeth, then the third for final sharpening. If you punch them in, one file is enough.

      • Hi Bob,

        I don’t have a clue when it comes to metalwork, but I want to build a few saws (this is now one of them!). You mention the teeth being “punched in” — What tool is used for that? All I’ve been able to find are a few references to fly cutters or hole punches… Any pointers are appreciated! (Links to an example tool would be perfect.) Thanks!

        • Dave,
          The tool is an old Foley saw toother (sometimes called a re-toother). There are motorized versions as well as manual versions. For the long frame saw blade, they used the manual version as the motorized version would require special guide bars to be fabricated in order to handle the length. The standard guide bars that came with the machines were only designed to handle standard length hand saws up to 30″ long or so. However, you really don’t need the machine if you are only going to do a couple of saw blades. Even if you use a toothing machine, you stil have to file anyway, so you can simply file in the teeth right from the beginning. That is how I’ve done every one of the saw I’ve made, plus plenty of retoothing jobs for customers’ saws. Check out this podcast to see how that is done.

          • Bob,

            Thanks for the pointer to that episode! That approach will work perfectly for me.


  5. Cool saw!
    I’ve been ripping 16/4 poplar today with a 3 1/2 pt. It’s not fast; almost an insane thing to do. I find it easy to stay on the mark with the heavy saw plate though.
    I haven’t seen western rip handsaws down to ~1.67 pt. Have you heard of anyone refiling a hand saw this coarse? Do you feel a mechanical advantage for having a frame saw vs. a hand saw?
    Thanks for the episode!

    • Nicholson describes the standard ripping saw as having 8 teeth in 3 inches, or 2-2/3 teeth per inch. That’s a little finer than my saw, which is 8 points in three inches, which is 2-2/3 points per inch or 1-2/3 teeth per inch.

      I think the mechanical advantage of the frame saw for ripping real thick stock is that you can put your whole body into the cut. When I use this saw, my whole upper body pivots at my hips to progress the saw. That’s a lot more force with a lot less effort than just using the arm and shoulder from one hand. It’s much less tiring using the frame saw to rip thick stock than it is to use a hand saw with one hand. It’s not like cutting dovetails in 1/4″ pine, but it’s not exhausting like one might think either.

      That said, it is certainly possible to file a hand saw at 2-2/3 PPI. While it will certainly be faster than your current saw, I think it will be much more tiring to use.

    • Correct. Eight POINTS in 3 inches is 2.66 POINTS per inch. That is about 1.67 TEETH per inch. It’s a rough estimate. When you get into teeth this large, the difference between PPI and TPI isn’t exactly 1 and it is dependant on the rake angle of the tooth. But it’s close enough.

  6. Bob,

    Great job on the saw! Can’t wait to see you cutting up that fat log with it. How green is that? Just wondering if the ripping would be a bit easier with green would vs. dry.

    • It’s dead green. It’s also some kind of maple and not poplar. I tried sawing it but the blade is set for dry wood. It doesn’t have enough set to saw the green wood well. I’m also having a really hard time securing it for sawing. I may try to add more set but not right now. I like how it is set up for the dry wood. Since that will be its main use, I don’t want to go changing it right now. I can rive the green stuff and I don’t work green wood that often anyway.

  7. Bob.

    Cool saw! How is it filed? Any rake or fleam? How much set?

    I wonder if attaching vertical handles to the stretchers would make the cantilevering a little more controllable? Something with a knob on top. Anatomical placement would be one cubit minus one hand from the end. While you’re at it, you could put a spirit level on the crossbar as well. Gotta have saw bling!

    You also might want to try some suede glued to the jaws of your vise to get that coefficient of friction up.

    Now to be a bit persnickety. Your math converting points over multiple inches to teeth per inch is off. Points are counted starting with a point at the beginning of an interval. Whole teeth are counted within the interval. Teeth in an interval are equal to points in an interval minus one. Teeth per inch are easily determined by counting whole teeth and dividing by the interval. Converting points over multiple inches to teeth per inch requires subtracting one and then dividing by the interval. Converting points over multiple inches to points per inch requires subtracting one, dividing by the interval, and then adding one. Any other way of computing it gives different values for different intervals on the same saw! Your 8 points in 3 inches converts to 2-1/3 tpi and 3-1/3 ppi. You don’t count a point twice just because it falls on an inch division of your ruler.

    It would be much easier if ppi wasn’t used to specify saws. On the other hand it’s this kind of arcana that keeps things interesting.

    Straight sawing.

    • Yeah, I botched the math. Ah well. I’ve done worse. Just remember 8 points in 3 inches and forget the rest :).

      As for the bling, I don’t think it will be all that helpful. It would restrict changing grips for different situations and comfort. For me simpler is better, just like my bench and all my other tools.

      The suede on the vise jaws is a good idea. I’ve not had an issue previously but these teeth like to take a big bite :).

    • Lol, nah. That was a customer’s saw. File slipped out of the jointer and my finger went into the blade. I’ll spare you the gorey details, but it will be awhile before I get all the feeling back in that finger, if I get it all back.

  8. Bob I am impressed with this saw and enjoyed your video. I was wondering if it would be worth having a blade with a set for green wood and a second blade with a set for dry wood? I realize you don’t require cutting green wood often but having the two blades would make it a non-issue. As you pointed out in your video changing blades for the saw is pretty easy.

    • Having two blades set for green and dry wood would be the way to go. I may do that, but I don’t really have an immediate NEED. I was just playing to see how it would do in the log. I’ll likely just rive that log up. I don’t need sawn boards that short for anything.

  9. Bob, that saw is a brute and you can sure see how two people could make it fly. I built a smaller version a year ago to cut fellies for wagon wheels. It has a 28″ blade, 5 tpi filed rip, and a fairly agressive set. The saw cuts arcs so it is mostly ripping but also doing some crosscuts. It is a jewel and cuts very straight when the blade is tensioned. I have done a bit of veneer cutting and it works well for that too. I find it easier than my 5.5 tpi hand saw and I am using it more all the time. Thanks for the video!

  10. Awesome saw Bob! I’ve been waiting for this post. Knew you had one cooking from your previous post. Didn’t figure your wife would appreciate a the big hole in the backyard for the pit saw. I am definitely going to have to build a version for myself. I’ve just come into some beech logs that I’d like to break down into quarter-sawn (or rived) billets to set aside for future planes. If I were to saw these billets, this looks like just the ticket. And besides, it’d just look killer hanging up on the shop wall. 🙂 I like Kip’s idea of having 2 blades, with one set for dry and the other set for green wood. Once I get closer to the actual build, I’ll have to hit you up for some more info and specs. Meantime, happy sawing and start cranking out some book-matched veneer!

  11. Hi Bob,

    Another very interesting Blog, I really enjoyed seeing that saw and you using it. It may be a little big for me to handle but I believe a 3′ version would be awsome. This is going on my ever growing list of things to do. Have to finish my Bench ( actually a copy of your Bench ) first. I do have a Bandsaw but if I don’t have to fire it up all the better. I believe you could by that tubing off of some one who builds trailers and would be readily available.

    Thanks again for another awsome Blog / Demonstration.


  12. Hey Bob, have you given any though to letting in a square of steel where the tensioning screw meets the top frame. Seems to the screw will chew up the wood end frame pretty quickly.


    • Hi Glen,
      I neglected to mention it in the video but there is a 1/4″ thick steel plate with a dimple for the screw head, which was rounded to match, inlaid into the end piece and secured with a couple of screws. I think Mike shows it in his blog post about how they built the saws.

    • Sort of. It doesn’t work very well that way, at least for me. I find it harder to follow the line because in order to pull it, the board needs to be tilted towards me. When it is, I can’t see the line on the far side to track the saw. So I find it easier to track the two lines (across the end grain and down the edge) by angling the board slightly away and pushing the saw. There’s plenty of tension to make it easy to push the saw. Western frame & bow saws have all traditionally been pushed.

  13. Bob: Nice work. I’ve been a big fan of your blog for a long time and think this is one of the best posts ever, right up there with the Nicholson bench series.

    Speaking of which.. are you still happy with your Moxon style vise? It seems like your have to chase the work a bit. And the offsetting spacer seems a little cumbersome.

    I’ve started a bench inspired by your design and now wonder if I should tweak the vise design somehow when I get there.

    Thanks for another great contribution.

    • Hi Dan,
      Still love the twin screw vise. The piece slipping in this video wasn’t so much because of the vise as it was because of the short length of the piece combined with the extreme aggressiveness of the saw. In essence, there was more of the board exposed above the vise than there was below and between the jaws of the vise. It was a leverage issue. I’ve not had pieces move significantly in the vise like this ever before. The additional spacer is typically unnecessary as well. I put it in here to try and help balance the pressure of the vise a bit when using this saw, but haven’t needed to use it before. I just have to tweak the work holding slightly for using this huge saw. I may also need to flatten the apron a little better where the vise is. I didn’t spend a lot of time making sure it was flat there when I built the bench.

  14. I am seeing a small business opportunity for you – monster frame saw kits. Let me know when they will be available, I think I can find the wood needed in my shop. 🙂

    • I agree. 😉 Kits from you…or anyone, would be amazing. Especially for those whose shop time is very limited, and without means to cut the metal for the brackets.

  15. Hello Bob!! love your podcasts, would you consider on making this saw run on two U shaped horizontal beams and making it work similar as a pole lathe? Keep these videos oming very informative.

    • Sure, you could certainly build something like that. You’d either need a really high ceiling or you’d need to shorten the blade though. I think Roy Underhill did somethig like this in one of his books. He called it a sash saw, because it was built like a sash window. The blade was much shorter though.

  16. Bob, once you have that 1/8″ board, how do you hold it for planing? It would be interesting to see that on video.

    I’ve in the process of resawing some spruce into 1/2″ board for a little box – smoothing the cut is not too bad.

    But 1/8″ – how do you do it?

    Cheers – Miles

  17. Bob:

    I recently completed a wood bed frame that involved reducing 8/4 x 8″ x 9′ cherry boards to 6/4 with a jack plane … and there has got to be a better way (my lumber options are very limited in the southwest, or I’d have started with 6/4 to begin with).

    I’m curious whether you think it would be practical to work long (i.e. too long to stand up vertically in a vise) boards with the frame saw … I’m picturing putting a board up on saw stands, and cutting at a 45 with the frame saw, much like I’d rip a long board with a hand saw?

    Many thanks!

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