Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bois D'ork

Dorks are by definition, out of touch with the crowd. Frame saws in the US are such. A lightweight, sharp, fine toothed,  inexpensively replaceable blade saw capable of cutting dovetails or sinuous curves and suitable for boulle, contractors or small children ought to be popular and swanky, yet the humble coping saw (excepting Knew Concepts) has few friends. The same story goes for poor Maclura Pomifera. She often gets called mean names like Hedge, Osage Orange, and Bodarc despite being strong, flexible, and uniquely colored. And, on very rare occasions, some may consider traditional woodworkers to be out of touch with the norm (sorry) either for not embracing bulky, expensive, noisy, power everything tools at every single point in a project or for just making stuff instead of buying it at IKEA.
I periodically get to participate in some volunteer construction projects that put me with Binford types doing trim carpentry. These guys are really great, and the whole project is incredibly fun and upbuilding (in case they ever find this blog..), yet they often give me a hard time about hand nailing some pieces or bringing along hand planes. (They also have been leaving the odd-ball angled transitions to me of late, I wonder why?) so you can image I got some ribbing when I started bringing this wooden coping saw.
I chose the species after acquiring a couple chunks from a downed tree (Thanks Kris!) when I thought I might make a plane body or infill out of it. (Its open pore structure makes it less suited for this.) I then figured it the ideal wood for a Gramercy style turning saw, given that it is used for excellent shooting bows, so much so that french explorers named it after it's stateside usage, bois d'arc. I made my pins from lengths of brass all-thread filed down on a lathe to make a shoulder to support a #10 brass washer, then epoxied in. The slit and hook are simply hack sawed in the soft brass. I hadn't gotten around to ordering the 12" blade from TFWW when I busted the handle/pin on my Stanley coping saw. A flash of frugality brilliance encouraged me to finish up this saw, but with an additional short stretcher to allow this to be used as a coping saw. I have been supremely satisfied with this replacement coping saw. When ordering other items from TFWW this week, I picked up a pair of 16 TPI 12" turning saw blades. I think I'll like the longer length saw, but I'll be down a coping saw again...

Positives to using this short turning saw
  • You can really tighten it up vs. the ol' Stanley
  • It's easy to change the angle (but doesn't slip too easily, due to neoprene washers)
  • It's light (12oz) despite being a heavy species.
  • Hedge really turns and polishes well, (though it is hard on tool edges due to silica content)
  • I like the yellow color fresh and even better after it's mellowed a while
  • The ball knob fits well in your palm while choking up on the frame (most uses)
  • When you break a blade, saw parts go several directions
  • Rarely, it's too tall to fit somewhere a coping saw might fit
  • I think I'd prefer to have ball knobs on both ends since my index finger usually wraps the frame a bit

During one project while I was about out of earshot, I saw a fellow volunteer pick my saw out of my tools and show it to another, commenting with admiration about how I'd made it. The other said that it worked pretty much like any coping saw, seeing no real difference or reason for it over a jig saw. I thought how nice it would have been to hand both of them one to go experience for themselves (nice hand tools being like crack for some) and knowing that not many of the "trim guys" would choose the Gramercy for their coping. So this gave birth to me making a small run of these coping saws to eventually gift. I raided the scraps, and have made most parts for a dozen or so saws in a variety of materials on hand (maple, cherry, ash, oak, walnut.) I'll put them together with various contrasting wood patterns. I decided to make the pins of steel instead this time (big mistake) which involved me improvising a metal lathe via a cross slide vise with the lathe. This is not a priority project, so I go at it in spurts, but it's interesting doing a batch project, since most of my projects are one-offs.  I have visions that I'll get these done and stop being the only hand tool dork by winning everyone over. In actuality, I'll probably be poked for having the stretch yellow saw. That's the power of a true dork, we can be out of place anywhere.


  1. The cool thing about making multiples is that you get to incorporate what you learned on the last one.

    Nice work.

  2. Really good looking saw.
    I like the idea of making a small production run for presents as well.