Introduction: 1950s Hobbies Treadle Fretsaw Remade.

About: I am dedicated to re-use, recycling & salvaging materials to make things for my home & garden, not just for financial reasons but also because I prefer the things I have around me to be the way I want …

I can't take credit for this remake but I love the thing so much I had to share it.

About four years ago I decided to make a clock for my motorcycle clubs meeting room representing the club patch.

The meeting room was the back bar of a pub which at the time was run by our club president, I later took over management of it when he fell ill & took it over myself for a year or so after he sadly passed away but that is another story.

Anyway the clock had to be a tasteful thing as it was after all in a public bar but at the same time put a little of the identity of our club in place, we do a lot fundraising for charities & rely a great deal on the local trade so we did not want to propagate the rumours of a bad a$$ biker gang taking over the pub.

Our patch at the time was a fairly complicated affair which thankfully has since been altered so I found myself in need of a fretsaw.

I am a member of a local Freegle group (formerly a Freecycle group) so as I wanted to keep the costs down & at the time I really didn't think I would be using it that much I decided to post a wanted advert, a couple of days later I received an email from a local chap who asked me to give him a call.

My ex wife was away at the time with my kids & of course the car but Freecyclers being what they are he offered to bring to me a fretsaw he had "picked up & modified back in the early 60s".

I should mention at this point that I live in Stevenage; a new town first founded in 1946 & sited alongside the original "Old Town" which dates back to Saxon times.

Stevenage was when I was a boy predominantly a manufacturing town, there was a large industrial estate to the west of the town which housed dozens of factories of every possible size, it seemed to me when we first came here in the late 60s that all my friends dads were people who made things, they were turners & millers, toolmakers & model makers all of them had lots & lots of tools & best of all my dad was one of them....... So was the chap who shortly after I hung up the phone pulled up outside my house, you could tell at a glance this guy was a maker, you could almost smell the machine coolant in his blood, his hands had the kind of skin you only get after years working with lathes & mills, I almost expected to see an array of scribes & a Zeus book sticking out of his top pocket as he turned from lifting the machine from the back of his car.

This saw is by no means a pretty thing, it has no variable speed control, no mitre tilt bed or dust extraction system not even a bellows to blow it away but I love it.

It started life as far as I can ascertain in the 50s although it is the same basic design as treadle saws that go back as far as the 1880s & they are only the ones I have found that were available for sale at that time, I am quite certain that the idea is a lot older than that.

The model is a Hobbies "The Gem" one of the pictures in the slideshow contains an image of what I believe is the exact model from an advertisement from the company in 1955 or thereabout, I have found many Hobbies saws online but this one looks about right in comparison to the others with its angle iron frame & pressed steel parts rather than the cast iron of earlier models.

Apparently my new friend had come across this saw in the back of a shed when he moved house where it remained for a while, he then decided to give it a try & found that it worked rather better than he had expected but in true maker fashion he decided it needed more power (if you remember a Tim Allen series called Home Improvement you will know what the words "MORE POWER" really mean).

This is when he cut the original iron frame & treadle off & proceeded to attach the business end to a few blocks of wood as a "temporary" mount along with what I believe to be an ancient washing machine motor, the pulleys are one a three to one ratio & the whole affair is controlled by a brown bakelite light switch.

I think he may have altered or replaced a couple of bits & the cable was cut I tacked into the board at a later date to keep it out of the way but I was assured it is essentially as it was when he remade it.

Now I have a bit of time I plan to clean up the whole thing a bit, possibly give it a more permanent base although it seems a bit silly the existing one has lasted for over 40 years but I would prefer something a bit more stable & the option to clamp it into a workmate or onto a bench.

I have thought about altering the pulley ratios or a variable speed control, possibly some sort of foot control rather than the switch maybe from a sewing machine so it shuts off as soon as the foot is lifted, if anyone out there has any ideas about how best to do that I would be glad to hear them.

Anyway I hope you like my sawing gadget, like I said it is more than just a bit basic but for me it brings to mind thoughts of iblers of yesteryear, pottering away in sheds all over the country making stuff for their friends & families, coming up with ideas to improve the things around them & creating a heritage of home DIY, crafts & what we now call hacking that predates all our power tools, CNCs, glue guns & other gadgets but brought just as much pleasure to them as it does us today.

I have included a couple of adverts from Hobbies circa 1955 & a couple of pictures of other Hobbies models from the 1930s to illustrate what I mentioned about the pressed steel & cast iron frames.

By the way, the clock that started all this off never did get made, we elected to change our patch for something less fussy & the project has been on hold ever since, perhaps it will be the next thing I make when I have finished my own bit of "modernising" of my lovely old fretsaw. :-)