In Shop Blog, Techniques, Tools

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I’m just about the last hand-tool blogger/forum gadfly to write about the
Knew Concepts fretsaws, which have recently made the evolutionary leap
from the world of jewelers to that of woodworkers.

I’ve purchased two of the Knew Concepts saws during the last year and
watched as its maker, Lee Marshall, has refined the tool so it is tuned
for woodworking. And as far as I’m concerned, he’s now making the best
fretsaw I’ve ever used. It is lightweight, tensions a blade beautifully
and is incredibly nimble.

I have a couple small things I would change to make it the perfect
fretsaw (for my work at least), but before I get into those details,
let’s look at the mechanisms on the Knew Concept saws that border on

The Blade Clamping Mechanism
Most fretsaws (sometimes called jeweler’s saws) have a blade clamping
mechanism that looks like two metal waffles that pinch each end of the
blade. Unlike coping saws, fretsaw blades don’t have pins, so the
clamping mechanism has to be robust. Most are not. And once the saw is
tensioned up to where the blade sings, the clamps lose their grip. To
improve the grip, you have to tune up these blade clamps with a
triangular file.

The Knew Concepts saw works differently. There is a small plunger and anvil
inside the mechanism that captures the blade brilliantly with
surprisingly little pressure on your part. I have yet to have the
mechanism fail, even in rapid cuts through 7/8” rock maple. But the
blade clamping mechanism is only one part of why I like the saw.

Tensioning Mechanism
Tensioning up a fretsaw is never fun. There are unwieldly thumbscrews. Or you end
up bending the saw’s frame against your bench or chest as you clamp the
blade. The Knew Concepts saw works a lot like a quick-release mechanism
on a band saw.

You set the blade pressure with a thumbscrew. Then you apply the pressure
with a cam clamp. It takes less than a second to apply or release the
pressure on the blade. As a result, you can easily slacken your blade
after a cut, improving the life of the blade and the saw’s frame.

Almost Weightless
Speaking of the frame, one of the most remarkable things about the saw is how
little it weighs. The frame is made of aluminum (or titanium for an
upcharge). And the open structure of the frame makes the entire saw
rigid but easy to control.

And the Swivel
And the final thing I really like about the saw is that the blade-clamping
mechanism can swivel. It locks in detents at 0° and 45° left and right.
This is particularly handy if you use a fretsaw to clear waste between
tails and pins when dovetailing.

But it is also one of the few parts of this saw I would change. When making
deep pierced cuts, I frequently want the sawblade to be 90° to the
frame, which is impossible with this saw without manually bending the
blade with pliers.

I asked the inventor of the saw about this point and he said he had
designed a blade clamp for the saw that would allow 360° motion, but it
would require a hex-head wrench to tighten and release the blades –
instead of the toolless mechanism used now.

Marshall also said it would be possible to allow the blade to move to 90° by
redesigning the frame, but that this alteration would reduce its

And One Last Suggestion
The only other thing I’d change on the saw would be to replace the plastic
knobs that clamp the blade with brass thumbscrews that
matches the one on the blade-tensioning mechanism.

I don’t much like plastic, which is one objection. But I also don’t like
how the tips of the saw’s plastic knobs sometimes strike my work.
Marshall said he could change the timing on the knobs so that the tips
were out of the way. But he said his jeweler customers prefer the light
weight of the plastic knobs. Some of his customers saw metal all day, so
every ounce counts.

Despite these small complaints, I really do like the saw and recommend it for
dovetailing and fine fretwork. For woodworking, I recommend the 5”
throat saw with an aluminum frame and the swivel blade clamps. The saw
(like all of the Knew saws) is made in the United States and is $95. You
can order one directly from the manufacturer at

— Christopher Schwarz

More on Saws
• Want to learn to use the big-boy frame saws? Watch Mike Dunbar in this free video I shot in 2010.

• I’ve written way too much on coping saws in the last couple years. Here are a few:
Coping Saws: From Bricks to Fretwork Frogs
FatMax Coping Saw Update: Grrrr
Frame Fight! Coping Saws vs. Fret Saws

• And if you are going to stick with Western handsaws, you need a
sawbench. We have a new video on how to build one entirely by hand.
Order it here.


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Showing 10 comments
  • Rob Porcaro

    I own one of these and agree with you, Chris, it’s a great saw. Finally, now I can slide a skinny fret saw blade into the dovetail saw’s kerf AND saw the waste comfortably and accurately due to the high quality, smartly engineered frame. It’s a different level of working than with the Olson saw.

    I see what you are saying regarding the lack of the 90° option, but I don’t seem to miss it since the 45° tilt clears the wood and I guess I’ve calibrated myself to sawing with it. The plastic knobs have not broken – yet.

    And Lee is a guy I’m very happy to buy from.


  • Marhk

    Love the saw. Hated the plastic knobs. Replaced them with Kipp levers (FixtureWorks). Now at least I can tighten and move the levers out of the way.


    Derak Cohen did a great review of this little saw. .

    I’ll have to pick one up one day. No exactly a traditional woodworking tool though…

  • Don Williams


    I got a double dose of this bad boy last fall when one of the students brought one to my boullework class at Marc Adams, followed a week later by WIA where Knew had a presence. I tried it and realized immediately what a quality tool it was, and knew then (no pun intended) I had to have one. The time is here. Now, if I could just convince myself that the titanium version would increase my skills…


  • john c.

    I hope this guy is ready for the Schwarz effect tomorrow morning. I want one, but I need a few other Bad axe saws first … and I am sure they will be out stock by payday.

  • Eric R

    Time to raid the cookie jar again…
    My wife may be calling you soon Chris !

  • Nick Middleton

    The saw looks like a great piece of engineering. I’m sure the wooden handle is comfortable, but it would look cooler to have a matching aluminum handle to compliment the rest of the design-style.

  • Andrew Yang

    Reading this blog is both a curse and a blessing. Many a time it answers questions and solves problems. Unfortunately, most of the solutions also involve more tools. Although, with the reference back to an older post here maybe I can avoid buying more tools, and figure out how to use the tool I have better.

    I’ve struggled cutting out the waste with my coping saw the last week. I’ve been trying to drop it in and use it like Mr. Cosman does with a fret saw. Seeing Chris’ old post on Coping vs. Fret, I’ll have to give it a whirl using his technique.

    Does look like a really nice fret saw though. It even looks like it’d be ready to go out of the box, which I’m finding to be an extreme rarity in the world of woodworking tools.

  • Dale Smith

    I got one of these saws recently and like it very much. Thing is, a world of blades are available for this sort of tool. Would be great to have evidence-based recommendations for various woodworking uses. Luckily,the blades are cheap and so experimentation isn’t a pricey proposition.

  • Bill Elliott


    Thank you for this post. I was actually going to write you and ask for a recommendation on a saw to use with a .15 thickness LN dovetail saw to do clear out. This looks like it would work perfectly.

    Thank you!

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