In Shop Blog, Techniques, Tools, Woodworking Videos

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Most American woodworkers struggle with bowsaws. Now before you think that bowsaws are tools for beret-wearing, Gitano-smoking woodworkers who eat espresso and croissants when on a break, think again.

Michael Dunbar at The Windsor Institute has used bowsaws for many years while making Windsor chairs and teaching thousands of others how to do it. I’m taking a sack-back class this week with Dunbar (plus my father and my friend John Hoffman). The class starts on Monday, but today Dunbar and I spent a few hours taking some photographs for three upcoming articles in Popular Woodworking Magazine.

One of the articles is all about bowsaws. And Dunbar contends that one of the reasons Americans struggle with the tool is because we’re just doing it all wrong.

To help augment the article, I shot this short video, which covers just a small part of his article. And because the video is ready, and I am sitting near the beach and feeling magnanimous (no, I haven’t had a beer yet), I decided to upload this video now. I think it might prompt a healthy discussion. Take a look.

Tonight, I’m headed to the Portsmouth Brewery for dinner. Then a stroll down the boardwalk to smell the fried dough. I better not eat any , I didn’t bring any Lipitor.

– Christopher Schwarz

Other Sawing Resources I Recommend

– Vintage Saws, Pete Taran’s site on Western handsaws (

– Bugbear’s plans for a bowsaw

– WoodJoy Tools, which makes bowsaws that Dunbar likes (

– “Hand Tool Essentials” from Popular Woodworking

Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Great video, I have to improve my knee technique.

    I once saw a video somewhere on the web of a hand tools only Scandinavian wheelwright made in the thirties. At the end you could see him ripping easily 6′ of wood with a bowsaw. Has anyone a reference to that video?

  • John Burton

    Do you have any experience with the Tools for working wood bowsaws? Someone told me they use it to cut the waste from dovetails and it is better than a coping saw. The one-eighth inch blade should make a difference rather than the three-eighths on the woodjoy.

  • Bill Melidones


    Maybe this is an candidate for the WIA Hand Tool Olympics?

    Probably ought to have a cardiac care unit on standby, just in case.

    Ripping with the big saw looks pretty intense.

  • Fred West

    Chris & Mike, great video. I do not yet have a bowsaw but will be picking one up. Looks as if it is a pretty amazing workout if you are ripping.:o) Fred

  • Jerry Olson

    Wait until he lifts up the bench with a dowel!

    "Front is Back…Back is Front"!!!

    Sir Jerry

  • Neil

    Chris……a while back about 7 or 8 woodworker’s on a particular foum made the Bow saw from the "Tools for Working Wood" kit. They really got into it and some were aesthetically fabulous. I should follow up and ask how they like working the saw.

  • Who says dance has no place in the shop? Those are some world-class pliés!

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