18th Century Craftsman's Saw





Introduction: 18th Century Craftsman's Saw

As an 18th century reenactor portraying a carpenter with a colonial militia I needed a small saw to make things like tent pegs and chair legs.  Not finding anything suitable in antique shops I decided to build one based on paintings and drawings of that era.

Step 1:

Even simple tools of the era were hand made and often had pleasing curved shapes.  Straight wood is good for making straight things, but straight things are boring.  To make strong curved wooden shapes requires curved wood.  So I went to my firewood pile and found a curved piece of seasoned oak.  I bought a Jorgensen saw blade from Grizzly and planned out the saw to fit the blade.

I hot glued the log to a piece of thin plywood to give me a flat side to start work from.  With my band saw I cut a thick plank from the log, thick enough to make both end pieces of the saw.  With a hand plane I finished the plank on both sides.

Step 2:

I drew the profile of one end piece on the plank to match the curve of the wood grain.  Then I cut the profile and split the plank to make a matched pair of end pieces.  They cleaned up nicely with the hand plane.

Some slots and grooved pins hold the blade to the ends.

Step 3:

Larger saws usually have two thin curved crossbars that brace against each other.  But for a saw this small a single crossbar will do.  The tenon is tapered so it fits in the mortise with a little play and the ends can pivot as the blade is tightened.

A loop of string is twisted with a small stick to provide tension for the blade.



    • Oil Contest

      Oil Contest
    • Water Contest

      Water Contest
    • Creative Misuse Contest

      Creative Misuse Contest

    15 Discussions

    I remember that around 1960 my father had one of these saws in his tool chest, in Argentina. And he really used it. Great 'ible.

    TIP: Instead of gluing the piece to the plywood. To get a flat surface, use a hand plane to shave the surface flat. I've done this a few times when I used a band saw to make planks from fallen logs.

    Great ible. Nice saw.

    My brother has a small frame saw that was completely hand build by a visitor from Vietnam. It is constructed from scrap lumber and an old hacksaw blade which was re purposed by filing of the points of the teeth and filing new teeth(then hand set) on the back edge of the blade. This saw was then used to cut pieces to make a porch swing(my brother also has the swing). The craftsman also fashioned an old file into a chisel that could be fit into a block of wood to be used as a plane(he worked the file in a small charcoal fire using a hammer and a rock for an anvil.) I am always intrigued to find people who are working at keeping the old tools and skills alive. Now to cut out your next frame with the saw you have already made.

    Well done! The saw turned out great, and the 'ible is perfect! Good job!

    There are saws which look like this in illuminated manuscript illustrations (i.e.: pre-printing-press-era books). As Rabelais points out, they have still been used within the past 100 years. I've got one which the previous owners of my 100+-year-old home left in the basement when they moved, which I may start bringing to SCA (medieval & renaissance era reenactment) events. Yours looks great, though: much nicer than my found one!

    I am, at the moment, 80+ years of age. Born upAroostook, northern Maine, in 1933, the year of small potatoes! I have had the honor of both watching a bucksaw being made and then getting to exercise it.
    A handmade bucksaw was part of every household and with a good axe was the the main tool of the pulpcutter. Pulp for paper was a major source of income for many of the farmers and farm hands during the winter months upAroostook, where I never knew it to go below 59 below zero. My dad and I and the Station Agent for the Bangor&Aroostook Railroad stood on the station platform watching the thermometer one morning waiting for it to drop to 60 below. We were disappointed though..... 59 was the best it could do!
    The main source of heat in that part of the world was wood, which was felled in a large woodlot, limbed out and twitched out, using a single horse (to keep the twitch path as narrow as possible) to a twitch yard, where it was bucked up to woodstove length, and hauled home on a double sled pulled by a team of two horses.
    Pulp was bucked up in four foot lengths and piled in cords, 4X4X8 feet, along the road where a truck could load it and haul it to the railway station where it was shipped to the paper mills.
    A bucksaw blade had a combination of crosscut and raker teeth. The rakers were longer and had two teeth, one filed to cut on the push, and the other filed to cut on the pull. The rakers had more "set" meaning they were moved off the centerline of the blade in an alternate pattern to widen the cut in a log and remove the wet, sticky sawdust, so the blade wouldn't bind.
    The bowsaw is an altogether different animal and made from metal. You could easily fashion one today out of electrical conduit or go to Home Depot with a couple of bucks.
    Either way..... your choice!
    I knew the guy that held the patent on the bowsaw. He was also a Maine Guide, tied fishing flies, and made fly rods. One of his flyrods could cast a dry fly clear across the St. John River during high water.
    My grandfather carved out the pieces to make a bucksaw with a "crooked knife" which he also made, from an old straight razor and a piece of an Alder bush for a handle. The knife was used by pulling it toward you.
    Oh, and I have some experience cutting pulp and bucking it up. A cousin and I decided to get rich so we conned "namp" into letting us cut pulp in his woodlot. International Paper Company was paying three dollars a cord and the going rate for cutting and stacking it beside the road was a buck and a half. It only took us a couple of weeks to put up a cord so our wealth didn't accumulate very fast!

    For your information, this type of saw had been produced ans used till 1960 or more in Europe.
    The prototype is far older than 18th ( maybe roman or earlier).

    It is just a piece of rod stock. You can cut the groove with a hacksaw while the pin spins in a drill but I used a lathe. You could probably get away with just a hacksaw cut slot on each side.

    I used a blade from www.grizzly.com catalog number H9163. It is fine toothed (14TPI) and they have another that is even finer (H9164 25TPI). At $6 each I bought both.

    Looks great!! Bow saws are actually very common in shops that primarily use hand tools as they are the human powered equivalent of the band saw. I think there was an episode on making them on The Woodwright's Shop as well if anyone wants to see video of the process as well as these instructions. You buy bow saws new from a woodworking site but whats the fun in that?

    This is called a bow saw, for anyone wanting to google more information. I made one out of a piece of bandsaw blade, but I found out that hook teeth don't work for a manual saw. They require a quite a bit of speed and momentum to function.