Barnes Treadle Saw in Action – Again! - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Barnes Treadle Saw in Action – Again!

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Chris Schwarz Woodworking Classes, Sawing Techniques, Saws, Woodworking Blogs

Today as we finished up my three-day class on “Handplane Essentials” at The
Woodwright’s School
, we spent some time at Roy Underhill’s Barnes 1874 combination machine – a treadle-powered table saw that kicked my keister during my first visit to the school.

This time, I did a little better job ripping lumber on the Barnes with only a few stalls. But I shot this short video showing one of the students ripping one of the legs for the English square we were building during the class.

While we didn’t test the saw with human flesh or Southern-fried chicken, Roy assures me that one of the marvels of this 19th-century machine is that it automatically stops when it contacts human flesh.

Check it out.

— Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 13 comments
  • The feed rate is so slow because you can only pedal so just so fast on the thing. The ideal situation was to keep a steady pace pedaling and then feed the stock very slowly. If you tried pushing it in like a regular table saw (which is what I did), it will bog the blade down to a dead stop.

    And to quote Roy: "The motor of this table saw has flesh detection technology built in!"

  • capt barnacle

    Nobody liked hall monitors when they were kids. Why have they all grown up and hang out here?

  • Luke Townsley

    Neat video. It’s still not enough to make me want one though!

  • We were in Pittsboro yesterday and I made my family go back past the shop twice so I could make sure I saw what I thought I was seeing. Yup, your video proves it–a foot-powered table saw. And completely befitting St. Roy’s requirement that everything in the shop be turn of the century. (Although I could have sworn I saw an Apple laptop and TV monitor in there, too. 🙂

  • Cool! I want one!
    Seems to me there is about as much chance of getting injured on the treadle saw as a hand saw.

    Rick H.

  • Jeff Burks

    Roy knows all about safety. Go search YouTube for the video titled – "Roy Underhill feeds southern fried chicken into a SawStop"

  • I had to look at it twice to be sure that was really Roy!! ;-)) No hat!!

    If the safety police had ever done any work with "muscle power" equipment, they would hold their comments.

    Sign me with too much experience growning up on the farm :-((

  • Christopher Schwarz

    The feed rate is slow because you can stop the blade by pinching it with your fingers or feeding the stock into the blade at slightly faster than a snail’s pace.

    This is not a motorized table saw.

    So I’m going to kindly ask that only members of the safety police who have their "treadle saw merit badge" post safety comments.


  • Wow!! I hope the magazine isnt supporting this kind of unsafe woodworking. This is just scarey!!

  • Randy Kimery

    Great exercise!

  • Why is the feed rate so slow?

  • Marhk

    I hope Roy has good insurance!

  • Tom Holloway

    Two things strange about this clip:

    1) Roy without his cap.

    2) No push sticks, even at the end. If someone’s finger had slipped while pushing forward, there would have been a lot of blood on the table, foot-powered or no.

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