In Chris Schwarz Blog, Sawing Techniques, Saws

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Last month I got to visit Roy Underhill’s new school in Pittsboro, N.C. (read about my visit here). One of the coolest parts of the visit was getting to try out his foot-powered table saw and grinder.

I’ve used a spring-pole lathe before while building greenwood chairs, but I’d never used a treadle-powered table saw. It was a humbling experience (crow begins here).

The correct rhythm is slow and steady. As you can hear in the video, it sounds like I’m trying to square dance while smashing cockroaches. Yet, the saw still cut fairly well until the end of the cut.

As I was using the saw, I couldn’t help but ponder its similarities to the Bridge City JointMaker Pro, which uses meat power to make your cuts. The major difference between these two machines is that the treadle saw can do long rips (there’s a crank that a helper monkey turns). The cut on the treadle saw is pretty good, but nothing like the glassy smooth surface left by the JointMaker.

Roy shot this short video. I’m just grateful he didn’t shoot video of me using his grinder. That was humiliating.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 4 comments
  • Thomas Giacchina

    I made my own foot powered scroll saw for doing marquetry three weeks ago. I still am breaking too many blades because I want it to cut faster than it is capable. Human powered tools require a whole different skill set and a LOT of patience.

  • LizPf

    I agree with Bjenk … I *want* one of those table saws! Or the plans to build one … I bet an old sewing machine treadle would work.

  • Bjenk

    You know what Chris,

    Since I have seen Roy show off some of these muscles powered tools at Berea College, I have become obsessed by them. I strongly believe we should start making those again just like Lie Nielsen starting making old tools all over.

    The appeal to me is huge. These tools are fantastic, almost fantasy like a steam punk dream. What is the carbon foot print on those indeed? Call me crazy but I see these tools as part of a less polluting world of dilettante woodcraft.

    When I saw the band saw, I knew I wanted one. If anyone would like to start a new venture for those, I’m in!

  • Jake S

    Is the crank for the helper monkey laying there on the ground? Took me a couple of views to figure that one out.


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