Welcome! Forums Project Series Frame Saw Frustration

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    James Simpson

    Hi All!

    Well, after watching the 3-part series on “Making a Frame Saw” about 10 times and spending a couple of months “practicing” on making the mortises and tenons (I’m brand new to hand tools) and dozens of tries using practice pieces of various woods – I have to finally wave the white flag and try something else! I cannot, for the life of me, get the scallops on the uprights and cross beam to fit snugly and flush. I even went so far as to use a set of digital calipers to layout the depths of cuts, used a mortising gauge to set the mortise layout, learned how to properly sharpen my chisel set, measured, measured, measured, (well, you get the idea) and STILL had no luck. Now, after viewing the gallery of frame saw completions, I’m thoroughly discouraged and frustrated. Maybe this is just beyond my limited abilities, I don’t know…..

    Any suggestions or similar experiences would be GREATLY appreciated! I REALLY would like to be using a saw like this!!

    Thanks folks!

    Jim S

    Richard Senior

    You should expect joints to need some fine tuning to fit well: cutting fat and paring down, planing flush. Obviously the more experienced the woodworker, the closer to fit from the initial cut, but watch Paul’s “three joints” series again and you’ll see plenty of fine tuning going on. I’ve seen people use a straight edge as the tenon is fitted to decide which side of the tenon to pare and get it closer to flush. I’d just run a plane over it. Or a sander.

    I’ve not tried the scalloped M&T but it looks quite tricky to get a perfect fit on the curved shoulder. The bottom line with a saw is whether it saws stuff and the joint fit isn’t critical to that. I made one years ago and the joints were really sloppy, but it still worked well as a saw.

    Don’t beat yourself up over it. Aiming for perfection is a good thing but expecting to achieve it causes no end of trouble, especially on your early projects. You’ll get better (but you’ll still need to fine tune your joints).


    Like any other skill, It just takes practice. You will find your technique…

    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Albert Einstein


    You may feel better if you accept the joints as they are and complete the saw. You will then enjoy a tool that you built, one that cuts well. The joints won’t matter for the functioning of the saw, but completing it and making stuff with it will be a huge boost. In time, you can come back and tune it up or even make another. Sometimes, when we focus on the joint in isolation, we get hung up on things that really don’t matter, and that’s a different lesson to learn from taking the project all the way to the end.



    I started woodworking some 2 years ago and if you check the forums here you will find several “frustration posts” of mine.

    Keep in mind that
    a) Paul makes stuff looks easy, but it isn’t
    b) There are some really good woodworkers on this site – they will also make it look easy
    c) It doesn’t need to be perfect. My bench is made up of lumber I didn’t plane straight and M&T joints that aren’t square. Sure there’s gaps all over the place but the bench works perfectly.




    Don’t worry so much. As the guys said, the saw will work perfectly.

    The first project i made was the saw, the joints sin’t flush, the tenons sloppy and when i tried to use the can to sand the curve, i smashed the can and it no longer fitted in the curve.

    Even though, i completed the saw it is flawed, loose, and beautiful and make me proud of it the same way.

    I looked at it and think: “I’ll have to make another one, this one is horrible!”

    So a i did. And the next one was better, still full of flaws, but better.

    A friend saw the first ugly one and pay me to make one for him.

    So, we may never make them as perfect as we want or as Paul does, but everyone else will be mesmerized by what we make!

    Keep doing, keep working, never give up. The ugly ones you can give as presents to your friends.


    David B

    I found that my joints weren’t perfect but they were generally pretty close. Once I put the saw together and added a massive amount of tension, everything seems to have cinched up pretty nicely. Oftentimes I think I’ll know the process down pat but find that I need to watch a section of a video multiple times to really get my confidence up to the point of executing it correctly. Frankly, making mistakes only makes you better so don’t get too discouraged!

    Hugo Notti

    Very late answer, but it might help some people…

    The frame saw was one of my very first projects and I love it! Of course, the joint is far from perfect, I couldn’t even get the sides flush and i didn’t bother rounding the shoulders. I somehow managed to get the slots for the blade parallel, and I think, this is all the precision that is needed. If the joint is lose, even better, it cannot twist the frame then. And if it is ugly, it still won’t interfere with the function of the saw.

    If there is anything I would change in my saw, it would be a blade holder to rotate the blade. Sometimes, the frame is in the way when I want to make long cuts.


    Spencer Gaskins

    Very late response, but I hear you on the scalloped mortise and tenon joint.

    The frame saw was my first project using hand tools. I am including a picture here of a less than perfect fit.

    The saw still works perfectly well. And, making the saw, including the floating tenon for the hand guard, gave me confidence to move on to other projects.

    I look at it as a learning process. I moved on to the dovetail boxes as the next ‘class’ in the process, and by the fourth dovetail, it came together (the first three were… let’s just say that they needed shims to stay together…) That fourth one however was pure joy. Great fit, no gaps, solid dovetail that I could be proud of. I wouldn’t have gotten there, however, without making the saw. I used the imperfect saw to cut that great dovetail – and good dovetails (and tenons, and straight cuts) since.

    The journey and the learning are new – enjoy the process

    James Simpson

    Thanks Arctain !

    I have continued working with hand tools and, as a matter of fact, completed a bow saw (just not Paul Sellers version) which came out quite nice. I just moved on from that design (maybe over-kill for a “newbie” ?). I mean determining the EXACT center for the mortise, lining up the tenon to EXACTLY fit into the mortise would have been difficult enough for a “newbie” but to add a curve into the mortise just went too far, in my estimation. You’ve got to walk before you run and it’s very important for those new to hand tools to have successes in order to build confidence. When you are handed frustration after frustration after frustration then maybe it’s time to move to another site which will offer the occasional success….

    Just sayin’…..

    Jim S

    Ben Lehnert

    I totally hear you! My solution to this was this: good enough is good enough – for me!

    To make a decision on how to deal with the frustration I asked myself: what is my want/need with this project?
    I WANTED a saw that looks perfect. I NEEDED one that makes smooth, straight cuts.
    Opting for my need, what cane out was a butt-ugly, crude saw with skewed angles and so on.
    BUT it cuts just fine, even my 9 year old had fun using it, despite this being the first time he used a hand saw like this!

    So my only real need was a frame with two fulcrum points to put a blade under enough tension to saw straight…

    Have fun and figure out your needs!



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