5 Best Coping Saws in 2023 | Coping Saw vs. Fret Saw
If you've ever wondered how intricate shapes on moldings are cut, it was probably the handiwork of a coping saw. A coping saw is a handsaw with a slim blade attached to a 'U' shaped bracket. It is a common woodworking tool, used extensively to cut curves, remove waste from dovetails and joining and cope moldings.
Fretsaws are being increasingly used to cut such unusual shapes. But then, everybody doesn't have access to such machines. Where fretsaws are not available, coping saws still rule.
Using a coping saw is not an easy job even though it is not a precision tool (which explains why they cost so less). They don't operate like other types of saw. To an untrained hand it may be difficult to work with one. So it is important to buy the right coping saw. That is we've created this guide to help you make the right decision.
5 Best Coping Saws - Reviews
Now let's see our review of top 5 coping saw tools in the market and how they stack up against each other.
1. BAHCO 301 Coping Saw
2. Robert Larson 540-2000 Coping Saw
3. Stanley 15-104 Fatmax Coping Saw
4. Olson Saw SF63510 Coping Saw
5. Irwin Tools ProTouch Coping Saw
#1. BAHCO 301 6-1/2 Inches Coping Saw
Editor's Rating: (4.5 / 5)
The BAHCO 301 has a nickel plated, steel frame. The beech, orange lacquered handle sits comfortably in your hand. The 24 TPI 6 1/2” blade has a tension of 0.209 inch, which is more or less in line with other coping saws. Retaining pins make it possible to rotate the blade 360 degrees.
Note that some people have complained about a misalignment in the handle. We also found the blade adjuster too stiff for our liking and we are assuming others won't like it either. All in all, the BAHCO 301 is an average coping saw with nothing special to differentiate it from the other coping saws we've reviewed here.
#2. Robert Larson 540-2000 Coping Saw
Editor's Rating: (4.2 / 5)
The Robert Larson 540-2000 coping saw is made in Germany. The company claims the 6-3/4 inches blade is adjustable to any angle. But we found you can't rotate the blade easily which negates the company's claim to some extent. The blade tension on this model is 0.164 inch which is much lower than average. It works well on dovetails and coping while delivering an average performance on curves.
A unique feature is, you can adjust the tension in the blade by rotating the handle. Like most coping saw tools we've seen, the handle on this model is also made of wood. The frame is light but stiff. So no surprises there. Note that many customers have complained the handle is a little misaligned which might affect the cutting. If you have large hands then this model is not suitable for you.
#3. Stanley 15-104 Fatmax Coping Saw
Editor's Rating: (4.3 / 5)
The highlight of this coping saw is the ergonomically designed handle. The company has installed a cushion grip on the handle and it is the most comfortable handle in any coping saw we've reviewed.
The 20 TPI 6-1/2 inches blade has a tension of 0.193 inch which is very close to the average. It works well on dovetails while delivering above average performance on coping and curves.
#4. Olson Saw SF63510 Coping Saw
Olson Saw SF63510 is a sturdy coping saw that features a standard pin end blade that can be tensioned on both ends. The retaining pins allow the blade to turn for up to 360 degrees. You can cut with this coping saw in both push and pull motions for fast and more convenient cutting.
The hardwood handle provides a firm grip and is comfortable for the hand. It will use any coping saw blade.
Although most users seem to love this coping saw, there are some complaints about it getting stuck. We also noticed that the handle is not large enough and it is also not easy to grip for people with large hands. Apart from these few shortcomings, it is still a top notch coping saw that is up to the task.
#5. Irwin Tools ProTouch Coping Saw
The ProTouch by Irwin Tools comes with a high-speed blade that will cut through any material with ease. This saw features a Flat-Bar frame and some DuraSteel pins that make it very durable. The blade has a 17-pt tooth count for quick waste removal and in few strokes.
The ergonomic ProTouch handle with a triangular shape ensures maximum comfort when cutting and it is also easy to grip. It provides a 6-1/2 blade length and a frame depth of 5-1/2 inches.
Irwin Tools also backs this coping saw with a full lifetime warranty, but it also has a few shortcomings. Some woodworkers complain about the fact that the ProTouch does not come with blade guards to prevent the blade from getting dinged up. And so if you choose to buy this model you should be ready to make some blade guards.
Fret Saw vs. Coping Saw
Removing the waste between your tails and pins ensures that you always get perfect dovetail joints. However, in most instances, you will always find yourself wondering whether to use the fret or coping saw.
While both are still very handy tools, it is important to know what sets them apart. Also, they are very similar in appearance, but the fret has a deeper frame which can be anywhere between 10 and 20 inches. And they will also differ in performance and the blade installation.
The fret saws have jaws that will clamp to the ends of the blade. This saw removes the waste in a single fell sweep hence making it very convenient, and it will also speed up the job at hand. It uses a thin blade that will drop into the kerf that the dovetail saw leaves and you only need to turn it to start sawing.
Fret saws have thin blades that tend to break or bend easily, and they will also require some tuning. Another shortcoming of the fret saw is that they are slow and it will take more strokes to get through the waste on a tail.
Coping saws come with pins on the blade ends, and so they will come with wider blades to accommodate the pins. These saw also tend to cut faster than the fret saw because they have some deeper gullets and they will take fewer strokes to remove the waste. Also, the blades on this saw are very robust and do not easily come loose, bend or break.
However, the coping saws will require two passes to get rid of the waste unlike the fret that only needs one. Because the blade in the coping saw is thick, it will not drop in the kerf that your dovetail saw leaves.
What to Look for When Buying a Coping Saw
There are five major factors to consider before you buy a coping saw. Let us see these factors one by one.
#1. Blade installation
How easy is it to place the blade into the frame? Most blades have a pin on either end connected to a socket. The pin prevents the blade from slipping when you use the coping saw to cut wood.
#2. Blade rotation
How easy, fast (and precisely) does the blade rotate? A coping saw can't qualify as a best coping saw if it doesn't have detents. Detents are important because they keep the saw in place.
#3. Blade quality
A coping saw is only as good as its blade. Some coping saws have bi-metal blades. Others have carbon steel blades. In a bi-metal blade, a harder metal (carbon steel) is bonded to the teeth of the blade to ensure a sharper cut. The blade base is a softer metal like steel so it remains flexible. Carbon steel blades are sharp but at the same time, they are brittle which means they are easier to break.
#4. Tension in the blade
Blade tension refers to deflection in the blade. Most coping saws deflect less than 0.2 inch. If the deflection is more than 0.28 inch, it means the blade is not very taut and you'll have trouble cutting with it. The tension in the blade is also determined by the frame.
#5. Special features
Does the coping saw have any special features? Quick release lever to loosen the blade immediately or a knob to adjust the blade's tension.
Eight detents make rotating the blade very easy. The blade is made from hardened and tempered steel. The only complaint is the handle looks a bit cheap. But don't let that stop you from buying this model. It is a cosmetic flaw and doesn't influence the quality of the cutting in any way.
Coping saws have a number of uses. They are used to create coping cuts for moldings, to remove extra wood from joinery and to cut tight curves for different designs. Motorized scroll saws and band saws do the same job but they are immovable and you have to take the wood to them which can be difficult.