All About Fret Saws

All about Fret Saws

In our first article on the different tools Craftsman Studio carry, we are going to cover the basics of Fret Saws. This basic tool has been around forever and it is still something every woodworker needs. The most confusing part of Fret Saws are all the different types of blades. I’ll try to add some clarity to that.

Fret saws are usually used for woodworking tasks such as cutting complicated curves and cleaning out waste. My primary use of a fret saw is cleaning out waste from dovetails. The fine blade of a fret saw does a great job of cleaning out wood joints. I also use it to cut curved shapes if I am removing a large amount of wood. For example, if I’m putting a shallow arch on a table apron I’ll use a regular crosscut saw to cut down to my line and then use a chisel to clean it out. But If I am doing a more intricate curve or something deeper I’ll use the fret saw.

I often get asked about the differences between a coping saw and a fret saw. Primarily it’s the blade and the frame. Fret saws have shallower blades and up to 32 teeth per inch (tpi) for fine cutting tasks like dovetails. Unlike a coping saw, the blade has a fixed orientation relative to the frame. Fret saws can also have much deeper frames (we carry a 10” deep fret saw). If you need to cut through thicker wood or use on heavy duty jobs faster use the coping saw. If you are doing fine woodworking use the fret saw.

Choosing Fret Saw blades:

Fret Saws use scroll saw blades - they are basically hand powered scroll saws. It is often confusing when confronted with all the different types of Fret Saw Blades. At Craftsman Studio we carry a wide range of different manufactures and types.

Here are the basic types of blades we carry:

1. Standard Tooth Blades- Teeth on these blades are separated by a fixed distance and are each the same size. This is what you would use for general work. An example of this blade (and the one I usually recommend) is the Pegas SK 7 15tpi.

2. Skip-Tooth Blades – As the name implies, it is the same as the standard with every other tooth missing. This will keep the blade cooler (preventing burning) while you work. For this I recommend the Olsen blades.

3. Reverse Skip-Tooth Blades – Like the Skip Tooth, every other tooth is missing. But the last several teeth are reversed. This helps prevent splinters and tear out on the underside of the piece. An example of this is our Robert Larson Skip tooth blade.

4. Multi Tooth Blades- These blades have two teeth next to each other followed by a flat space. This allows for efficient chip removal and leaves a very clean edge in wood.

5. Spiral blades – These are special purpose blades that have teeth in all directions. This allows you to change directions. The downside to this is they leave a rough surface.

6. Jewelers saw blades – Great for precision cutting of metal. They can also be used to cut heavier gauge wire.

Fret Saws carried by Craftsman Studio:

Knew Concepts Fret Saws:

Knew Concepts makes two fret saw sizes – 3in and 5in. These saws have several advantages over more the classic Fret saw. When making fine cuts, rigidity of the frame is essential. This is where Knew Concepts is unmatched. The aluminum frame is stiffer and prevents blade breaking better than any we have seen. It’s lever makes installing and tightening blades simple. It is also ultra-light – only 5oz for the five inch saw.

They also allow you to lock the blade in at 3 different angles. You can swivel the blade 45 degrees in either direction. This great for when you are working in tight spaces and do not want to move your wood out of the vice.
Olson “Jewelers” saw:

Fitted with a Fret Saw blade, these are you classic Fret Saw. We carry both the 5in and 3in saws. They come with an adjustable tensioning system that allows you to hold blades from 2 ½ to 6in long. The Olson saw is a good basic everyday fret saw.

That’s our overview of Fret Saws. If you have comments or more questions, please e-mail me at scottlove@craftsmanstudio.com