I’m frequently amazed at what happens when I hand a sharp full-size handsaw to a fellow woodworker for a test drive. Nine times out of 10 they clamp something in the bench vise and then struggle mightily to get the saw to cut smoothly. No wonder. Using a handsaw without a sawbench is like trying to use a router without securing your work. You can do it in a pinch, but your results usually suffer.
Sawbenches are kneecap-level platforms that fully exploit both the length of the saw and your body to make sawing efficient and fast. The height (mine is 19-1/2″ high) allows you to use the full length of the teeth without hitting the floor on the downstroke or from the saw disengaging from the kerf on the return stroke. The height also allows you to use your two legs as the most ingenious clamp and stop ever invented.
One knee holds the work down and the other knee immobilizes it laterally. If you’ve never sawn this way, I suggest you give it a try.
The sawbench shown here is the first prototype of the version we’ll be building during my class this May at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. This project fully exploits all of the principles of blending hand and power tools, which is the topic of the course I’m teaching. And it unlocks a few tricks for the next stage of the journey for the students.
The next prototype will have wedged through-tenons and a simpler shelf (I got a little too fancy). One of the features I’m going to keep in the subsequent versions is the hole in the top for a holdfast. This can be used for holding down your work during mortising. Also, when engaged, it makes a great handle for the sawbench. I’m also squeezing out some material efficiencies in the design: My goal is to get the whole thing out of a single 2 x 8.
You can download a pdf of my rough construction drawing below. There’s no cutlist, but you should be able to figure it out from the photos and the CAD drawing. File: Sawbench3.pdf (17.77 KB)