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Can You Cope With Coping Saws?

To push or to pull? That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing end them?

Do you have coping saw questions?

Oak, not Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but we have noticed a high number of searches surrounding coping saws on this site and having used one for around 55 years I think that I can help. Just what are your struggles? They may well help others in their quest to get good results. Please ask your question and we will make a video answering the top questions.

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17 Comments

  1. Max™ on 7 February 2019 at 12:23 am

    I realized I was using a coping saw wrong when I saw videos with people using big frame saws by lifting and dropping them, tried it with a coping saw and felt really silly about all the time I’ve spent trying to balance the frame and not snap the blades as it wants to start wobbling side to side.



  2. Sylvain on 7 February 2019 at 9:16 am

    “To push or to pull?”
    When used like on the sketch: push.
    When used vertically with a fretwork table (that board with a hole and a V notch) to saw thin boards to make wooden dinosaur: pull.
    When doing fretwork, the saw will bind if one hold it too firmly.
    As usual, sensitivity, let the saw do the work.
    Sylvain



  3. Richard on 7 February 2019 at 3:44 pm

    Always use a coping saw with pull strokes to cut, so if the blade breaks (and it breaks on the pull), the blade won’t stab on your fingers.



    • Paul Sellers on 7 February 2019 at 5:08 pm

      Sorry, I never use the coping saw on the pull stroke and neither did men of old. It’s a more recent confusion between the fretsaw, piercing saw and coping saw, Richard. Much better on the push, it’s much more efficient and much easier too. i will be covering this in the Q&As in an upcoming video for YT.



      • Richard on 7 February 2019 at 9:09 pm

        Hi Paul,

        Indeed many people use the coping saw to cut on the push stroke. Charles Hayward (The Woodworker, p. 270 & Tools for Woodwork, p. 16) lists the PULL strokes for the dominant cutting motion.

        Yes, sometimes the push strokes work better. E.g. To cope moldings, doing them face up on push stroke avoids breakout on the good side, or having to be down on knees cutting from below the moldings.

        In shaping work or removing waste in dovetail work, I use pull strokes which tension the blade at all time.



    • Max™ on 7 February 2019 at 9:17 pm

      I’ve broken several packs of different types of blades, from 6 inch cheapo irwin coping blades in a store bought coping saw to 5 inch scroll saw blades in a frame saw I made, I always use push strokes and have no idea how I’d injure myself during a blade snapping.

      Having a piece of wood I’m cutting come loose earlier than expected so the blade jumps out of the cut and skips across my hand, sure, done that too many times, but once they break it’s just a matter of tracking down where the loose piece shot across the room to hide.

      I suppose I should say drop cut/lift return rather than push/pull because seriously the only problem I have doing my usual cuts like this is getting the blade so hot it starts to singe the wood so I try to stop and hit it with the oiler now and then to cool it off/lube it up some.



  4. Daniel on 7 February 2019 at 11:37 pm

    I asked a question in your comment section yesterday Paul. I have another that I think fits here more than in a future post or video by you.
    How important is a coping saw? Can one cope without it (pun intended) or is it something we should all consider getting and learning to use eventually? I also saw an older master woodworker cut dovetails using what looked like a coping saw but the blade had a twist in it. I lowered the saw into the cut he made with his dovetail saw and then pushed it forward (cutting on the push stroke of course) and the blade had a 90 degree twist in it within the first few inches at the end of the saw, this turned the cut so he could remove the waste from his dovetail work. Have you seen this and have you anything to say about it? Where would one find such a neat little blade? Or does one heat and twist the blade oneself?



    • Max™ on 8 February 2019 at 9:17 pm

      Seen the video on youtube, old german cabinet maker guy, basically he’s a wizard I think, but the blades are special made, very narrow at the twist section with no teeth and then it expands back to a full depth blade.

      If you’re trying to avoid the dust, expense, noise, and possible injuries which something like a scroll saw brings, I can’t imagine not having at least a little hardware store coping saw, though making a small frame/turning saw yourself is really satisfying.

      I’ll gladly trade the need to tension/loosen the key when I use it for the added lightness of a wood frame, especially with something where you’re inevitably going to want to make something involving tight precise curves and such which is a nightmare if you’re also trying to balance a heavy metal frame while doing so.



    • Paul Sellers on 9 February 2019 at 9:08 am

      The trick is to only turn the frame of the saw as the saw cuts on the cut strokes and never the negative or non-cut strokes.



      • Max™ on 10 February 2019 at 10:47 pm

        My biggest problem with using them in a push/pull position was the heavy metal frame up top wobbling on the return strokes, couple wobbles too far and poink, off the blade goes. Switching to a wood frame helped but not as much as going to a lift/drop position.

        Found that awesome little wizard saw blade Klausz was using btw: https://youtu.be/vKuy3NdLhlE?t=235



    • Max™ on 10 February 2019 at 10:48 pm

      My biggest problem with using them in a push/pull position was the heavy metal frame up top wobbling on the return strokes, couple wobbles too far and poink, off the blade goes. Switching to a wood frame helped but not as much as going to a lift/drop position.

      Found that awesome little wizard saw blade Klausz was using btw: https://youtu.be/vKuy3NdLhlE?t=235



  5. Steven Newman/Bandit571 on 10 February 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Gripping that skinny, broom handle is the hard part about using these saws….Uncle Arthur (Itis) plays less than nice….fingers and wrist, hand just doesn’t seem to bend the right way….

    Just like on a bandsaw…the tight the curve being cut, the skinnier the blade needs to be. BTW..I use a Disston #10, an Atkins #50, and a Millers Falls coping saw….along with my Stanleys…



  6. John Abney on 11 February 2019 at 3:45 pm

    enjoy your blog and learn that God can use a novice like me. My problem is a lack of patience and sloppy work. I love woodworking, but discouraged because of the poor work I produce. One part of this may be my age and the shakening of my hand hard to make a correct oh well, thats my excuse any suggestiion for a 88 year old



  7. S Richardson on 14 February 2019 at 12:16 am

    Either way is fine if it gets done what you want to get done ! I tend to cut moulding scribes moulding up teeth down like with a fretsaw, light loose grip.



  8. Steve P on 22 February 2019 at 9:07 pm

    When I try to use my coping saw to clean out dovetail waste, it inevitably gets tweaked when I try to turn it. One of the little arms that are used to rotate the blade will skew in another direction than the opposite side, thus twisting the blade and making it impossible to cut through the kerf from the dovetail saw. Sometimes I am able to hold the front one in place and cut a more gradual curve and that seems to help but I feel like I am doing something wrong? Also someone mentioned to order pegas blades?



    • Paul Sellers on 22 February 2019 at 9:16 pm

      We have a video coming out on coping saws shortly that will help you. It will be on my youtube channel



  9. Jack Chidley on 20 May 2019 at 8:21 am

    New saws arrive set up for pull stroke. Also, my son had been taught to use it on the pull stroke at school.

    When I was at school I uas taught to use it on the push stroke. And to lay the plane on its side

    Jack



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