The fretsaw is a great tool for cutting out shapes and even intricate designs with ease, including additional details on the "inside" of a piece (since the blade can easily be put through a small hole). It is also well suited for children as an "entry tool" because it is relatively safe and easy to master to the point of doing actual projects and making presents for the family.
To make using it even more of a blast you can make a simple support that will allow you to work even on tricky bits without having to worry about supporting the workpiece. It even protects your workbench or table from getting cut into!
If you know what I do then you know I usually have videos to go along with my projects. This one is actually part of my Halloween project, which I will publish soon (and add a link here)!
Step 1: Pick the Stock
The support should be roughly 3'' or 7 cm wide, and about three to four times as long. The length is not that important, actually, you could go as small as twice the width. You just need to make sure that you have enough material to clamp or screw the thing in place.
I chose a piece of 3/4'' or 18 mm plywood, but as you can see it was a scrap piece anyway. You could use solid wood, just keep in mind that it might break a lot more easily if the grain runs along the small side (i.e. parallel to the edge you want to use it on). If you pick a piece where the grain runs along the long side you should be on the safe side. OSB and MDF should work as well, but would not be my first choice due to rough edges on the former and dust on the later.
Step 2: Drill a Hole
Use a forstner or spade bit to drill a hole into your board, about 2'' or 5 cm in from one short side. This will be your working area, and since the blade of the fretsaw is rather on the small side you do not need a large hole. On the other hand, you do not want to hit the walls of the support with every stroke of the saw, so I recommend something of about 1'' or 2.5 cm in diameter for a good mix of support and room to move.
Step 3: Cut a V
Use any kind of saw to cut a V that ends in the hole you drilled, thus making it accessible for the saw blade from the outside. I used my bandsaw, but a jigsaw or even the fretsaw itself would work to accomplish this.
You can cut a straight channel into the hole, but making it V-shaped makes it easier to use the tips as additional support since it gives you enough room between the "prongs" to actually use the saw there.
And with that, you are done!
Step 4: Put It On
Now, there are two ways to attach the support to a working surface - clamps and screws.
Clamps are easy to use and do not leave marks, which will come in handy if you want to use it on anything that should not be damaged. To that effect, make sure to place the hole a little bit away from the edge for that added protection against the blade actually hitting the surface in question.
The main drawback of clamps is that they are in the way on top of the piece and limit what you can do on the support, even though it is pretty versatile since the blade is not fixed in any way.
Screws are the way to go if you want the support attached without blocking anything, and (at least in my opinion) they are also the method of choice in the workshop. A few screwholes in the workbench are no big deal, and they make for a sturdy connection that is easily parted in case you want to move the support or put it away.
I hope this helps you enjoy your fretsaw work even more, or use it as an excuse to get kids involved. Get some thin plywood, draw a simple shape (like, say, a pumpkin), and let them practice. Give them the information they need to use the saw (like holding the blade vertical), but let them experiment, and if they do not hit the line perfectly, then who cares? It is supposed to be fun! But this is not really within the scope of this Instructable anymore.
Thanks for checking this out, please share if you make your own, and remember to be Inspired! (And do not forget to check back for my Halloween project in a few days!)