Building a hacksaw-bladed bow saw from <$10 in materials.

This is a classic design, a simple H-frame held together by some simple mortise and tenon joints and tensioned with some twisted string. This tension is important because these blades are narrow and would likely not stay straight enough to make a clean cut on their own. Other saws stay straight by being relatively thick and heavy (i.e. carpenter's saw), having a stiffener on the back (the back in back saw), or by cutting on the PULL rather than PUSH stroke (Japanese saws, like the one I used to cut the pieces for this project). Frame and bow saws trace their origins back through at least the Middle Ages, used in traditional woodworking even to the modern day.

So, I needed to cut some O1 tool steel (to make a new blade for my jack plane, but that's another Instructable) and my old, tiny hacksaw had had it. Could I buy a brand new hacksaw from the big box store? Absolutely. This is an exercise in making your own tools rather than buying them. I intend to use this as practice in general woodworking and for building a larger bow saw for unplugged woodworking. Everyone ought to have a hobby.

3/15 Edit: I am finally posting pictures of my (much!) larger bow saw, fitted with a somewhat more expensive, 600 mm crosscutting blade (~$20 on Amazon). All the skills you need to build this saw are already in this Instructable, read along to learn! More pictures at the end.

Step 1: Materials and Tools


  • Fir (?) 1"x2"x4'* - I originally bought this from a big box store, choosing the least-warped, fewest-knot, straightest piece I could; the extra length means you can cut around any weird defects in your wood

    Note that 1"x2" dimensional lumber like the cheap stick you need for this project is actually about 0.75"x1.5", this is fine.

  • Hacksaw Blades - This was a two-pack, you can find inexpensive hacksaw blades pretty much everywhere; you can also use a wood-cutting bow saw blade
  • Machine Screws & Nuts / Screws / Nails / Pins - I happened to have some odd machine screws lying around in my odds and ends; you just need two pieces of hardware that fit through the holes in the ends of your saw blades
  • String - I used cotton butcher's twine; you will want something that doesn't have a lot of stretch


I have given two pictures as examples of the tool you will need. I used the first set, but could certainly have made do with something like the second. There is something beautiful about using hand tools to make more hand tools. If you didn't have a woodworking saw, you can make one!

  • Measuring & Marking Tools - I like a pencil, eraser, and combination square; the added advantage to using a square is being able to make lines perpendicular to the edge of your wood, very handy for this project
  • Drill & 1/8" Bit - you need to make two holes, the bit should fit in the holes at the ends of your saw blade
  • Saw - yes, you need a saw to make this saw; I suppose any method you like for that would work
  • Chisel & Mallet - we will be making mortises (pockets in wood) here, they could be cut some other way but this is the easiest one I know for making nice, vertical edges on those pockets


You are responsible for your safety. Many of these tools have sharp edges and if you are uncomfortable handling any of them, please seek out assistance. They are not hard to learn. Protect your eyes, hands, feet, and brain.

* - You can definitely use different woods for this project, I had this scrap lying around and I was able to shape and work it extremely rapidly given its inherent softness. Hardwoods are definitely more traditional. I intend to use this very same process to make larger and finer saws in the future.

<p>Nice work. I'm lazy and just drilled a couple of holes through the uprights and brace then pushed nails into the holes. Used nails into one side for holding the blade. In Nepal I ran into some neat saw blades, like a hacksaw blade twice as wide with wood cutting teeth on one side and metal cutting teeth on the other. This would make a great combo tool. cutting a slot in the uprights for the blade does improve the tool.</p>
<p>Thanks for posting this! I don't know if I need a bow saw, but your instructions are perfectly clear, along with the photos, and your techniques are no doubt applicable to other projects. (I'm a widow who only uses her inherited tools for home repairs and little handy objects, but you never know! Now I can build me a bow saw if I need it. I have all the materials...)</p>
Thanks for taking the time to read my Instructable. I really appreciate the feedback. This project does make a nice skill-builder; there are certainly easier ways to getting your hands on a new hacksaw or bow saw. I think this is definitely more fun.<br><br>Stay tuned, I am almost done with the (much larger) wood-cutting bow saw!
<p>Oh, good, I have a dying 90-foot-tall Chinese elm tree in my back yard I've been wanting to get rid of! (JOKING!)</p>
<p>Well, since you can build the saw to whatever dimensions you like this could potentially be your answer. The depth between the saw edge and the long piece (spreader) need only be about the radius of the tree. Finding a blade long enough to use effectively is probably more challenging.</p>
<p>LOL OH no, nope nope. It's about 3 1/2 ft in diam., and as I said, 90' tall, and I'm a little old lady - no giant tree-felling for *me*! I'm afraid it and I am stuck with each other, until one or the other keels over dead - and I hope it's me because I do NOT want to see that thing fall on my house! </p>
<p>This is really cool. Simple yet functional, like every tool should be.</p>
<p>Thanks! That is a major attraction of hand tool woodworking for me, the simplicity. And that I can make many of my own tools with some basic skills and planning. Each project is a chance to hone those skills and improve personally for the next project!</p>

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More by Alex.May:Hacking Together a Bow Saw (for the 2017 "Build a Tool" Contest) Coconut Goblet 
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