Christopher Schwarz Makes Turning Saws

Look it Up or Suffer Under it: Resistentialism

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Woodworking Blogs


When I teach a woodworking class, I give my students free reign with my tools. It’s a great way for them to get a feel for tools that are sharp and in order. It’s also a great way to get a broken turning saw.

During the last few years, students have destroyed my turning saws at least three times by over-tensioning them. Even though I tell them: Do not touch the tensioning or you will have to touch my no-no square (a private joke).

So they crack the cheeks of my turning saws all the time, put the splintered mess on my bench and say something like: Good thing it’s wood so you can make another.

Today I started making a few turning saws and a bunch of replacement parts for some upcoming classes. I’m teaching a class on making these saws in Germany next month, and I really need a working turning saw. My band saw has been getting too much of the twisty sawing jobs lately.

So how do you build a turning saw without a turning saw? With your band saw.

My design uses the hardware from Tools for Working Wood and a design from the fan-blankety-tastic book “Antique Woodworking Tools” by David R. Russell. I’m using some really old mahogany from Midwest Woodworking.

As I was cutting some of the curves on the cheeks with my 40-year-old Delta 14” band saw, the motor spun to a stop. I checked the cord. No joy. After taking the whole thing apart, I found the motor’s thermal overload switch to be the culprit. It’s a 1/2 hp Craftsman AC motor from one of my grandfather’s machines and was made in 1940. I guess 73 years isn’t a bad run for an AC motor.

On my way to take the motor to the repair shop, I told Megan Fitzpatrick about it – my dang band saw crapped out while I was using it to make a turning saw to take work away from the band saw.

Resistentialism” is all she replied.

Grrr. The woman has a mouth like a redheaded librarian pirate.

Look the word up if you must, but she’s right.

The good news is that my 73-year-old motor just needs some new parts and will be back in business next week. Its windings are in great shape.

— Christopher Schwarz

If you want to master your band saw, read the book that I read: “The New Complete Guide to the Band Saw” by Mark Duginske. It is all you really need.

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Showing 20 comments
  • edf

    Chris- Can you point me in the right direction to learn how to diagnose and do these repairs? I have an old delta drill press with the same malady, about the same age. I don’t know how to tell if its windings, switch, or cussedness. Sorry- Can’t abide by the Resistentialism doctrine since I can’t figure out how to pronounce it. Now, Frisbeetarianism, that I can say.

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      Drop the motor and take it to a repair shop. Induction motors are designed to last for generations. There isn’t much that can go wrong with them, so they are simple to diagnose (once you have seen a lot of them). My repairs were $119 – new switch and new bearings.

  • Eric R

    That term pretty much sums up half the equipment in my shop ! lol

  • alicoh

    What is a turning saw?

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      It is a bowsaw. A wooden framed saw used for cutting curves. Very common — think oversized coping saw.

  • Peggy

    In the laboratory, pH meters are the resistentialists!

  • xMike

    Oh DO look up the word! Wikipedia has a great page devoted to it.


    Is your plan available, or do I have to go to Germany to learn it?
    Ralph Boomer

    • Christopher Schwarz
      Christopher Schwarz

      My plan is still evolving. Check out the free plane on the Tools for Working Wood website.

  • Danny H.

    Chris, I have that same bandsaw and it’s not nearly 40 years old. I think you were exaggerating it’s age ! Besides your not even that old !

  • esincox

    “Les choses sont contre nous.”

    They are against us.

    I hardly needed the validation for this pronounced aspect of my daily life, but… it’s good to have. Same goes for MCS.

  • dpaul

    “Resistentialism”…… that’s where an English major comes in handy. Great word, thanks.

  • cagenuts

    So a turning saw is essentially a bow saw pretending to be a fret saw?

  • Kees

    I am also making my first turning saw right now. Without a bandsaw in my shop I just hack away the wood with saws, chisels and a rasp. Makes for quick work too. I always understood from the tfww website that easilly loosing the setting is a feature of the saw. So you can make adjustments quickly, almost on the fly, without having to untension the saw first. While sawing you keep the saw from turning around the pin with your index finger. Well, I’m going to try the theory next week or so when the handles are ready.

  • Christopher Schwarz
    Christopher Schwarz


    I have hardware from both TFWW and Bill. I’m making bowsaws using both and will report back.

  • Brandon Ryder

    I’m currently making my first turning saw. I loved the one that was done on the woodwrights shop a year or two ago, and it turns out pop wood did an article on that very saw. I bought that article online and am working from those plans. I’m very happy. I really like Bill Andersons tapered pins, so I ordered those from his website.
    Do you have any thoughts on tapered pins vs the ones from TFWW? It seems the tapered pins might keep their setting better than the straight pins.

    • something_vague

      I have made myself the kit that TFWW offers out of pearwood. While it is a nice saw and the pear looks amazing with its’ slight curl, I must admit that I wish I had Bill Anderson’s pins installed instead of the straight versions. They rotate in use and require your hand to hold the frame in position while sawing. Can be a bit akward. I partially fixed the issue by installing rubber o-rings between the handle and frame so the tension is against the rubber which causes enough friction to keep the frame in place while sawing.

      But I personally think the tapered pins (although I haven’t used them) are the answer to this problem. While expensive little pins, they sure do look like they will accomplish the job.

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