Follow One's Own Advice: A Knew Concept - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Follow One's Own Advice: A Knew Concept

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I spent this past “Woodworking in America” weekend demonstrating techniques and advising others to learn as many methods to accomplish any given woodworking technique, then choose the method that worked best for them. When I returned to the shop today, I thought it best to take my own advice.

Dovetails came to mind first, so I decided that I would explore a new method for fitting pins to tails. No, I’m not about to cut tails first (at least not yet). I’m going to focus on using a coping saw to remove waste , usually I chop the waste from the joint with a chisel. I’ve worked the coping saw method before, but never with the idea that it might be a better technique.

During our Monday morning meeting our editor mentioned that he had a Knew Concepts titanium saw that was unveiled at the conference, so along with this change in technique, I could compare a traditional coping saw to the new Knew Concepts saw and take my own advice.

I dug out a couple pieces of pine, marked the pins then grabbed a dovetail saw to make the defining cuts. I picked up a coping saw and set about sawing the tail waste from the stock. I adjusted the saw and went for it. Being a rookie using this method, I stayed well off the scribe line which left plenty to clean up. Chopping out the balance of the waste was fairly easy due to the fact that there was little resistance to the chisel blade as I worked back to the line. And the stock being pine didn’t hurt, I’m sure.

Next up was the Knew Concepts saw. There is quite a difference between the Knew Concept and the traditional saws. The Knew Concepts saw is way lighter. There surely would be a difference if I spent the day dovetailing drawers for a highboy. Also, there is a big difference when adjusting the saw. On a traditional saw, you loosen the handle in order to rotate the blade, then tighten everything back before using the saw , occasionally the blade rotates as you tightened the handle.

The titanium saw has a quick tension lever. To rotate the blade, all you do is release the lever, turn the knobs that hold the blade secure then make the change , there are positive stops at 90 degrees and 45 degrees in both directions. After the knobs are locked, flip the tension lever and you’re back to work. There is a problem with the knobs, however. The Saw Chris handed to me has the plastic knobs (knurled brass would be a cooler look) threaded in from the left-hand side. As I used the saw, I found those knobs distracting. I wanted to switch the knobs to the opposite side, but if you’re right handed and an “index finger extended” sawyer (which I’m not), one knob would then be in your way as you grip the handle. It wouldn’t be good to change. However, if you’re a left-handed user as well as an index-finger extender, switching the knobs would be a benefit. What is all boils down to is that you can switch the knobs to the opposite sides if that works for you.

Getting back to the tension lever, dialing in the optimal tension is a snap. Release the tension totally, then spin the brass knob a turn or two before flipping the lever to restore the tension. The cam lock pushes against the brass knob to set the tension. Pushing the tension to its limit, I notice the added stress began to bend the adjustment screw. Of course, optimal tension does not equate to over tensioned. As I worked through this exercise, I noticed little movement in the saw’s frame. In fact, there were no alignment issues to be seen. You got to love titanium.

All in all, I’m not a connoisseur of coping saws. The traditional saw does what I need it to do, just as a eight year old beater car can get you to the store and back. If you are that connoisseur, I’ll bet titanium is in your future. Heck, even I would rather drive a “fresh off the showroom” sports car if I had the choice.

I plan to stay with this dovetail technique variation to see if it is better than my regular method of work. To do so, I’ll have to get closer to the lines and make sure I have my saw close at hand.

– Glen D. Huey

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Showing 11 comments
  • lee marshall

    The base material of the lever is 6061-T6 aluminum that is then hard anodized, which is about the hardness of Ruby. No way is there any galling of the aluminum against the brass. I think that he was simply unfamiliar with the frame, fiddled with the brass nut, and created way too much load on everything. The screw is stainless steel, In normal usage, the blade is drawn up so tight that it acts like a guitar string. Where it was in the image would have caused dogs to bark!

  • Jamie

    I agree with Eric ,165.00 is crazy. But it like they say a fool and his money soon part. I guess that doesnt matter if you got plenty of money!!

  • Steve Jones

    They also make a version with a hardened aluminum frame for (IIRC) about $80. Still a lot of money, but after playing with the titanium model at WIA, I could almost spring for the cheaper one.

  • Don Williams


    While I do not use a fret saw for joinery, it is part of my regular use during marquetry and veneer conservation. I saw this saw at WIA and it was jaw dropping! I’m ordering one as soon as I can.

  • Eric R

    $165.00 ?!!
    Come on.

  • dave brown

    That bent adjuster looks like it just needs a washer between the brass thumb nut and the aluminum lever.

    I don’t think it’s the tension that’s bending the adjuster but rather the brass nut trying to hitch a ride on the lever. You might even see some galling on the lever if you take things apart.

    Aluminum and brass under pressure can do a good job of sticking to each other and that cam profile on the lever is very aggressive — which concentrates the forces to a high level of pounds/sq-inch.

    If it were my design, I’d stick a Teflon washer in there and call it good.

  • Steve

    @Ed Minch,

    A fretsaw is used for cutting fretwork. In that sense, "fret" means to "consume" or "eat away," and has the same origin as the verb "to fret" about something.

    The other kind of fret, as on a guitar, is apparently etymologically unrelated. (The Stewart-MacDonald catalog lists saws for cutting fret slots as "fret-slotting saws," and they don’t look anything like fretsaws.)

    I think the distinction between fretsaw and coping saw is highly overrated… They’re just different sizes of the same basic idea (although they also usually have different means of blade attachment). If your fretwork is large enough, you can cut it with a coping saw, and if your moldings are small enough, you can cope them with a fretsaw.

  • Ed Minch


    You commented on sawing with the traditional coping saw, but did not say if the fancy one did a better job. Did it??

    Also – what is the practical difference between a fret saw and a coping saw? And why do jewellers use a fret saw when they aren’t cutting frets?

    Ed Minch

  • Derek Cohen

    Hi Glen
    The Knew Concept fretsaw (not coping saw) is what we all have been waiting for for a long time – a fretsaw designed for a woodworker, not a jeweller.

    Some background to its development can be found here:

    Regards from Perth


  • Okami

    I’ve been using the Knew Concepts Fret Saw for dovetails for a month or two now. I received a pre-release version while Lee Marshall of Knew Concepts was tweaking up the final version.

    This Titanium Fret Saw is way above anything else out there, the stiff frame and easy (and correct) tensioning of the blade makes cutting close to the scribe line a breeze.

    I’m a Tails first Guy, and this saw has made dovetailing faster and more enjoyable

  • David

    I believe this is a fret saw, and not a coping saw. I’d love to be wrong though 🙂

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