A bow saw project #1: To Build a Bow Saw

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Texasgaloot posted 08-17-2008 05:33 AM 15823 reads 4 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of A bow saw project series Part 2: Step 2: Redo step number 1 »

Before I can chronicle more of Moby Plank, which I’m itching to do, I need to get the mesquite legs and stretchers made. In order for me to complete the legs, which will be carved out of 5×5x 36 blocks of mesquite, I need a band saw much bigger than the little hobbiest one I have. I can’t afford a band saw until the project is completed, and I get paid. Hence a conundrum.
After pondering possible possible solutions, and my wife objecting to me selling the kids, I struck upon a Galoot-ish solution that delighted me; to Build a Bow Saw (with apologies to Jack London.) Having a good supply of walnut on hand, and not liking the brittleness of mesquite, layout and sawing began last weekend. I began by using my baby band saw to cut out the arms, and sanded them on a sanding drum chucked in my drill press.
Arms cut out

The next task was to chop the mortises to accept the tenons on either end of the cross beam. I had cleverly taken the time to taper the arms, which really means I succumbed to the siren call of my No.-4. Note: if you decide to build one of these, chop the mortise first and then taper the arms. Much easier. This is the mortise layout, a little hard to see:
Mortise layout

I decided to “go Galoot,” no power tools, so I got out my Millers Falls brace and Irwin bits. a 1/4” mortise was required, and I’m a sneak-up-on-it kind of guy, but my smallest bit was 1/4”. That will carry implications you will see later. Note the high-tech depth gauge:


Here’s another thing I thought of after the fact. If you are going to bore the mortise like I did, it might be a good idea to score the centerline with a utility knife in order to get a substantial groove. My bits wandered, and that meant that my mortises were not precisely 1/4” wide. The shoulders of the tenons will cover them and let no one be the wiser, but they weren’t clean like I like them to be. This is the bored tenon (which you might be too, by now…)

Grabbing my crispy Sorby chisel, and a couple of no-so-bad Marples, the mortises cleaned up to a usable level.

The next step was to cut the tenons on the crosspiece. I’ve tried fitting mortises to tenons and tenons to mortises. I’m definitely a “fit the tenon to the mortises” kind of guy. Trial by error. After laying out the tenons using a marking gauge, I made the decision to cut the shoulders of the tenon first. I did this because it seems to promote more consistency from one side of the stock to the other. For me, taking up my awesome Independence Tool carcass saw is better therapy than the best psychiatrist. After cutting the shoulders, cutting the faces of the tenon was very easy using my Independence Tool (yes, I’m gloating) tenon saw. The tenons came out remarkably straight and true, and needed only minor paring (I was sneaking up again) before they indexed snugly into the mortises. Here is a finished tenon:
Mortise and tenon

The fruits of the afternoon’s labor (I can’t figure out how to make the whole picture fit, Sorry!!):

Assembled frame

The next step is to plane, scrape, and sand my way to smoothness, bore holes in the arms for handles, prepare the “Spanish Windlass” and get a saw blade. Any suggestions on the last would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks for looking!

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

10 comments so far

View Betsy's profile


3393 posts in 4508 days

#1 posted 08-17-2008 05:46 AM

Hey Tex – that looks like it’s going to be a real fine saw. I think it would have taken me much longer than an afternoon though.

What exactly was the wife’s objection to selling those kids for tools? Geez…. :-)

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Eric's profile


875 posts in 4395 days

#2 posted 08-17-2008 07:41 AM

Very nice! I plan on making one of these sometime soonish, since I have no real resawing option outside of my ryoba.

-- Eric at

View Quixote's profile


206 posts in 4250 days

#3 posted 08-17-2008 04:08 PM

I’m liking that high tech deth guage.

The possibilities are endless.


-- I don't make sawdust...I produce vast quantities of "Micro Mulch."

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4427 days

#4 posted 08-17-2008 05:00 PM

Thanks for Chronicling. Can’t wait to see it finished.

What are the dimensions? Tools for Working Wood has a 12” Coping saw Blade. they have a little writeup on Bow Saws Here
and you can find the blades here

Jack would be proud.

-- Scott - Chico California

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6866 posts in 4591 days

#5 posted 08-19-2008 01:51 AM

Hi Tex;

That’s a nice looking project you’ve got going.

I made a bow saw a number of years ago when they were featured in a magazine. I have used it, but not so much anymore. (I keep forgetting I have it).

I started a second one with carved “handles” but never did get it done. Maybe seeing your’s will give me some incentive.

Looking real good.


-- by Lee A. Jesberger

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4054 posts in 4675 days

#6 posted 08-21-2008 05:44 AM

Highland hardware has frame saw blades…wonder if they might work. Here is a link to the turbo 400, japanese style teeth and a wicked cool name…

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4427 days

#7 posted 08-21-2008 06:01 AM

I’d like to see a picture of that bad boy!

-- Scott - Chico California

View Texasgaloot's profile


465 posts in 4312 days

#8 posted 08-27-2008 04:07 AM

Went ahead and ordered the Gramercy blades and pins today. I feel like I’m selling out, because it isn’t completely shop-made. I reckon it won’t be my last, however.

-- There's no tool like an old tool...

View ChicoWoodnut's profile


904 posts in 4427 days

#9 posted 08-27-2008 04:25 AM

I don’t think your selling out. Sounds like your getting the kind of blade that might have been readilly available 75 years ago.

Then again, maybe you should consider firing up the furnace and forging your own blade LOL. Then you could be the galloot King!

I can’t wait to see the finished product.

-- Scott - Chico California

View Ric's profile


17 posts in 4504 days

#10 posted 09-03-2008 04:12 PM

Another source for bow saw blades is band saw blades. Just buy the width and TPI and tooth pattern you want and cut to size. That way you can make a bow saw any size you like. You don’t have to match its size to a predetermined length blade. That way you can build anything from a little coping saw to a two man pit saw.

You can also use finish nails cut to length for the pins.

-- Ric :{) - Appleton, ME - (

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics