Tools in ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest:’ Part 2-1/2, Frame Saws

coping-saw-IMG_2141

I don’t know why my brain refused to acknowledge the two frame saws in my chest while I was writing part 2 of this series. So here’s part 2-1/2 of the series on my coping saw and fretsaw.

Ah, now I remember why my brain froze, I didn’t want to revisit the topic of coping saws. I’ve still not found one that satisfies me on all fronts. I’ve tried, cheap, expensive, vintage, yellow and rare. All have some aspect that I don’t like.

So I’ve given up and reverted to the German-made Olson coping saw I bought in 1996 or 1997. It’s been modified significantly, especially the blade-tensioning mechanism, and I’ve stretched the frame. And you can’t buy this saw new anymore. The Olson saw is now made overseas and I’m not a fan of what’s happened to it.

What I can recommend, however, are the blades for whatever coping saw you do end up settling for. I have been very happy with the Pegas coping saw blades, which are made in Switzerland and cut like a dream. And they are tough; I’ve had individual blades last for more than six months.

For fretsaws, I also went full-German. I’ve had an old German jeweler’s saw since the 1990s that tensions blades to a remarkable level. Why? Because I filed grooves into the pads of the blade-clamping mechanism. That improved its grip to “Coach Stan Turnipseed’s Handshake” level on the EU’s fretsaw clamping matrix.

You can find these jeweler’s saws on ebay for $10 to $20. The old ones are better than the new ones. Be sure to get some Pegas blades for these as well.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Publisher of woodworking books and videos specializing in hand tool techniques.
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22 Responses to Tools in ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest:’ Part 2-1/2, Frame Saws

  1. I try to avoid using my coping saw as much as possible. I started to make a bow saw using plans and parts from toolsforworkingwood.com and some bird’s eye maple. I set the project aside a while ago because it is such a chore to get out and set up my midi-lathe to turn the handles. Hopefully I will finish the project before this year is over. I’d like to find out if using the bow saw feels as elegant as it looks.

    • Rachael Boyd says:

      by bow saw I am thinking you mean a turning (12 in.blade) saw. I made mine a couple years ago and I love it. you will love it also. remember do not keep it in tension when stored

    • tombuhl says:

      I very much enjoy my toolsforworkingwood bowsaw. I bought the pre-made version. I do find that the handle is too small (diameter) for my regular-sized hands. That is only a problem when using it for extended periods. I did confirm that issue with another friend and user. So you might consider beefing up the handle considerably if turning your own. Or make a couple to test out.

  2. Jeff Faulk says:

    I’m interested in why you don’t mention your Knew Concepts? Or does that one go in the Dutch toolchest?

  3. I love my Knew Concepts saw. I gave away my Chinese made Olson after receiving it. The Pegas blades are definitely the bees knees. Worlds beyond anything else I’ve ever used.

    • Another vote for the Knew Concepts coping saw. Just out of curiosity Chris, what was it about this saw that didn’t click for you?

      • It’s the best coping saw out there.

        I wish it weren’t so big. And I wish some of its blade-clamping parts weren’t plastic and were more robust. Those are quibbles barely worth mentioning.

        The real story is that I got along just fine with it. But when a student fell head-over-heels in love with it last year I gave it to him and went back to my Olson.

  4. Eclipse also made a version almost identical to the Olson and I had mine much earlier so perhaps they developed it first. I would be interested to know. I have only needed to add a leather washer where the tensioning thread passes through the frame. This locks it into place so the blade is not forced out of its set position. Otherwise it works very well indeed, just as well as expensive modern ones using an aluminium space frame. They come up on e-bay in the UK occasionally.

    I also have a jewellers saw that I seem to remember is also an old Eclipse and it locks solid so I have not needed to modify it. Likewise a full size Eclipse fret saw that works well without modification.

    Unfortunately I cannot find new Eclipse versions of these either.

    I completely agree with Himself that the Pegus blades are quite outstanding.

  5. capie001 says:

    I rather love my old Miller Falls 42. Made a few mods (locking notches) with a file in orientations I use most and its now the only coping saw I use. Also turned and fitted a new handle. Will have to shop around for some Pegas blades (which tooth configuration Chris?). Think I have Eclipse in my shop which is so-so.
    Frank
    Cape Town

    • capie001 says:

      Oh, saw now on eBummer that the 18tpi skipped tooth Pegas blade is the one I should be looking out for. But to ship the dozen blades to Cape Town will cost me USD32!! Must investigate other options!
      Regarding your comment on the missing parts on the not so often available 42’s, so true! Mine is missing the knurled nut, have a winged nut in its place. Also had to replace the handle.
      Regards
      Frank

  6. Hi Chris. You mentioned that your coping saw had been modified significantly. What did you do to it? Again, I agree that the Pegas blades are great. Thanks.
    Mike

    • I have stretched the frame to increase the tension on the blade. I filed flat areas where the blade-clamping mechanisms meet the frame. I have “toothed” them for lack of a better word.

      I have replaced the pathetic washer on the stock saw with lock washers (at toe and heel).

      I’ve stripped the slippery lacquer from the beech handle and oiled it.

      All these things make the blade lock when I want it to lock and rotate when I loosen the tension for fretsawing.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Hang on a minute… Chris, your mention of the Miller Falls No. 42 coping saw in your Anarchists Tool Chest DVD that accompanied the original book, sent used prices through the roof. I saw some selling on eBay for over $300 at one point. While prices have come down some, they are still the most expensive vintage coping saws on eBay. I still haven’t been able to come by one at a reasonable price. What happened to yours?

    In your video you called it “Probably the best coping saw ever made”. I know, because I just went back and re-watched that section of the video. It’s absence from this post had me scratching my head.

    So what gives?

    • What a lot of people forget is that time passes. And things happen before other things.

      When ATC came out, there was no Knew Concepts saw. Didn’t exist.

      The Millers Falls No. 42 is probably the best vintage coping saw I’ve used. But it has its problems, too.

      No. 1: It’s impossible to find.
      No. 2: It’s frequently missing critical parts.
      No. 3: People give me ENDLESS crap for Nos 1 and 2.

      I’ve stopped talking about the No. 42 because I hate for people to spend their lives chasing a ghost instead of woodworking.

      The No. 42 is still awesome. If you have one, kudos. I’m sure you know how fortunate you are. But I’m not going to crow about something that will ultimately frustrate people.

      What happened to mine? A critical part snapped (the little fin that rides in the delicate channel between the screw threads). So I can become a machinist or ….

      • Jonathan says:

        Well, you can’t ask for a more reasonable answer than that. I hadn’t realized that the Knew Concepts saw was that new. Thanks for taking the time to reply Chris, and sorry to hear that your No. 42 broke.

        All the best,

        Jonathan

      • I appreciate your spirit Chris. Your appreciate good design of tools exudes, but your stewardship of the pursuit of making things in wood trump the tool collector bug. Thanks for revisiting this. I am finding it fascinating, and not at all a formula to be followed, but more a helpful guide towards reasoning out my own choices, which I know is what you desire.

  8. tsstahl says:

    I never knew so much could be said about coping saws. I have two. One has ‘Germany’ stamped on it; works great for a flea market find. The other is home center folderol and I haven’t seen it in a while.

    Now I’m wondering if I’m missing something. :/

    • I use my coping saw a lot. Not just for removing dovetail waste. It was my first saw when I was a kid, so I used to to almost everything with it (ripping a board….).

      You probably aren’t missing anything.

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