I am wanting to do some small milling projects. I have pieces of oak and alligator juniper that are between 6 and 14" across that I would like to try and cut into boards. I know I can build my own frame saw with some 2x2's and hardwar, creating a rectangular frame that the saw blade sits within, but I also saw this type: traditional bow saw

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bow_saw, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sega_a_telaio.jpg

The thing I like about this design is that I don't have to pass the frame around the stock, because the blade sits at the far end of the frame and can be rotated to cut at any angle (at least the ones I'm looking at buying can). So I can set the piece down and work it horizontally if I like. Does anyone have experience with this type of saw? Will they work better than a rectangular frame saw with the blade completely enclosed?

  • 1
    Sorry Ian, the rules here specifically discourage product recommendations so this thread will be closed unless you can reword the Question so that it isn't about those saws but more a generic question. Whatever you end up buying remember you want a rip blade, not a cross-cut!
    – Graphus
    Jun 14, 2017 at 6:02
  • What do you mean by "pass the frame around the stock"? They seem like absolutely typical bow-saws (I'm English). Jun 14, 2017 at 10:04
  • @Graphus - removed request for brand recommendation. The question is about the type of saw, not necessarily the brand. Link to Amazon is just for illustration purposes.
    – Ian
    Jun 14, 2017 at 14:17
  • @MartinBonner - When I say making my own frame saw, I meant one like this: hyperkitten.com/woodworking/frame_saw.php. It has a square frame that the saw blade rests within instead of the type you can buy on Amazon. I'm thinking that the for-sale design is superior and will be a saw that I can use to do joinery work as well as mill the lumber itself with different blades, but all the stuff I see online for these "bow/frame" saws talks about them being used for finishing work, not milling.
    – Ian
    Jun 14, 2017 at 14:28

2 Answers 2


The bow saw pictured is a type of frame saw; other frame saws may have a rectangular frame all the way around the outside as you mentioned in a comment.

Will [a commercially-produced bow saw] work better than a home made frame saw?

A homemade frame or bow saw is just as functional as a commercially-produced one. If you can build a frame saw, you can also build a bow saw like the one pictured in your question.

all the stuff I see online for these "bow/frame" saws talks about them being used for finishing work, not milling

Yes, you can use these saws for milling. If desired, you could even use the same bandsaw blade stock that is used for bandsaw mills.

  • Ok, I reworded the question. I was unclear before, but I meant will the enclosed frame saw have any advantage over the fulcrum type with the rotating blade. I think you are saying they can both be used effectively for milling, but the fulcrum type can also be used as a detail saw too from what I'm reading.
    – Ian
    Jun 14, 2017 at 16:34

What you don't see is that the "blade in the middle" frame saw is nicely balanced and thus easier to keep on track. This form factor (stick in the middle, blade on one side) is more often used for cross-cutting or with blade holders that rotate, making it a turning saw (large, wood-framed coping saw, more or less.) Using it for long rip cuts it will want to walk off and you'll be fighting it the whole way, when a central-blade saw is very cooperative, by contrast.

I suggest building both. They each are better for some things, worse for others.

  • I think you'd get a pretty stiff argument from Tage Frid about your central tenet here!
    – Graphus
    Jun 15, 2017 at 6:53
  • So you claim that Tage's ghost would claim, that a saw with the frame skewed to one side to clear the board you are ripping is balanced as nicely as one that has a frame centered around the blade because that's the job it's designed to do? hyperkitten.com/pics/woodworking/resaw4.jpg
    – Ecnerwal
    Jun 15, 2017 at 13:42
  • No, I'm claiming that Tage Frid would argue strongly that his preferred frame saw does the job perfectly well. Also, there's Adam Cherubini's opinion on the central-blade type, "Now some four years later, I’m realizing these saws really don’t work that well."
    – Graphus
    Jun 15, 2017 at 20:59

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