Making a Traditional Turning Saw, part 1

1907Tools-frame saw

Image from a 1907 turning saw add.

Bucksaws, bowsaws, and other frame saws are often lumped together into a single category in modern American or British English (unless you happen to be a traditional hand woodworker of course).  And why should anyone care anyway?  Bucksaws are replaced by chainsaws, bowsaws have become cheap, pot-metal, throw away abominations, and turning saws are replaced by band saws, scroll saws, saber saws, or even cheap coping saws.

The firewood bucksaw is the biggest of this family and one I’m glad to have in my toolkit.  Yes, I still own a chainsaw but find I use it less and less in favor of the quiet bucksaw that takes no petroleum and spews out no noxious fumes.  I have read that most homes kept a big bucksaw handy as the easiest means of creating firewood and I can certainly understand why this would rank above the axe for cutting logs to length.

Firewood bucksaw, the grandfather of the family.

Firewood bucksaw, the grandfather of the family.

Skipping even the practicality of being able to make your own excellent tools for a few dollars (or less if you are energetic), there is a great beauty and practicality in this ancient design that our ancestors hit upon a couple thousand years ago.  The basic premise of this design is to create a structure that will put a very thin strip of serrated metal under immense tension to simulate the stiffness of a much thicker material.

I regret that we’ve come to a point in our history where making a tool is odd, yet making something with our tools is not (yet).  Where working for hours at some other thing, we get tokens of cash to purchase something we could have made ourselves in far less time and probably less energy spent.  I believe Thoreau was on to this sort of thinking.

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Splitting out the pieces.

Halving and halving again to make straight grained boards.

Halving and halving again to make straight-grained boards.

Choosing a length of straight-grained oak in this case, an axe is, by far, the fastest method of reducing it into the constituent pieces for the saw parts.  This is far faster and better than sawing, creates no noise or dust, and ensures that each part is exactly in alignment with the grain.

Finished in seconds.

Finished in seconds.

For a quick and dirty saw, these could be worked almost instantly into the mortice and tenon.  However, as we always intend to make a tool we will cherish and pass on, some shaping is in order with an eye for form and comfort.

Template on card stock.

Template on card stock.

I have a file of templates I keep from past projects so I don’t have to continually reinvent these things and I highly recommend this.  I find it helpful to write the details on the card stock, as well as label and date them (the notes on the one above are on the underside).  Now comes the somewhat tedious task of shaping the arms for which I didn’t take a photo (maybe I’ll remember next time).  I saved a few minutes by using the belt sander to taper the upper portions of the arms to save on shaping later.

Cutting a mortice.

Cutting a mortice.

After marking up the arms, I cut the mortices with a bench chisel.  These are easier than many people think but do take a very sharp chisel and a little practice.

Drilling for the blade and handle connection.

Drilling for the blade and handle connection.

I used a 5/16″ doweling bit for this as it leaves a very clean, precise hole for the 1/4″ brass rod to run through and turn freely.

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Finally, the tenons are cut with a thin backed saw.

Cutting the tenon is very easy if the lumber is split precisely with the grain as opposed to sawn out on a table saw (ignoring the natural grain).  After the cheeks are cut, its a quick matter to pop off the waste with a sharp chisel.

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Auguring the handle for the brass rod.

I used a spare file handle for the primary handle.  A 1/4″ hole is augured about 1 1/2″ deep for the 1/4” brass rod that will become the connection for the blade.

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The rod is driven into the handle and will be cross-pinned for security.

Come back for Part 2.

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About George Crawford

archaeologist, archer, primitive technologist, and wannabee musician ... mostly
This entry was posted in bushcraft, craftsmanship, tools, woodworking and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Making a Traditional Turning Saw, part 1

  1. Joy Godsey says:

    Beautiful tools.

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