Best fret saw | Precise cuts for delicate woodworking [top 3 reviewed]

by Joost | Updated on:  August 15, 2021
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If you need to do some intricate woodwork, with delicate cuts and tight curves, you would reach for a fret saw.

A fret saw is similar to a coping saw, but not the same. It can handle more precise cuts and tighter corners than a coping saw can due to its shallower blade.

What makes a good fret saw? In this post, I will show you my top-rated fret saws and explain what to look for when buying a fret saw.

Best fret saw | Precise cuts for delicate woodworking [top 3 reviewed]

My top choice by far is the Knew Concepts 5” Woodworker Fret Saw because it is a saw for everyone and easy to work with. It is made of aluminum, so it is long-lasting, and you can control the tension in the blade, for the best cuts.

I have some more options for you though, so let’s dive into my top 3 fret saws.

Best fret saw Images
Overall best fret saw: Knew Concepts 5” Screw Tension Overall best fret saw- Knew Concepts 5”

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Best budget fret saw with great depth: Olson Saw SF63507 Best budget fret saw with great depth- Olson Saw SF63507

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Most lightweight maneuverable fret saw: Knew Concepts 3” Lever Tension Most lightweight maneuverable fret saw- Knew Concepts 3”

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What is a fret saw?

A fret saw is generally used for doing precise, delicate scrollwork on thin materials. It is comprised of a blade, a frame, and a handle. The depth of the frame varies from 10 to 20 inches.

The length of the blade of a fret saw is usually 5 inches. As it’s removable, you can sharpen or replace the blade according to your needs.

You can use a blade of different TPI and design according to your priority. As the teeth are facing downwards, it cuts on the pull stroke.

Generally, you can work on thin wood and plastic. You can also do precise tight curves on metals using suitable blades for metal.

As it has a deeper frame than a bow saw, you can reach deeper from the surface of your working material. Often using a crosscut saw can’t provide you with that particular satisfaction.

Buyers guide to choosing a fret saw

Shape and material of the handle

A barrel-shaped and good polished handle will give you a good grip and ease of work

Depth of frame

You can cut far from the edge of your material if you use a deeper frame. Generally, the depth of the frame varies from 10 to 20 inch

Availability of the blade

Some brands provide the blade with fretsaw while others do not. If a blade is available with your fret saw, then check the following features of the blade:

TPI of the blade

TPI indicates how many teeth in one inch your blade has. TPI decides how smooth you can cut with your blade. The more teeth per inch, the smoother the cut.

Material of the blade

Some blade materials are only for cutting wood and plastic, metalwork requires special material.

Tightness of wingnut and wing grip

Check if the wing nut can properly tighten your blade and keep it in place. Otherwise, accidents might take place and you will not be comfortable with your work.

Are you Drilling in stainless steel? These are the 6 best hole saws

Top 3 best fret saws reviewed

Now let’s see what makes the fret saws in my top three so good.

Overall best fret saw: Knew Concepts 5” Screw Tension

Overall best fret saw- Knew Concepts 5”

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Not only do woodcutters use the Knew Concepts 5” Fret Saw, but jewelers do too. The weight of this saw is only 5.2 ounces. So, you can easily work with this light-weighted fret saw. You can also remove waste from hand-cut dovetails.

The designer frame gives this fret saw a totally different & attractive look. Its frame is made of aluminum, so it’s long-lasting. Its rigidity feature makes the blade stable which is helpful for a delicate cut.

You get a 15 TPI blade with it. The blade that you get with it is a 7-skip tooth blade. You can have a smoother cut with this blade.

A sturdy screw-based tensioning system allows you to control the tension in the blade. Its blade mounting system enables you to rotate the blade at a 45-degree angle left-right.

Check the latest prices here

Best budget fret saw with great depth: Olson Saw SF63507

Best budget fret saw with great depth- Olson Saw SF63507

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The Olson Saw SF63507 Fret Saw has a great depth frame. So with this frame, you can reach deeper from the surface of your working material.

You can have delicate scrollwork with this fret saw. Its blade is removable so you can use any kind of 5-inch length blade which is suitable for your work.

You can cut using both pull and push strokes because of its stable wireframe. It keeps the blade in place. There is a wooden handle in this fret saw.

You can easily fold the handle between the frame after your work for easy storage. So it takes relatively small space to store than its actual size. The price is also quite friendly.

As it doesn’t provide any blade with it, you have to buy a blade for your work. It doesn’t have any tension controlling feature.

Check the latest prices here

Most lightweight maneuverable fret saw: Knew Concepts 3” Lever Tension

Most lightweight maneuverable fret saw- Knew Concepts 3”

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If you need a fret saw that has a setting for a 3-inch blade position model, then you can go for Knew Concepts 3″ Woodworker Fret Saw.

It weighs only 4.4 ounces, and you can easily work with this light-weighted fret saw. You can also change the blade rapidly because of its cam lever tension.

You can rotate the blade at a 45-degree angle left or right. As it has a removable blade feature, you can adjust any kind of 3-inch blade according to your design.

It provides a blade with 15 TPI. The blade which they provide has 7 skip tooth so you can have delicate scrollwork with this fret saw.

As the frame is not very deep, this fret saw is best for cuts that are not too deep, like precise dovetails.

Its aluminum-built frame gives the fret saw a different look. Because of the stability of the frame, you can work easily with the fret saw.

Check the latest prices here

Fret saw FAQs

Now after all that you might still have a few questions about fret saws. Let me try to answer as many as possible.

What is the difference between a fret saw and a coping saw?

Both of the tools are used for scrollwork and woodworking. They almost have the same structure as well.

But there are some major differences:

  1. You can make a more intricate design and a tighter curve using a fret saw over a coping saw because a fret saw has a much shallower blade, which is usually extra-fine (up to 32 teeth per inch).
  2. As the frame of a fret saw is deeper than a coping saw you can design and cut more deeply using a fret saw compared to a coping saw.
  3. Unlike the coping saw, the fret is pinless. That’s why you have to use a thicker blade in a coping saw. A fret saw blade is lighter, and it tends to break down with a lot of pressure.

Find my post about the best coping saws available here

How to handle a fret saw?

  1. First of all, adjust the blade between the frame. You have to tighten the blade by tightening the wing nut. Otherwise, the blade can be displaced and accidents may take place.
  2. You can easily do scrollwork from the edge of your surface material. But if you are doing scrollwork in the middle of your material surface, you have to make a hole first. Then insert the blade from one of the sides of the frame. After that, enter the unpinned side of the blade into the hole and then attach this side again to the blade holder by tightening the wing nut, and start your design.
  3. Be careful in putting too much pressure because the blades are easily breakable.

Here’s Rob Cosman explaining why a fret saw is best for removing the waste from a cut dovetail and how to use it effectively doing so:

What can a fret saw cut?

The fretsaw is a general workshop machine. It is used to cut and shape light materials such as perspex, MDF, and plywood.

Fretsaws are made by different companies and they range in price depending on the quality of the tool.

How deep do you cut fret slots?

Cut the fret slots to a depth of about 1/16″ (2mm).

I usually attach a strip of wood to the underside of the square to ensure that the square would touch the blade above the teeth of the saw. This is more accurate and prevents the teeth from rubbing against steel and thus dulling.

How thick can a coping saw cut?

Coping saws are special handsaws that cut very tight curves, usually in thinner stock, like trim molding. But they’ll work in a pinch for outside (from the edge) cuts on reasonably thick stock; say, up to two or even three inches thick.

What do you use a coping saw for?

A coping saw is a type of bow saw used to cut intricate external shapes and interior cut-outs in woodworking or carpentry. It is widely used to cut moldings to create coped rather than miter joints.

What is the most versatile type of saw?

The table saw, in my opinion, is the most versatile tool in the shop and should be your first major purchase.

Next up is the Miter Saw. The miter saw does one thing but it does it really well. The Miter saw will cross-cut wood better and faster than pretty much any other tool.

Can I change the blade of a fretsaw?

Yes! It’s removable.

Can thick wooden material be cut with a fret saw?

No. You can use a fret saw only for light materials.

Is the blade of a fret saw breakable?

It depends on your work. You have to work carefully. If you cut thick material or faster the blade can be broken.

Can I use a spiral blade in a fret saw?

You can use any kind of blade in a fret saw, like a spiral, a jeweler, or a skip tooth blade. But the blade size has to be correct.

Do I have to buy a blade for a fret saw?

It depends on your brand. Some fret saw brands come with the blade while others do not. If you can’t find it, you can use a hacksaw blade.

Can I cut a metal surface with a fret saw?

It depends on your blade. There are specific blades for cutting metal.

Conclusion

The use of a fret saw in the delicate scrollwork of a woodworker or jeweler is a must. Every student who has to do a design project using wood, plastic, and metal needs a fret saw. A good fret saw makes your design work more precise.

Now if you want a fret saw with comparatively reasonable pricing, not including blade, and deep scrollwork, then you can go for Olson Saw SF63507 Fret Saw.

On the other hand, if you want a fret saw which is long-lasting, the blade tension of which you can control then can go for Knew Concepts 5″ Woodworker Fret Saw or Knew Concepts 3″ Woodworker Fret Saw.

In the last two saws, you can choose depending on your blade length whether you need a 3-inch blade or a 5-inch blade.

Why not try your new fret saw in making this cool DIY Wooden Puzzle Cube

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Tools Doctor is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new equipment, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with tools & crafting tips.