| The bow saw was used primarily for cross-cutting relatively narrow boards or tree branches. The bow saw has been in use, in its original form, since the Medieval Ages. The example exhibited here dates from the late-1700s to early-1800s.
The bow saw consists of a sturdy, but flexible, framework in which an iron blade (in this example, measuring 1-3/4 inches wide and 26-1/2 inches long), is held in place between the ends of the two 'frame-sides' by means of tension that is exerted on the opposite ends of the frame-sides by a twisted rope. A central wooden brace provides a pivot point on each of the frame-sides. The rope (consisting of binder twine, hemp or other heavy material) is attached to a free end of one of the frame-sides, pulled to and around the free end of the other frame-side. It might be wound around the two frames-sides any number of times, depending on the length of the rope and whim of the user. A stick is then pushed through the windings of the rope and turned around and around in order to twist the rope. As the rope twists, its length shortens, pulling on the two ends of the frame-sides opposite the ends to which the blade is attached. As the rope is tightened, and the pressure pulls on the frame-sides, it tightens, and strengthens, the blade. When satisfied that the saw is tight enough, the user would allow the free end of the stick to come to a rest against the central brace.
The carpenter used the bow saw by grasping one of the frame-sides with both hands, and using a forward and backward motion, drew the blade's serrated teeth across the material to be cut.
When the blade is positioned in the bow saw in the standard way, the plane of the blade is in line with the plane of the entire saw. The distance from the blade to the rigid central brace would be the limit to how far into the material the saw could cut. This particular saw, though, has hexagon shaped wooden ends which could, if desired, be repositioned to pivot the plane of the blade at an angle to the plane of the entire saw. By doing so, the saw could be used to rip a board lengthwise. Apparently, the owner of this saw probably used it in the standard, cross-cut manner because each of the wooden end pieces holding the blade were fixed in place by a nail to secure it.