I have an intimate relationship with my tool collection. Sometimes the needs of a particular jewelry project drive me to purchase a new tool, while other times I’m compelled to add a tool to my collection simply because of its “Wow!” factor. And some of the tools in my collection have been around for so long I swear I was born with them.
My traditional saw frame is one of those longstanding tools. I bought it with my own money when I was 15, and it has all the war wounds you would expect after 25 years of steadfast service. So when I was asked to review the new Knew Concepts Jewelers Precision Hand Saws, I was curious to see how they would stand up to my tried-and-true companion.
Upon inspecting the various saw frames that arrived at my shop for testing. I could tell immediately that the construction is high quality. I received a 5-inch and an 8-inch aluminum saw frame, and an 8-inch titanium saw frame. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, the pierced out spines of the frames are the main reason why they are much more rigid than standard steel saw frames.
All of the frames accommodate standard 51/8 inch saw blades. Small holes in both the upper and the lower ends of the frames serve as attachment points. To insert a blade, you thread it into the holes and twist plastic thumbscrews at either end to tighten it. The lower thumbscrew has one tab removed to prevent it from hitting the work piece while you are sawing.
Because the saw handles are of a slightly larger diameter than most, they allow for a comfortable position for your hand and reduce stress. The larger size appears to be possible because of the weight savings in the metal parts of the saw frame.
As I began to work with the saw frames, I knew I would have to unlearn some of my old habits in order to get the most out of the new saw design. The biggest issue I came across was with the blade installation and tensioning. The holes in the frames for inserting the blade are quite small. To enable easier insertion of the blade, I opened up the ends of the holes slightly with a bud bur to create a small taper. (It’s important to do this with the saw upside down so that no debris falls into the bottom of the hole and impedes blade insertion.)
Also, the tightening nuts are less substantial than the ones I’m used to manipulating. With some practice, I got comfortable with them, and I realized that I did not have to tighten them as much as those on my old saw to secure the blade properly. Initially, I was actually breaking off blades at the friction points because I was over-tightening.
Tensioning also took a little getting used to. To tension the blade on the aluminum frames, you twist a nut on the top arm of the frame. It’s easy to do and, with time, the amount of twist needed should become familiar. The nice thing about this is the ability to personalize how tight your blade is, since every bench jeweler likes his or her blade tightened to slightly different extents.
The titanium frame uses a more sophisticated cam system for tensioning. The cam is a lever that is attached to the top of the frame. Once you insert and tighten the blade, you pivot the lever from the open position to the closed position, tensioning the blade the exact same amount every time. This feature should be a great benefit to both the experienced jeweler and the novice who hasn’t yet figured out the subtlety of blade tensioning.
Although installation and tensioning took a little getting used it, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the real benefit of these saw frames—the stiffness of the spine and the resulting control and finesse it provides to cutting operations.
The saw frames gave me greater control of the saw for both straight and curved cuts, but they really shined in the tight cutback corners present in most pierced designs. My straight cuts did not weave from side to side as they can when using traditional-style saws. Also, the blade tracked well along the arc on curved cuts, staying closer to my guidelines.
That said, the stiffer frame does require you to use a lighter touch most of the time. When you catch a tooth of the saw blade and it hangs up momentarily, the lack of flex in the frame is less forgiving, which may cause you to break a few more blades when you’re powering through metal and hit a snag. Another major benefit of this tool is the lightness of the saw frame, which allows for long periods of piercing without excessive fatigue or reduction in quality.
After a few weeks of working with these new saws, I quickly adjusted to them—and I’m not getting better results than I was with my faithful old saw. This is definitely my new favorite saw frame.
Mark Maxwell is owner of Mark Maxwell Designer/Goldsmith, mmgoldsmith.com.
Supplier’s Note: In response to this product testing and user feedback, Knew Concepts is making a change to out machining process to add a small tapered entrance to the blade hole.