RWW 116 How To Make Your Own Bowsaw

Since I’m tackling curves in the second semester of The Hand Tool School, I thought an episode on building a bowsaw would be appropriate. I’m using the Gramercy bowsaw kit as a starting point. This is great weekend project that can be done with a mixture of hand and power tools. It is a great opportunity to practice hand cut mortise and tenons since the joinery is simple and small. It is also a perfect opportunity to use my favorite tool, the spokeshave!

20 Responses to “RWW 116 How To Make Your Own Bowsaw”

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  1. John Verreault (aka Johnny_Vee) says:

    Fabulous video. What a great idea…not to mention a marketing pull for the school. Thanks for this.


  2. Kevin Miller says:

    That was one awesome looking piece of tiger maple.

  3. Thanks a lot for this vid Shannon it helps very much to understand bowsaw or turningsaw concept, your example is a real beauty and looks really tasty ! Great job mate, I did enjoy this lesson, see you soon

  4. Vic Hubbard says:

    See, the only reason you screwed up the first three was because you subconsciously knew that “perfect” piece for the cross member was in your turning stock. It’s great how everything always turns out exactly how it’s supposed to. I remember in my Tage Frid video that he uses the bowsaw exclusively for dovetails and he does it miraculously fast. This is one of those tools I will be attempting to build in the future. Thanks Shannon!

  5. Tom Collins says:

    Would this saw be appropriate for cutting out the waste when making dovetails?

    • Shannon says:

      Sure Tom. I know some that cut dovetails from start to finish using a bowsaw. Personally I use a fret saw for sometimes removing waste (only in really hard woods) because I like the really thin blade that allows be to turn 90 degrees in my dovetail saw kerf. This bowsaw would force you to make sweeping cuts but it would do it much faster than a fret saw so it would be a trade off.

  6. Tom Buhl says:

    Shannon, I saw the link to this outstanding video on Joel’s blog (toolsforworkingwood). I bought the finished saw from him a few years ago and love it. It is one of my favorite tools to pickup. Makes me smile each time.

    • Shannon says:

      Thanks for stopping by Tom. I have lots more content in the archive so come back soon. I couldn’t agree more about Joel’s saw. It cuts like a dream and I use it often. I admit I use my own a bit more now since it is custom fit to my hands.

  7. Tom Buhl says:

    Shannon, less than a month after viewing your bow saw kit video I shall put your good work to use. Earlier in the year, one of my arms [well, actually the bow saw arms, not mine] broke. I glued and wrapped with wire. Held up for a couple of uses, but this morning it said, “you’ve got to be kidding.” So I will be making a new arm. I have lots of hickory scraps and pieces from my current project. As soon as that is completed I shall make a new arm.
    Thanks for the awesome guidance.
    See you at WIA.

  8. Adam Welker says:

    Shannon, Just watched your video after recieving my bow saw kit. Wonderful job and very clear instructions. I have a large amount of walnut and was wondering if it would make a good wood for the saw?

    • Shannon says:

      Adam, I have my doubts because Walnut isn’t as strong as Maple or Hickory and can be less flexible. That being said, I have seen Walnut used in chairs a lot that get all kinds of stress so I’m probably over thinking it. If you have a lot of Walnut, then I don’t think it would hurt to use the tiny amount required to make this saw. If nothing else, you will have to remake it in a year or so if the Walnut gives out on you.

  9. Vinny says:

    Hi Shannon,
    I just finished my bow saw. I just love it!

    two questions:
    -Where could we upload our renditions of the pieces we made?
    -One saw leading to another….Could you advise a good spot to find frame saws, like the one you’re showing at the beginning of that video (around 1:00)?


  10. alex says:

    17:05 that was actually a “water knot” :)

    Yes i have been called a Knot-z…..bad joke, i know.. .

  11. James says:


    I just picked up the bow saw kit from TFWW, and before embarking on building it, wanted to ask you a question on materials. YOU have both the Hickory version and a Maple version, right? Can you say anything about differences in performance you may (or may not) have noticed due to the different woods? The TFWW site talks a little about how a heavier wood might cause the saw to be tippy when held at angles outside of vertical. Thoughts? Thanks!


    • Shannon says:

      I can tell no difference between the two saws. The pieces are so small and once shaped there is very little mass left so it hasn’t made a difference. Then again Maple is not that much different than Hickory. I think where this would really cause problems is by using some very dense and heavy exotic like Cocobolo, Padauk, or Bubinga.

  12. Frank Salinas says:

    Hi Shannon,

    I bought the 12″ blades and pins from Gramercy to make one of my own a couple of months ago. I made mine out of beech, which is very strong.
    One modification I made, which I saw demonstrated on a Roy Underhill episode, was to make a mortice/tenon joint for the cross piece and tensioner. The top has an elliptical grove running around the perimeter to capture the string. It works very well and seems a lot neater than simply allowing the tension stick to rest against the cross member.
    Here’s a public link to view a (not too good) photo:

    Thanks for your helpful website and demos, etc.
    Best – Frank Salinas

    • Shannon says:

      Thanks Frank, I’m familiar with that design. Call me too lazy to bother with the mortise. My current toggle set up is working just fine but there are definitely some fancy solutions out there too.

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