The Bad Axe Luthier’s Saw

About 18 months ago Mark Harrell (of Bad Axe Tool Works) and I started discussing the specification for a speciality lutherie saw for delicate cross cut work and fret slotting duties. My 12” Bad Axe carcase saw is already a firm favourite for furniture grade cross cuts and so the prospect of a thin plated 10” saw for some of the most critical cuts in guitar building, sprinkled with the Bad Axe fairy dust, was very exciting.

Last summer we welcomed good friend, fellow Anarchist’s Tool Chest survivor, and luthier, Susan Chillcott to the conversation, and the specification for the Bad Axe lutherie saw started to firm up. Mark has now published photos of the initial prototype, and I should be in receipt of the actual saw in the next couple of weeks. What will follow is rigorous testing and feedback before the specification is finalised, and I cannot wait to welcome the prototype to my workshop. Working on this saw has been a wonderful experience – Mark is truly a master of his craft and has been able to translate comments and ideas from Sue and myself into a working specification, guiding us past design rabbit holes and focusing with laser-like precision on what is really important.

I can honestly say working with Mark and Sue on this project has been a once in a lifetime experience, and the Bad Axe luthier’s saw promises to be the antidote to the cheap, disposable, fret slotting saws currently littering the market. Stay tuned for more!

6 thoughts on “The Bad Axe Luthier’s Saw

  1. This will be wonderful. I really don’t care for the hang, or lack of, on the gents saws from the lutherie supply shops. Also, I find myself needing to widen the fret kerfs by running through them with my dovetail saw. I would use it for initial cut, but it is too short to fit in my slotting jig and I don’t want to shorten my slotting jig. I was considering modifying an old Pax saw as it is the only other smallish backsaw I have at hand. Maybe I can wait for the Bad Axe to make it into production and save myself the trouble of cutting and setting new teeth. Plus, I really just want to buy a Bad Axe saw.

    • Steve

      I’ve got 4 Bad Axe saws already, and although they are not cheap they are definitely worth the cost. So I have every expectation that the luthier’s saw, once finalised, will be excellent (and that’s based entirely on Mark’s workmanship rather than my own involvement). The Bad Axe is designed to work with most common fret slotting boxes, and to offer a far superior cut thanks to Mark’s unsurpassed sharpening techniques. Plus, as you rightly identify, the comfort of a top line dovetail saw (as well as the fit and finish of a premium saw, rather than the terrible cheap fret slotting saws sold by StewMac, Pax, et al).

      In terms of widening the kerf, is this something you do for the full depth of the slot, or just the leading edge? I’ve found that running a triangular files across the top of the fret slot widens it just enough to prevent chip-out but still keeping a nice snug fit.

      Thanks for stopping by the blog!


      • Sorry to be months behind in response. I didn’t see your comment. I do use the triangular file, but I found that my fret boards bow after all frets are installed I was thinking it is because the slots are too narrow and the frets wedge them open, causing the bow. It happens more with dense woods, especially the bulletwood I have been trying.

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