Frame saws… an oft forgotten tool

When it comes to saws, people are either in the western-saw camp, or the Japanese saw camp. But those are not the only two “families” of saw. The saws that are so prevalent in the west, originated in the UK, and would be better classified as British-style saws. The eastern saws are dominated by the saws of Japan. Western saws cut on the push-stroke, Japanese saws on the pull-stroke. But a third style evolved in Europe – something we call the frame saw. Tour any folk museum in Europe and you will see frame saws. They are the descendants of the pit-saws historically  used  to break down logs.


Frame saws (The Open Air Museum, Copenhagen).

The British use a smaller related saw commonly known as a bow saw, which is used to cut curves. As with many woodworking tools, there were once a multitude of manufacturers in Europe. Now, there are still two German manufacturers: Ulmia, and ECE.  These saws have many  benefits, not least of which, the blades can be interchanged to allow for different blade widths, and easily replaced. Tension can also be adjusted. They can be used for ripping, crosscutting , cutting curves, and even resawing.


Saws from French manufacturer Peugeot Freres

Quite a few people are making the Roubo frame saw, which is a massive frame saw often used for re-sawing. But whilst there are a number of toolmakers making Western style handsaws, there seem to be none making continental style frame saws.


2 thoughts on “Frame saws… an oft forgotten tool

  1. rene. says:

    You are very right: Walk any flea market or country-side shed or museum and you’ll meet frame saw in different conditions. Often the wood of the frame is in good conditions – the blades are mostly a mess: rusty and dull.
    Other than the – you call them British-styled – handsaws, these frame saws need more practice to use. And they need more space to store and carry. That might be two important reasons why they disappeared from diy-woodshops in Germany. I’ve seen a lot of home-/garage-based workshops in my neighbourhood. Sometimes the frame saws hang on the wall – but the people grab their handsaws (in German called: Fuchsschwanz; like: fox tail). I never asked for the reasons. As you mention: The mass-product is the Britsh-style handsaw (Fuchsschwanz) in hardware stores; frame saws are rarely offered, often only in specialized shops with semi-professionals or professional customers who work with wood. But even the carpenters and furniture makes use other (powered) tools.
    But well, if you are capable of using a saw like this, you benefit of what you are talking about: it’s versatile in use and direction of sawing (push and pull, curves), it is inexpensive because of the small blade, you got less friction through small blade while sawing, you can easily build one on your own (or replace broken parts). Might be other pros and other cons, too.
    For example: I use one for greenwood cutting (rip and crosscut).
    Someone who has mastered this saws is, as most of you might know, Frank Klausz. A much younger man is Caspar Labarre in Amsterdam/Netherlands, the Stoelenmaker (also on Youtube).

  2. roccaways says: (no affiliation) has released a kit for the continental style frame saw. If I remember correctly, they also made the blade in the Renaissance Woodworker’s video on making the Roubo saw.

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