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
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 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.
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 knewconcepts.com.
— 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.
• 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.