Friday, September 9, 2011

Knew Concepts Fretsaw Review

The recent 6-video series on hand-cut dovetail joints proved one thing: people are curious about that fretsaw :)

Many people know me from various forums so I'd get asked about it through messages there or Twitter or, yes, even blog comments!  Enough questions that I thought to run a quick (?) video review of the saw.

The saw is a Knew Concepts' titanium 5" woodworkers' fretsaw (say that 5 times fast).  The titanium model is pricy; obtaining and working titanium is difficult.  The aluminum model is nicely anodized red and is nearly as stiff as the gun-metal grey titanium model.  The aluminum model is a steal considering how much other companies charge for anodized CNCed aluminum straight edges.

Fretsaws take scrollsaw blades.  Lee Marshall, who owns Knew Concepts, turned me on to Ben's Scroll Saw blades.  Great price, excellent selection including metal or inlay blades.  Since the fretsaw takes standard scrollsaw blades, you can get them anywhere, but thought I'd suggest where I've had great service so save you searching.

In the dovetail series, I used a #7 skip-tooth blade (15 tpi).  The skip-tooth design, much like a bandsaw blade, gives you good chip removal so you can cut quickly.  #7 is just a nice size... not so small I'm snapping them but not too big either.  If you decide to order some, put some metal-cutting blades in your cart; I did "just in case" and have used them a number of times in place of a rough-cutting hacksaw.

There are also reversing blades with teeth going both directions a bit like those new Bosch jigsaw blades.

Beyond dovetails, I use this saw a lot.  Much more than I expected.  For example, in the current vanity series, the drawer fronts get two fretsawed cuts in each to form a recess.


  • marc said...

    paul thanks for putting this together about the Knew fret saw.I will have to get me one.

  • ckniker said...

    Have you ordered any of the Pegas Spiral Blades for use with the fret saw?

    I'm contemplating the saw (for cutting out dovetail waste) and like the idea of the Spiral Blades if they work well....

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Hi, ckniker, I did order the spiral blades, but have yet to use them for dovetails. If you watch my dovetail video series, I use this saw throughout with a #7 skip-tooth blade. You can easily rotate it after sliding it down the kerf for a tail or pin to clear the bottom. The spiral may work better, but I usually have the #7 on the saw and might get a bit too lazy to try the spiral.

    The blades are pretty inexpensive for a dozen. I bought a bunch of different types including some metal cutting blades, spirals, and 2/0 jewelry blades. I wanted them on hand 'in case' and have used the metal blades and 2/0 blades many times for new things I've gotten into. Maybe when I get in the shop this weekend, I'll pop a spiral in. Sorry that doesn't answer your question directly!

  • ckniker said...

    I ordered spiral and skip-tooth blades from bensscrollsaw yesterday. (And I ordered the aluminum Knew Concepts fret saw minutes before that).

    Unfortunately, the ST blades are flying off the shelf and Ben can't keep them in stock :-). I'm sure your blog (and others) have an influence on his inventory....

    I'll be forced to try the Spiral cut blades until the others arrive from Switzerland.


  • ckniker said...

    More questions/comments:

    My intention is to use the fret saw and blades in combination with a JM-SW that I ordered a week ago and is en route as I type this. (a big thanks to your videos).

    I presume that the ST blades will have no trouble with ultra-thin kerf made by the Jointmaker's blade.

    Also, my dovetails will be mitered and in 8/4 hard maple! I know that this is stressing the limits of each of these tools (JM-SW, fret saw, blades) and will have to proceed carefully. If you have any tips, I'm all ears.....

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Ah, you'll like the JMP-SW. I used it a bit at WIA while presenting (I have a JMPv2). In fact, I was using it tonight to cut perfect segments for a fan inlay I was doing to experiment a bit.

    I haven't used the JMP to cut something like 8/4 Hard Maple. You'll be able to cut it although you'll need to keep the pitch very low and go slowly. Buy some Alder (or other soft hardwood) to practice and get the feel for it. If you bind a blade up badly, you can damage a tooth to where it makes a ratty cut.

    Believe it or not, I use some welders' clamps from Harbor Freight to clamp stuff to my JMP; talk about opposites :) The clamps have Vice-grip-like handles to set tension with welders' clamp heads. Stuff needs to be clamped for a good cut; for some cuts, you really couldn't do it without clamps (and you'll bind and ruin the blade).

    I'd consider buying a 5-pack of replacement blades now. If you ding a blade near the end of the cut, you can still crosscut by avoiding it, but can't make a stopped cut like you would for dovetails. Plus it is nice having them right away.

    Another type of clamp I use on the JMP is the wooden clamps like these:

    They are available elsewhere, tool. The clamp length isn't much of an issue as you typically use just 6-8", but the throat... I have 3 sizes for that. They are gentle compared to all-metal F-clamps.

    As for the kerf, the JMP kerf is small, very small. 17 thou small. Fortunately, the #7 skip tooth has about the same kerf though you could go to smaller blades if you want more maneuverability. Just get the blade to the bottom of a JMP kerf then start cutting without moving the blade... just rotate it to get pointing horizontally (see my dovetail videos and you'll see me doing that a bazillion times).

    You'll want the blade well tensioned. You'll also want to treat it like a clutch: only rotate it when it is moving. Otherwise you'll snap it.

    Good luck! You'll have fun with it though the JMP and the SW in particular have a learning curve (but a fun one). I may make a video for the fan inlay and how to do it on the JMP. Maybe this weekend.

  • ckniker said...

    thanks for the helpful info.

    I'll take your advice and order the extra JMP blades. I presume that the 28 TPI crosscut blades are the most commonly used blades ....


  • Siavosh said...

    Hi Paul, thanks for the review. Do you see any downside with the 3" model instead of the 4"? If they both rotate at 45-degrees, I'm thinking they have the same capabilities in term of how deep you can reach into a board fore joinery. I'm thinking the 3" would have even better control, no?

  • HalfInchShy said...

    Thanks, Siavosh... and yes! get the 3"!

    When I got this saw, Lee Marshall was only making my titanium model and an aluminum version. He had other sizes with no blade rotation for jewelry, but a 3" would need to rotate so you can go across a board cutting dovetails.

    Since then, he added the "woodworkers" blade swivel to the 3". I sent mine to the UK for a friend to try; I had just gotten it for a couple weeks and found that I liked it a lot. Which reminds me to send him an email... ;)

    When I get it back, it'll be in time to do drawers for my current project. I may record doing a drawer or two with the 3" and talk about it a bit.

    Thanks for bringing it up!