A place for me to display some of the varied projects that come out of my shop, as well as to "talk" about some of my experiences working with wood.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

I knew I needed new (KNEW?) Handles

I really like the Knew Concepts saws. I bought one of the first aluminium ones I could buy. As a Titanium fan I wanted one those, but as with many of these firms in the U.S.; they refuse to ship to Canada - so I suffered with the Aluminium one, which really was not that much of a compromise. :-)

The ferrule insert which is quite different
 than the Elkhead one, shown beside it
These are quite simply the best saw out there for removing dovetail waste or cutting out creative shapes in material - I use it for both. The one knock on these saws is that for the price, you would think they would put more effort in putting a quality handle on their saws, NOT so much. I think they are made from some white wood from the crapwood tree.

Enter Elkhead Tools, who make pretty nice replacement handles for these saws. I bought one of these last fall at WIA and it makes the Knew saw way more usable. I find the saw with the stock handle as almost weightless which makes it difficult to control in fine cuts; the heavier handle makes it much easier to use accurately - at least for me. I am sure the almost weightless feel is good for some applications, just not mine.

Lee Valley recently picked up the Knew Coping saw which I immediately bought and love, but it's too light to use and thus control as well. I checked with the boys at Elkhead Tools and they had no idea when the handle for the new Knew Coping saw would be available - enter Maritime ingenuity. At about the same time Lee Valley finally announced they were carrying the Titanium version and I grabbed one of these too.

I decided I would make some handles for these saws myself from some nice woods. I designed a brass insert and asked my machinist buddy Joey to make a few for me and turned a few handles for them and filed them to fit the saws and voila. I thought they turned out okay!!

My Knew saw collection and some nice handles, including an extra for a friend.


  1. Very nice handle! The metal does not fully match the drawing.

    1. I am assuming you mean that only half of the piece on the drawing is showing. There is a portion of the brass pieces that is inserted into a hole in the handle. This gives a much stronger final product.

  2. Sorry, I should have been more specific. The mismatch is that there is a slot cut into the brass and is absent in the drawing.

    1. Yes of course. Since I was making the same insert for the fret and coping saw I did not have my machinist mill the slot, they are different widths for the fret, titanium and coping saws. I inserted the saw frame in the unslotted handles, marked it with a knife, cut it with a hacksaw and filed it to fit snugly for each frame. Hope that helps,

  3. Rich,

    You show the Elkhead handle and say that your design is quite different. How is it different? I would like to build my own handle from some wood that I have. Would you mind sharing your design?


    1. My design for the brass insert is in the first picture, the brass insert is in the diagram. If the Elkhead one is the same as their screwdrivers the insert is a different shape. Otherwise the wood is turned to a shape I know is comfortable. MY handle is a little longer and similar thickness for the length. Just print the picture out and if you are a turner it will be pretty simple. Hope that helps.
      You need to keep it a little thicker toward the saw end to give enough material around the brass insert for strength.

  4. Gorgeous work! Very nicely done.

    In some defense for my choice re; plain Jane wood handle:
    The inability to get quantities of better woods, such as cherry or walnut.
    I had a conversation with Chris Becksvoort at the "Fine Woodworking Live" event in New Haven CT in early August, and he said that he would come up with some turners (he lives in ME). He got back to me with just one, apologizing for the dearth, and explaining that in the early '80s, there were over 40, and now they are down to three (I am currently using one of them).
    Yes, you can get wood (if you turn it yourself in small quantities), but when I order handles, I place in quantities of several thousand, and that tends to rule out the smaller boutique shops.
    In spite of what all of you might think, the saws are not a major profit center, and to change handles has an impact on the bottom line that has to be added into the final price of the saw.
    I am delighted that pretty much everyone likes the saws. I take every comment into the mix and it does impact the design features. I am continually modifying elements (including the end caps on the levers, which have been changed to a better design). They are a work in progress, and at 78, I still am having fun.
    As far as balance and weight is concerned, I am working on a 12" deep carbon fiber/aluminum frame that weighs in the 9 ounce range. This one requires a heavier handle to move the balance point further toward the front, and I hope that the handle turner comes through in time for the Woodworking In America event in OH next month.

    Lee (the saw guy)

    1. Thanks for the reply Lee. I understand what you are saying; as you are well aware the handle issue is a common refrain - I am surprised there are not more companies other than Elkhead doing the handles.
      I love the saw and the new handles make it a dream to use.
      See you in Cincinnati.