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A (K)new concept in jewelers saws

by James Binnion on December 31, 2009

3" Knew Concepts Saw Frame
3 inch Knew Concepts Saw Frame

Lee Marshall who developed and produced the Bonny Doon hydraulic press  until he retired a few years ago has not just been goofing off since then.  One of his projects has been the improvement of the humble jewelers saw frame.

One of the last paces one would expect to see a significant innovation is in the jewelers saw frame. It hasn’t changed much in a hundred years or more.  But I have had the pleasure of testing out Lee’s new  jewelers saw frame and all I can say is, wow.

There are several innovative changes that Lee has made with these frames. The first and most obvious is the truss style frame. This piece is cut from high strength aluminum and is both light and incredibly rigid.  Because of the rigidity of the frame  trying to tension a saw blade in the traditional means by resting the end of the frame  on the bench and compressing the frame with your chest pushing on the handle would be downright painful. So Lee developed a blade tension mechanism that both holds the blade very securely and allows tension to be adjusted with just your fingertips.

Tension Clamp Assembly

Tension Clamp Assembly

I have found I can put a higher tension on the blade than I would with the steel frame saw. This combination of rigid frame and easy tension adjustment makes it possible to put a controlled high tension on the blade and hold it so it does not flex excessively which makes for more accurate cutting and reduces blade breakage.

I have been putting several of the saw prototypes and production versions through testing here in my shop. I have found that the production version is light and easily held with just my fingertips so that on delicate  sawing jobs I have excellent control over where the blade is going and am able to do precision work with less effort.

On some heavy work in 16 ga mild steel and a #2 blade Yesterday I was able to make quick work of a fairly simple outline but one that needed precise following of the pattern.  The blade needed to be moved a couple of times to drilled holes in the sheet for interior cuts and even with the tensioning and loosening and retensioning there was no blade breakage in a pattern that had close to 10 inches of cutting.

Lee is also producing a 5 inch version and an extra deep 8 inch version of the frame. I have put the 5 inch version through some tests and find it is better than the standard 5 inch frame I am used to but it is not as stiff as the 3 inch Knew Concepts frame.  While it might be tempting to get the 5 inch version because it is as light or lighter than a steel 3 inch frame it still has the inertia of that large frame making it less responsive than its 3 inch sibling. But it is still a much stiffer frame than the standard 5 inch steel saw frame and when comparing between the steel frame and the Knew Concepts frame  there is no question who the winner is. I have not really tested the 8 inch version very much yet, I dont even have a 8inch steel frame as I just don’t do much work that calls for that size frame. But from what I remember of trying to use a large frame like that  before the Knew Concepts frame is way stiffer and much more easily controlled. Lee has also created a forum on his website where folks can share information and opinion about the new saws.

I love these saws.

5 inch frame

5 inch frame

8 inch frame

8 inch frame

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

linda bruneau January 29, 2011 at 12:02 pm

i just re-read the above review and missed it the first time. i see you answered my question there. thanks! no need to post my question on your forum.

linda bruneau January 29, 2011 at 11:59 am

I’m excited to purchase one of these saws…but only one. I am having trouble deciding on the 5″ or the 3″. The 3″ would probably handle most of my cutting needs, but i am leaning toward the 5″ to make sure I’m covered on the occasional larger piece. My question is, when you don’t NEED the larger size, is the 3″ a better choice (ie. stiffer, more easily maneuvered?). thanks, linda

Jim August 25, 2010 at 10:41 am

Hi Wally,
I went and looked at your site, you certainly do a lot of fancy cutting. I used to cut the occasional mercury head dime many years ago but nothing like some of your work. I believe you will like the 3″ Knew Concepts saw a lot. you may have to adjust the blade clamp set screws to reliably hold the small blades you are using, as the saw ships with a medium sized blade but a small tweak of the set screws will give secure clamping of the thinnest of blades.

I own one of the Knew Concept Electric saws, I do not believe that it is the right saw for your work. I love the saw but I think it is appropriate to larger work than the coins you are working with. I would suggest that if you can find someone who has one that you try it out first before buying one.


Walter Charm August 18, 2010 at 8:53 am

Hi Jim,

I’m a coin cutter and cut every day:usually very intricate designs. I use 4/0, 6/0, and 8/0 blades. I’ve also had problems with the blade wandering at times, and now understand that it may be because of the tension. I’ve ordered a Knew 3″ saw frame, and hope that my cutting improves. Coin cutting doesn’t allow for mistakes… I’ll keep you posted on my experience.

Have you used the Knew Concept Electric Saw? It appears to be the answer for people who do a lot of intricate sawing. I have to re-hole the blade numerous times when cutting a coin. Would it be too time consuming? Would it work well with 8/0 blades? Any information you can give me would be appreciated. $2000.00 dollars is not like buying a $50.00 saw frame.


Jim January 17, 2010 at 11:56 am

Hey Steve,
I feel the rigidity of the frame and appropriate tension for the blade size allows for more control and less wandering of the blade. I will be interested to hear more opinions as others gain experience with the saw.


shelbyvision January 17, 2010 at 6:31 am

I’m a little late noticing this, but I find it really timely since I’ve been doing a lot of sawing lately, 20 gauge brass and copper. Aside from the blades breaking way too often, what drives me crazy is when for no apparent reason the saw suddenly veers left or right of the line I’m trying so hard to follow. I don’t know if that is a problem for others or not, but if this new design solves that problem, it would be worth the investment.

Jerry Fowler January 16, 2010 at 10:05 am

No, they are not as rigid as the Knew Concept saw surely is but so much easier to set a blade in. Looking forward to owning one in the near future.

Jim January 15, 2010 at 7:49 pm


The only one of that type with the wing nut tension adjustment that I tried was not very rigid. I think that might be why it lost favor over time. Dont know.


Jerry Fowler January 15, 2010 at 7:01 pm

It’s nice to see the screw tensioning device is back on saw frames. I have an old, old saw frame and it has a wing nut on the top blade clamp for putting tension on the blade rather than pushing against one’s breast bone to do the job. After reading all the complaints on Orchid forums from various people about how tough it was to get the correct tension, I wondered why manufactures dropped the top wing nut, may be it was cost or wanting to sell more saw blades.

Jim January 7, 2010 at 7:12 pm


In regards to reusing broken blades, I think you will find if you use the right tension on the blade with this frame you will be replacing the blades because they are dull rather than broken. That is my experience with it so far. I still occasionally break a blade but with less frequency.


Joycelyn Merchant January 7, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Based on this review, I decided to try this saw frame. I figured the tensioning mechanism alone would be worth the money. Got the saw today, and while it is nice, it has it’s issues. It’s a little tricky to get the blade in at first, and if you release the top tightening mechanism too far, then you risk the sping, knurl nut and washer going…sproi-oi- oi-ing….and flying across your studio. And then you have to hunt down the parts. I’m just sayin’.

Having found said parts, I put it all back together and finally figured out the trick to getting the blade in and tightened. I threaded up a fine blade I’ve been using for the last couple of weeks, tightened it, and it worked fine and didn’t break or feel wonky in any way. I was able to easily saw a small tight zigzag and spiral practice pattern in a 22 gauge piece of copper, and I liked the lightness of the frame. One big downside for me, however, is that you can only use a whole blade. Usually, if I break a blade and there is enough of it left, I will restring it and use the smaller piece(s). I guess it depends on what your habits are.

For what it’s worth I have 35 years experience and I have done a heckuva a lot of sawing in my time. On the whole, it is not a complete replacement for the old style frame, but it is a good improvement. Is it worth the money? Dunno. You’re mileage may vary, as they say.

Khushroo Kotwal January 6, 2010 at 5:54 am

Wish they are available somewhere in India, would like to try one.

Bill January 4, 2010 at 9:02 am

WOW……………I can’t wait to get one of these. Love the design…….I love all the stuff Lee makes. They look TOP SHELF…..thanks for the heads up, Jim. And can’t wait to show them to my students…….
hardest thing…..deciding which one to get…….FIRST ;0

Jim January 3, 2010 at 10:57 pm


You can get them from Lee at


Linda Lankford January 3, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Where can I get one?

patpruitt January 3, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Nice, for $50, ill give it a shot when I get a free $50 😉 and its red….sweet….

Lee Marshall January 2, 2010 at 7:58 pm

The pleasure is mine, Lynn. As I said on the Forum, I knew that I would get good input from the workshop attendees. I knew that I had the beginnings of something that would be better than the existing saws, but it required other ideas other than mine to make it the best. I particularily want to thank Hans Rohner for the return spring suggestion, Phil Poirier for making me breathe through my nose long enough to take several more looks at the design, and Jim for pointing out a flaw that wasn’t immediately apparent. It caused me to redesign the entire frame one more time to correct it, and made it even better.
Thanks all.

Allan Mason January 2, 2010 at 5:23 pm

Jim, thanks so much for the heads-up on this- I almost missed it. I couldn’t help myself- I ordered a 3-incher immediately!

Lynn Vernon January 2, 2010 at 2:00 pm

I was able to test an early prototype of this saw during the Bonny Doon Hydraulic Press class in Taos, NM. Even in it’s early design stages it was better than a standard hand saw and I can hardly wait to get mine now that the revisions have been made. I’ll never use the old ones again.


Jim January 1, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Jan ,
I think you will love these saws for their ease of tensioning and accuracy.

Jan January 1, 2010 at 7:34 pm

I have a hard time getting the tension right on saws, it’s painful to push int the saw with my chest. I have tried various ways to tension blades and have tired different saws but with no real satisfaction. This sounds like the answer. Can’t wait to get one. Thanks for the review

Jan Arlene

Tumwater WA

Beth Wicker December 31, 2009 at 6:39 pm

I’ve gotten to try them also, and can’t praise them enough! I have carpal tunnel and arthritis in both hands, and these are going to make sawing so much less painful! I was asked if they were really worth the cost – YES!

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