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How To Make A Bow Saw - Step By Step Guides

A bow saw or frame saw is a versatile saw that is used in woodwork. A good bow saw can be the perfect tool to make intricate cuts for joining wood or precise cuts that can be used for making grooves for meeting edges. One of the great things about a bow saw is that you can easily change the blades depending on what you are doing, and the design of the frame means you can cut from most angles around the job at hand. Not only are they an excellent tool to have access to, they are also easy to make. Follow our step by step guide of how to make a bow saw so you can make your own!

First Step, Getting The Materials

In total you will need 4 pieces of wood, any hardwood will work as it can take the pressure from the tensioner and the motion from the push and pull force of cutting.

You will need a saw blade; this can be bought online or can be recycled from an old band saw blade that has snapped. If you are buying a blade online remember that you will need to make the saw to the blade’s dimensions. Along with the blade you will need a couple of small bolts to hold the blade in place. Lastly you will need a tensioner traditionally this is made from strong twine or string but can be substituted for wire or a threaded bar with washers and nuts on either end to create the tension.

The Blade

Use the blade bought online, this will be the length of your saw. If you are repurposing an old band saw blade you can make to pretty much any length for this piece, make it close to 70cm long as these are the dimensions we will be working with.

Bow saw blade

Building The Arms

  • Cut Two pieces of wood to size, for the arms I have made them 50cm long and 2.5cm by 2.5cm square. Use a Mitre box if you are not confident in free cutting it. Cut the stretcher to 65cm long and 2.5cm by 2.5cm square.
  • Cut the groove for the blade. With the arm held in a vice find the centre of the 2.5cm by 2.5cm square by drawing a diagonal line from corner to corner and where they cross is the centre. This technic only works for squares or rectangles whose diagonals bisect each other. Cut straight down the end to the depth of the saw blade you intend to use. Making sure you are in the centre of the wood.
  • Drill holes in the centre of where the blade sits on the arms. The hole should be drilled slightly bigger than the diameter of the bolt you will be using for holding the blade in place. Put the blade in place so you can mark on the steel blade where the holes should be drilled using the holes in the arms as a guide.
  • Clamp the blade onto the workbench with clamps and a piece of scrap wood underneath. Use a punch to set a place for the drill to start. Place a drop of oil on the spot and drill a hole so a bolt can go through the arm and blade locking it in place.
  • On the arms the opposite end to where the saw blade sits make a fairly deep groove for the string strainer to fit in. If using a threaded rod, drill a hole through the arm in the same direction as the blade about 1mm diameter bigger than the diameter of the rod.

Fixing The Stretcher

  • Make the stretcher slightly shorter than the length of the blade. So when it is put in place the arms will not be perpendicular, the arms should bow out ever so slightly
  • On either end of the stretcher scribe a 1mm line around the end of the stretcher. Shave the end down to this mark make it so the shaved edge goes back 1cm along the stretcher.
  • Place the stretcher halfway up the arms at around 25cm hold the stretcher and mark where the shaved ends are on the arms.
  • Hold the arm in a vice and use a drill to drill out the majority of the hole for the arm, make sure the drill is marked so you don’t go deeper than 1cm. Use a chisel to remove the excess so the end of the stretcher fits in the dimple on the arm. Repeat this on the other arm.

The Tensioner

  • Make the tensioner 30cm long so that when its tightened it is held inplace by the stretcher and there is enough length so that it goes past the string.

Put It All Together

  • Assemble all the pieces, put the blade in first and attach it with the blots.
  • Place the stretcher in place.
  • Wrap and tie your string or twine around the top of the arms so there is 2 lengths of string between the arms.
  • Use the tensioner to pull the arms together putting tension on the blade. Keep twisting until the blade makes a satisfying twang noise when plucked.

Test It Out And The Finishing Touches

You have successfully made a bow saw, time to test it out. If you find your string snaps swap the string for a different type or wire, explore what material works best for you and enjoy your new bow saw. When your happy with your bow saw you can chamfer the edges and shape it how you like. Use a wood stain to really make it stand out and really make it your own. If it any point you find that your bow hasn’t turned out the way you expected, revisit our step by step guide to help you along the way.

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