What Is A Fret Saw Used For?

A Fret Saw is a frame saw with a very small narrow blade similar to a Jeweler’s saw, coping saw and scroll saw. 

There are so many helpful options when it comes to saws for your project. Each tool has a specific purpose and function that separates it from the others. I’ve researched through the internet and put together a quick summary on the Fret Saw.

What is a fret saw used for? A Fret Saw is a small handheld frame saw with a narrow blade used for delicate detailed cutting in woodworking similar to a coping saw and scroll saw. It is commonly used for cutting fine dovetails, curves, shapes, artistic designs, guitar making and any fine thin cuts that require accuracy. Jewelers will also use this for making jewelry

Keep reading below to learn more about the Fret Saw and what it can be used for.

What Is A Fret Saw?

A fret saw is a type of hand saw that is specifically designed for making very precise cuts in wood. The blade of a fret saw is held in place by a frame, and the frame has a handle that you grip with one hand while cutting with the other.

The blade of a fret saw is even thinner and shorter than a coping saw which allows it to cut even tighter curves. The blade is usually quite shallow and extra-fine, possessing up to 32 teeth per inch. The blade has a fixed orientation so it can cut very sharp corners but it is less useful when cutting long and narrow components.

The blade could easily snap if too much sideways force is applied and the teeth of the blade should always point downwards because if it is pointed upwards, the material (I.e wood or plastic) would be lifted by the teeth instead of being forced into the saw table.

Spiral blades (blades that have teeth on all their sides) can also be used in a fret saw. The teeth being on all sides of the blade means the saw will be able to cut in any direction without having to rotate the work-piece. There are also blades made with no actual teeth but instead consist of abrasive materials like diamonds, carbide, and so on.

The fret saw also has a straight cylindrical handle. This is normal among tools that perform delicate work. The handle can be turned freely in your hand which means you have even greater control over the cuts you’re making. This type of handle prevents aggressive and rough cutting as it is hard to apply a lot of force on it. 

Pro Tip: You can add tape to the handle of your Fret Saw to get extra grip. This is similar to taping a hockey stick.

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What Is A Fret Saw Used For?

A fret saw is a handsaw used for making very fine, intricate cuts. It is a woodworking tool that is used to cut curvy shapes out of light materials such as perspex, MDF, and plywood. It is commonly used for cutting fine dovetails, cutting curves, cutting shapes, cutting artistic designs and any fine thin cuts that require accuracy.

The fret saw was coined from the French word “freter”, which means “lattice”. A lattice is a structure made from pieces of material overlapping one another to form intricate patterns. The fret saw blade is very fragile and should not be used for heavy-duty applications like cutting very thick pieces of material, sawing too fast, or rough cutting.

Although the blades were initially intended to be used to cut through wood and plastic, blades that could cut through metal are now readily available due to the versatility of the fret saw.

The fret saw is quite similar to the coping saw and they are often used for similar work. But the fret saw is capable of more delicate work and maneuvering around a smaller radius. While the coping saw can create results almost as good as a fretsaw, the fret saw is better when creating smaller curves.

The fret saw also has a very deep frame which gives it an odd look. The depth of the frame is typically between 10-20 inches and in collaboration with the short and thin blade, it makes the fret saw look out of proportion in comparison with most other saws. The frame takes up a major proportion of the total area and weight of the saw.

This is why a fret saw could also be defined as a hand-held frame that holds replaceable saw blades. These blades are replaceable thanks to the presence of wing nuts or grips which allow you to exchange the blade easily and tighten or loosen the blade. The blade needs to be well tightened when cutting through thicker material.

The fret saw tends to cut through wood or plastic if they are quite thin, for example, any material thicker than 10mm would be difficult to shape. It is a general rule that the thicker the work-piece, the slower the machine pushes the piece against the blade.

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The frame has a relatively large torque which could pose a problem to people who are not experienced at using fret saws. And although the handle is engineered to cancel out most of this torque, it is advisable to hold the fret saw with the frame under your arm, especially if you are new to using it, to give you more stability and control over the movement of the saw.

To make it even easier to use a fret saw, one could deploy a fret saw board (also known as a V-board). The fret saw board is a small plank made of either wood or metal, which when clamped to the bench can be used to support the work-piece and enhance the shaping process. The fret saw board has a V-shaped slot cut into it and this allows carpenters to hold the wood to the table.

The fret saw table is very helpful as it accommodates the unusual shape of the fretsaw thereby helping to create an easier and more accurate shape.

Fret Saw Blades

Fret saw blades are specially designed to cut very thin, intricate curves in wood. The blades are very thin and flexible, making them ideal for cutting delicate shapes. Fret saw blades come in a variety of sizes such as 21, 23, and 25 TPI (teeth per inch).

Most fret saw blades are made of carbon steel, which is a strong and durable material. However, carbon steel can rust if it’s not properly cared for. So, it’s important to clean and oil your fret saw blades after each use. Fret saw blades can.

The most common type of fret saw blade is the plain-end blade. These blades have a straight cutting edge and are used for general purpose cutting. Fret saw blades with spiral teeth are also available. These blades are used for cutting tougher materials, such as metals and plastics.

To ensure a clean cut, it is important to use the correct blade size for the material being cut. Using a blade that is too large can result in a ragged, uneven cut. Conversely, using a blade that is too small can cause the saw to bind and break.

When cutting curves with a fret saw, it is important to use a light touch. Applying too much pressure can cause the blade to bind and break. It is also important to make sure that the workpiece is securely clamped down before starting to cut.

Cutting Dovetails With A Fret Saw

To cut a dovetail with a fret saw start by measuring and marking the waste wood to be removed. Next clamp the work piece securely in a vise or to a work table. Then take your saw and start cutting on the inside of the line closest to the mark for the waste wood. Be sure to cut at a steady pace and keep your cuts straight by following your marked lines.

As you get close to the end of the cut, you will need to slow down and be extra careful not to overcut the line and remove too much wood. Once you have cut all the way around the waste wood, remove it from your work piece. You should now have a perfect dovetail joint that is ready to be glued and clamped.

Inlay Work With A Fret Saw

To cut inlays with a fret saw start by making a template out of cardboard or some other thin material. Cut the inside and outside profiles of the inlay out of the template with a sharp knife. Place the template on the workpiece and trace around it with a pencil.

Next, clamp the workpiece in a vise or to your workbench. Then, use your fret saw to cut along the lines you just traced. It’s important to use a sharp blade and to make sure the blade is perpendicular to the workpiece.

After cutting out the inlay, sand the edges smooth. Then, glue the inlay in place and let it dry.

How To Make A Fret Saw Table.


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Fret Saw Safety Rules

Although the fret saw is quite an easy tool to use, it is still dangerous so you should abide by the proper safety regulations. Make sure you use safety glasses and keep all loose clothing and hair out of the way when using the fret saw. Keep a firm grip on the wood and the saw.

Also, keep your fingers at a safe distance away from the saw. Make sure you take proper care of the saw by leaving it clean and tidy after use. Do not leave it lying around on the floor after you use it. And to be sure that your work comes out well, stay calm and relaxed while using the fret saw.

What Is The Difference Between A Fret Saw And A Scroll Saw?

The fret saw is in many ways, akin to a scroll saw. But simply put, a fretsaw is a hand-operated scroll saw. The scroll saw runs electronically with the saw clamped to a table and the wood moved on it for shaping. Whereas it is the opposite with the fretsaw, as it is the saw moved through a clamped piece of wood to shape it. The blades used by the two are interchangeable and some regions even refer to fretsaws as scroll saws (informally).

What Materials Can A Fret Saw Cut?

Fret Saws are intended to cut thin light materials such as wood, plastic, plywood, MDF, Perspex, and some blades are made to cut metal.

How Does A Fret Saw Work?

The Fret Saw works by pulling it’s blade back and forth along your work piece cutting on the pull stroke. The wing grip and wing nut are used to clamp the blade in place in the frame.  Make sure the blade teeth are pointing down. Pinch the frame of the saw to fit the other end of the blade into place so you can clamp using the wing grip and wing nut. Tighten the wing nuts with pliers.

Some fret saws may have a blade socket. If so place the blade into the socket and tighten the tension knob. Make sure the blade is facing down so they cut on the pull stroke.  Continue by placing the other end of the blade into the other socket and clamp it so the blade has a nice tight tension.


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What Is The Difference Between A Fret Saw And A Coping Saw?

Fret Saw Vs Coping Saw

The main difference between a fret saw and coping saw is the fret saw has a smaller thinner blade allowing it to make finer cuts and cut smaller radius angles than the coping saw. Both are similar looking frame saws but you would use a coping saw for heavier thicker material.

Best Fret Saw

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Kevin Nelson

I will always have a special place in my heart for woodworking. I have such fond memories working on projects with my parents on the weekends in the garage growing up. We built tables, shelves, a backyard shed, 10' base for a water slide into the pool, 2 story fort playhouse with a fire pole, and so much more. This woodworking blog allows me to write helpful articles so others can enjoy woodworking as much as we have.

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