Chris Schwarz's Blog

Building a Sawbench

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)

Christopher Schwarz

13 thoughts on “Building a Sawbench

  1. Christopher Schwarz

    Paul,

    Yours looks very nice. Perhaps nicer than mine!

    Thanks for the photo.

    Chris

  2. christopher Schwarz

    David,

    I’ve added a link to the pdf of my CAD drawing of the sawbench. That should get you started.

    Chris

  3. David W. Dougherty

    Chris;

    Would you mind sharing some more dimensions and maybe even a diagram showing same?

  4. Christopher Schwarz

    Question 1: Japanese saw users can benefit from building the low saw trestles shown in Toshio Odatae’s landmark "Japanese Toos: Their Spirit, Traditional and Use." I built the testles from Odate’s plans several years ago. They do unlock these saw’s power. However, they are strenuous to use — I’ll do a separate post on them on a future date.

    Question 2: The "V" notch is a ripping notch for supporting thin work while ripping, particularly notching.

    Chris

  5. Timothy Renick

    Chris,

    This bench is great for western saws. I’m a pull saw user. What do you think is the best way to secure material for both cross cuts and long rips using a pull saw?

  6. Christopher Schwarz

    Pat,

    Well I guess I’m halfway to a shaving horse. I already have a shaving pony (which mounts in a bench vise).

    And I’m kind of holding out for a shaving horse designed by Brian Boggs – and sold by Lie-Nielsen so I hear. Brian was showing it at the Ontario, Calif., WoodWorks show last month. A very sweet design.

    Chris

  7. Christopher Schwarz

    I’ve had them both with a shelf and without. I like the shelf because it’s a place to put the square, the pencil and whatever tools I’m carting around.

    But I think you can omit the shelf if you need to stack stuff to save space. I always have my sawbenches out and in use. They rarely sit unused.

    Chris

  8. Wendell Wilkerson

    Do you think the shelf is necessary? It seems to me that without the shelf, a pair of sawbenchs could be stacked away more easily.

    Wendell

  9. Christopher Schwarz

    Steve,

    Nice work, and simple to boot.

    In addition to their obvious utility (sawing), these things are great for cabinet assembly when used in pairs. Plus I end up using them like regular sawhorses for laying out cuts on rough stock and as a portable workbench.

    Chris

  10. Steve

    Great saw bench Chris. I made one a few years ago and find that I use it all the time in my shop. In addition it doubles as extra seating and step stool for reaching high things in the shop.

    Here is a picture of mine –

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