Buy or Make a Bow Saw
The next hand saw for wood working that I recommend is a frame saw called a bow saw. A bow saw is like the big brother to the smaller coping saw. Both are great at cutting curves, but a bow saw can also cut straight lines with a larger blade. A bow saw is a good traditional alternative to a power band saw for those who want to go totally “unplugged”.
So how do you use a bow saw? You simply tension the top string by twisting a stick, and it makes the saw tight and rigid. Hold onto the handle and turn the saw where you want to go. Just make sure you loosen the tension the string when you’re finished.
Historically European joiners and furniture makers used bow saws with large “webs” (blades) for rough ripping and cross cutting boards, in place of British and American panel hand saws, but I prefer to use the bendable hand saw (as mentioned above) because I don’t have a frame getting in the way of large boards. But I love a bow saw for cutting curves, and I like to use a smaller, more maneuverable web (blade) on my bow saws.
I recommend that you look for a medium sized bow saw, between 12-inches and 14-inches in size. If you’re purchasing a bow saw, look for comfortable handles. Also, the pin technology is important. The best bow saws have tapered pins in the handles, which help keep the handle from getting loose and rotating during your cutting. Unfortunately most modern bow saws use cheaper straight pins. If you want one of the best bow saws possible, and you like the idea of making your own saw, then you should look into purchasing the very detailed DVD or Digital Download: “Building the Historical Howarth Bow Saw with Bill Anderson” (buy it here). Here’s a preview of the video:
The video teaches all the techniques in a way that even beginner hand tool woodworkers can build this bow saw. Bill also sells tapered brass pins that he designed based off of the historical saw that the video studies.
If you don’t have the time to make your own bow saw, eBay has some nice antique bow saws. You can also check out Jim Bode’s website for bow saws, or go to a tool swap at a local chapter of the Mid West Tool Collector’s Association. Try to find one with tapered pins if possible, but it’s not vital. There are also some people making pretty nice newer bow saws. But I haven’t seen any with tapered pins. Just make sure you buy something that looks like the saws above, and not a large buck saw (for cutting fire wood):
People selling bow saws on eBay don’t know the difference, so they’ll usually call mix up the names.