Knew Concepts Woodworker's Titanium Birdcage Fret Saw - Tool Review
by Jeffrey Fleisher
New Market, VA
The first thing you notice when you pick up the Knew Concepts Woodworker's Titanium Birdcage Fret Saw is the rigidness of the frame and the tension of the blade. If a hand tool could feel like it could 'pack a punch' then it is this saw. It may look unorthodox but this is a high-end premium hand tool.
The unique designs of Knew Concepts tools are created by Lee Marshal of Santa Cruz, CA. Mr. Marshall started out designing precision tooling for shaping and forming jewelry which included a new blade tensioning mechanism. Customers of these systems convinced him to create a standalone saw which included this blade tensioning mechanism and Knew Concepts was born.
The Titanium Birdcage Saw is built from welded titanium with the back spline designed as a truss that is triangular in cross section. This design creates an extremely strong and rigid frame which minimizes flex when tensioning the blade. The extreme tension that you can create with this saw keeps the blade extra taut and allows you to cut extreme tight turns for curved lines and nice straight lines in dense exotic woods.
There are three sizes available for this saw 3 inch, 5 inch and 8 inch depth of cut between the blade and the back spline. The three saws weigh 6 oz., 6 ¾ oz. and 7 ½ oz. respectively. All three saws use a standard 5 inch pinless scroll saw blade.
In addition to the unique birdcage design which provides the rigid frame the saw also uses a cam-lever tensioning system that can apply more tension than I have ever been able to put onto a fret or coping saw.
The pinless blade slides into a circular opening and is clamped in place using a nice size brass knob. The cam-lever rotates to the 'up' position to quickly apply tension to the blade. Rotating it down when not in use is easy and extends the life of the blade. There is a brass micro-adjust knob to micro-adjust the amount of tension on the blade. Although hard to see in the photograph, the tensioning mechanism can rotate 45 degrees left and right around the zero degree setting. There are detentes at the 45 degree positions. This is very useful if you are cutting the waste out of dovetails, for example, in a large carcass which is wider than the depth of cut of the saw. Tilting the saw blade let's you march down the length of the cabinet with no interference. The blade is mounted with the teeth pointing towards the handle so it cuts on the pull stroke.
The handle side uses the same type of blade locking mechanism and a plain wooden handle. Highland Woodworking also sells a cocobolo retrofit handle from Elkhead Tool to compliment the beauty of the saw.
So, how does it work in practice?
I use my fret saw to quickly cut out the waste when cutting dovetail pins and tails.
I can honestly say that I've broken many scroll saw blades because they have bowed and twisted when making a cut with a conventional fret saw. I could never get the blade taut enough to make a clean cut and it is pretty unnerving watching the blade bow while cutting knowing it is going to twist and break! I am amazed at how taut you can get the blade in the Knew Concepts saw which has virtually eliminated bowing of the blade and breakage due to twisting. As I alluded to in my opening paragraph, this saw feels like it can power through the densest woods with no problems.
Because of the taut blade you can cut very nice curves as well. This is the saw for you if you do marquetry. I do not do marquetry but my father did...here is an example of one of his marquetry pictures demonstrating the details that need to be cut.
In this closeup you can see the small curves which require a nice tight blade. I believe that this saw can easily handle cutting small curved pieces as required here.
As a woodworking hand tool, this is a premier fret saw. The one downside to this tool is the price. If you only cut a few dovetails now & again then this saw may be overkill for you. However, if you cut dovetails frequently or use denser hardwoods then you may be able to justify the higher cost of this saw. You will not be sorry! As I've mentioned already, if you do marquetry then I believe the improved performance of this saw easily justifies the higher price. Finally, you can always leave this saw on your coffee table because the unique shape is a sure-fire conversation starter!!
Purchase your own Knew Concepts Woodworker's Titanium Birdcage Fret Saw today!
Jeffrey Fleisher has been a woodworker for approximately 20 years and a professional woodworker for the past 6 years. He is the president of his local woodturning club, the Woodturners of the Virginias and past president of the Northern Virginia Carvers. You can see some of the furniture he has made at www.jeffswooddesigns.com. He can be reached by email at
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