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Sapele Bow Saw

author-gravatar Sean Sep 03, 2016

Going into this build I figured it would only take me roughly a day to make, but was way off. There's quite a bit of shaping involved with this fun little project. I tried to primarily use hand tools to make it but did find myself using the spindle sander in places. From start to finish the saw took me 2 days and I enjoyed the whole process. I made this saw out of sapele, using the kit and plans from Gramercy Tools.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw
Photo of Sapele Bow Saw
Photo of Sapele Bow Saw
Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Other than buying turned knobs, this is all the kit consists of. I went with the royal blue string.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I printed a couple copies of the plans from their website on legal paper. 

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I've had this chunk of 8/4 sapele for a few years and every now and then I take a chunk out of it for a special project. I have the parts sketched out on the board to get the most out of my stock. This job will require a bit of resawing to get the final pieces, but that's OK.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I take it over to the bandsaw to rip the board I need. I use the bandsaw because it's going to have a smaller kerf, thus saving some of the board.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I then use my panel saw to crosscut the board free.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

 This is all that's needed for the whole bow saw. 

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

The first thing I do is cut the pieces for the handles so I can get the brass rods epoxied in. 

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

These are the 2 handles.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I use my center finder to mark center lines on the two blanks.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

And then take it over to the drill press and drill out the 1/4" hole 1" deep for the rods.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I mix up some epoxy.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

And stick the brass rods in and clamp them for a few hours to make sure they wont move.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

To get the parts out of this thick stock, I take it over to the table saw and resaw it.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Giving me the 2 arms.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Next I cut it to length.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

And smooth it with my number 3.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Using some super 77, I attach the template.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

My board was still a little wider than the template so I used my no 62 to bring it down to the width of the paper template.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

For the mortises I drilled them out using the same 1/4" drill bit in the drill press.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I transferred my lines to the second piece instead of attaching a separate template to it. If I were to do a second bow saw, I would probably just attach a template to it to make sure everything is where it needs to be, but I really didn't run into any issues.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I used my chisels to square up the mortises.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Next up I glue the side template on and begin shaping.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I cut the top curve, taped the piece back on and then cut the tapers from the top.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Next up I cut the bottom curves.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Now I have both arms cut, but very rough.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Next up I cut the 13 1/2" stretcher.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Mark the tenons and cut them with my hand saw.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

The right side fits good inside the mortise, but the left side was too loose for my taste (it wouldn't hold its own weight) so I had to fix it.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I found a scrap piece of thin sapele and glued it on the tenon to make it thicker. After the glue dried I cut the tenon to the correct size.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

To shape the arms I primarily used my spokeshaves (mainly the flat bottom because I cannot get the round bottom to not chatter if my life depended on it). I would use the random rasp but need to pick up some finer rasps for finer work. All of my rasps just chew wood up, leaving a lot of sanding.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

This is the final outcome of the arm. I'm happy with it but with everything I make, would probably do a better job if I were to make another bow saw.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

It's tough (for me anyways) to get 2 hand shaped pieces to look similar. I was happy to see they looked the same.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw
Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

If you don't have a lathe, you can buy turned handles from Gramercy Tools, but I do so I decided to turn the handles.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

It was at this point that I thought I screwed my first handle up. It was looking rough but I was able to save it.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

One handle down, time to not screw up the other one...

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Snug fit in the 1/4" hole.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Both handles came out better than expected. 

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

This is the toggle that I also turned on the lathe. It's supposed to taper down to 1/8". I didn't trust my bandsaw skills to cut the taper, and I sure as hell wasn't going to use my table saw, so I figured my best bet would be to just use my spokeshave. Now clamping this 5 1/4" piece was tough but I managed to rig up something to hold it so that I could put the taper on two sides.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

I gotta say, I was really happy with how this came out.  I ended up tapering all 4 sides of the toggle because I felt it looked better, but that's just my preference. You may not agree.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

After this shot was taken, I took the stretcher and shaped all 4 sides of it, giving it a soft bullnose round over.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

For the finish, I wanted something quick and easy because it doesn't need a whole lot of protection. I sprayed two coats of shellac and will be following it up with a nice coat of wax applied with steel wool. I will give the shellac a few days to cure before waxing it.

Photo of Sapele Bow Saw

Man I love the way sapele looks with finish on it.

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