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JOEL Joel's Blog

How To Tension a Fret Saw Blade


 A typical fretsaw and its adjustments
A typical fretsaw and its adjustments

You can learn a great number of excellent woodworking tips and practices from formal classes - and by being around experienced woodworkers. To cite one example: how to use a square. And another quick tip - this in response to a question we get very regularly: "How do I put a fret saw blade into my saw so it's fully tensioned?" First of all we stock the most excellent Knew Concepts fret saws that use a lever to do this operation, which shows how many people have trouble with tensioning. Our "regular" (i.e., less fancy), most popular fret saws don't have an obvious method. This is how I was taught.

Except for the very largest size, our fret saws have a tensioning screw at the top (D) but it is only marginally useful.

1 - Clamp your fret saw blade (teeth pointing towards the handle) tight in the bottom clamp (B). Engage the entire clamping surface.

2 - Adjust the blade length - the screw at the back (A) - so that with the blade clamped in the bottom the top of the blade just reaches the top clamp.

3 - Press the top arm of the fret saw against the front edge of your bench, springing the top arm down so the top of the blade engages fully or nearly fully with the entire length of the top clamp (C).

How To Tension a Fret Saw Blade 2

4 - Tighten the top clamp (C).
How To Tension a Fret Saw Blade 3
5 - If your saw has the top screw adjustment, (D) you can add even more tension to the blade.

More tension (and this is why many people love the Knew Concepts saw with its very rigid frame) gives you a straighter, more responsive cut on thicker materials, and makes the saw work more smoothly on very thin veneers and metals. So it's good to add as much spring tension as you can without permanently bending the top frame. Try it and get a feel for what works for you.

That's it. A simple technique that is very useful. Now it's back to the important stuff, like tracking down the gifts that didn't get delivered in time.

From everyone at Tools for Working Wood, we thank you all for your continued support and encouragement. We wish you and your families a happy and healthy New Year!

Join the conversation
12/27/2023 martin schulman
Thanks for this. It's always a pain to remember which way the saw teeth should point.
12/27/2023 Joe Leonetti
Thanks. Was so frustrated with both fret and coping saws I bought the Knew concepts versions. Would appreciate a similar article on how to tension a coping saw as I struggle with them as well. Even though I have a Knew concepts coping saw, would like to know how to adjust a regular coping saw. There are time, such as when I travel, when I don’t have my Knew concepts with me. Is it because manufacturers make crap basic versions? Is there one or two brands that make regular coping saws that work well?
12/27/2023 Jesse Griggs
how much tension do you want for a coping saw?
Maximum tension on a fret saw or coping saw blade is determined when the top arm of the frame starts to spring down. In the case of traditional designed fret, coping, and bow saws it's a far amount of tension, but the blades are way stronger so it's fine.
A tighter blade will work better on very thin material and also be more responsive in general. But for wood, except for veneer, I would suggest that speed of cutting is more important than absolute tension, and that is a function of having the right blade.
Knew Concepts saws, which are designed to have an insane amount of blade tension allow you to adjust the tension.
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The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the blog's author and guests and in no way reflect the views of Tools for Working Wood.