More tools

Bow or coping saw

DSC_0865Bow saws can be used throughout shaping spoon blanks they are general safe to use. Someone once baited me in front of a large audience of woodworkers asking me what the main difference was between a powered saw and a handsaw. I said that the main difference for me was if I slipped using a handsaw I always stopped before I got to the bone. Bow saws of the type I made here can be used to crosscut round wood as shown and also remove most of the waste in a highly controlled manner. We have yet to write and film this yet but plan it to follow soon.

DSC_0875If you don’t have the wherewithal to make one at this stage use a coping saw instead. Not quite the same  but a close second for shaping in curves.


DSC_0863In my book one of the best tools to let your children use and the first one I bought each of my boys. Spokeshaves give great control to children shaving different aspects of the wooden spoon and taking it from rough cuts to refinement. I rarely ever need to use a round bottomed spokeshave as the flat-bottomed ones can be used on convex surfaces and spindle work like spoon handles and also on some concave work as long as the radius is not too tight a radius.

This is an essential tool for any woodworker and especially is this so for spoon making. They are inexpensive and can be had for under £15-20 via eBay.

Splitting the log for two spoon blanks 

DSC_0868For this first spoon I used a split section about 4” diameter. One log I split in the UK with an axe, in the US I used a similar section of yellow birch and split a natural shake using an oak wedge. DSC_0590Oak wedge or axe, both work. DSC_0871Plastic and steel wedges work well too, but in this case we’re using the axe as a wedge and not for chopping but driving into the wood with a hammer. Better to use the Thorex (or a panel beating) hammer for this. Sometimes steel on steel can chip one tool or the other and the hard face of the steel hammer will damage the softer back of the axe head ultimately.

Splitting is often quicker and usually, on such a small diameter, the wood will split cleanly in two. Down the centre of every log is the very start of the tree or limb when it started to grow. This, the pith, is usually where all splits or shakes emanate from. DSC_0589Placing a wedge in a crack will usually open the crack and separate the two halves equally. The axe is often  easier to use for a wedge because it’s handled and sharp-edged for a quick and easy entry-start. Place the cutting edge in the crack if there is one and drive the axe head into the crack using the Thorex nylon-faced hammer or a small diameter limb until the wood splits down the length. This usually splits the length wholly down along the grain but with some woods you may need to drive additional wedges to progress the split.

DSC_0870The exposed faces are unlikely to be smooth and whereas it’s not necessary for them to be smooth there is nothing wrong with taking shavings to create a flat face for marking.

You will see how we make the templates as we start the actual shaping. Right now we are equipping you to get started.


  1. Brandon Avakian on 18 August 2013 at 12:50 am

    Thank you for putting together this series. Been a wonderful read to date. The bow saw really interests me. I have some old bandsaw blades I have kept just for this project. I know has a wonderful kit but there is just something to making your own tools.

    • bob easton on 18 August 2013 at 1:13 am

      Every time I see someone wanting to make handsaws with old band saw blades, I advise them to try it once … (to learn how terrible they are) … and then try using a better alternative, a saw blade made for hand sawing. You will quickly find a bow saw made with old band saw blades a very uncomfortable tool to use. The tooth geometry is just right for powered sawing, but all wrong for hand sawing. They are stubborn getting started, jerky in use, and almost impossible to control. Don’t skimp on the most important part of the tool. Buy decent blades that were designed for the purpose.

      The TFFW saws are great for fine work, and their blades are superb. For this work, cutting logs, one needs a much coarser blade. There are so many to chose from …. and none come from band saws,

      • Brandon Avakian on 18 August 2013 at 1:35 am

        Thank you for the advice. I appreciate it. I think Paul had made a bow saw and used a bandsaw blade. So I thought it sounded like a fun project.

        • Paul Sellers on 18 August 2013 at 3:50 am

          It is a fun project making the bow saw. What was fun for me was when we had an evening class making one at the Maplewood Center in NY. I think we made half a dozen including my demo model. Anyway, I used it to make all sorts of other pieces since them and found that in many cases i reached for it before my tenon saw. Another thing Brandon, I am always looking for tools and equipment that I can hand to children rather than turning on a machine when they are in the workshop. This bow saw meant that the could have something effective that gave similar results to cut with but using their own energy.

      • Paul Sellers on 18 August 2013 at 3:44 am

        Thanks for your input here bob, but that’s not the case with what we did with our bow saw make. In this case we found two things of great value and service. One, we simply snapped the teeth off of the bandsaw blade because it was an old one and then we cut new teeth into the tooth-free band at a rate of 14 PPI. When the hardened teeth are removed the band is sharpenable and can be sharpened over and over with a regular triangular saw file. It was a good training exercise in recutting teeth in a saw for one, something good for most new woodworkers, and it gave us teeth that worked smoothly and effectively.I just cut through one of the limbs yesterday and it was a pleasure to cut with with and across the grain.
        Two, I also bought a Milwaukee 14PPI small hand held power hacksaw blade from Big box Lowes and snapped off a length for a bandsaw I made three months ago. This particular blade does not have the ripples along its length for clearance and friction relief but is perfectly straight. From this blade costing $17 I got three good bow saw blades from the one band. Of course this one cannot be sharpened without diamonds but I have been cutting with it so far and there has been no noticeable degrade in quality so far.
        I know that you are indeed right about certain tooth patterns and bandsaw blades with an aggressive cut. The do exactly what you say so I am thankful you brought it up. When we do the blog on making the bow saw I think you will see just how effective these methods will be.

        • bob easton on 18 August 2013 at 10:55 am

          Perfect! Making a new blade not only gives the best results, but is a great learning exercise for those who have not done it.

        • Steve Massie on 18 August 2013 at 5:52 pm

          Ah I hope I finally figured out to respond to these posts. I so enjoy your Blogs and am anxious in trying to make spoons etc. This could be a nice project for my 6 3/4 year old Grandson.

          Thanks Paul for sharing !


          • Paul Sellers on 18 August 2013 at 6:08 pm

            Welcome Steve. Glad you have it worked out and glad you will get to spend time with your grandson too.

  2. NRon on 18 August 2013 at 4:45 am

    I look forward to your post on making bow saws with bandsaw blades. I made a large fellow saw about a year ago complete with hand forged hardware tensioning mechanism. Because of the size of the saw I used band saw blades. I have yet to get one to be controllable. I tried different blade geometries, but the blade has a mind of its own and it is impossible to control. I hate to chuck the saw in the trash, but right now it is just a wall decoration. Its on my blog at

  3. WD Elliott on 8 October 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Paul, can you recommend a vendor for the saw blade you are using.

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