Saw Notes

A Resource for Musical Saw Enthusiasts

How to Find a Saw Handle or “Cheat”

One of the big decisions a saw player must make is whether to use a saw handle or “cheat” on the end of the saw when playing. Some professional saws, such as the French lame sonore, are very thick steel and require a handle in order to bend the instrument, but for most saws, a handle is optional. The purpose of a handle is to make it easier to bend the saw into a slight “s” shape and to prevent hand and wrist fatigue. Some people think it’s cheating to use a handle, and playing without one can give a person more control over the pitch and the vibrato, but for some people a handle allows them to play for longer periods of time.

There are several types of cheats, so, let’s look at the different types of saw handles. There are handles that work without a hole in the end of the saw and those that require a hole.

The first type of handle does not require a hole in the end of your saw and slips over the end of the blade. These handles are easy to use and they don’t requite any modifications to your saw blade. Charlie Blacklock developed a style of handle that clamps onto the saw, and Eric Jon Johnson also makes this type of handle. You can see an example of this sort of cheat here:

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The next type of handle fits into a hole in the end of your saw. If you have a drill press you can put a hole in your saw, and some saws come with a hole in the end already. There are quite a few different handle styles that screw into the end of your saw, some that are straight and some that have an angle to them. The simplest type of this handle style is simply a dowel with a screw in in that fits into the end of your saw, while more elaborate angled cheats can help you to get the “s” shape with very little effort on your part.

There are several craftspeople who make beautiful saw handles. Alexis Faucomprez in France, Nikos Giousef in Greece, and Eric Jon Johnson in California. Eric Jon Johnson makes handles that require a hole in the saw, and he also makes a type of handle that clamps onto the end of the saw that does not require a hole.

Here is an example of a saw handle made by Eric Jon Johnson

 

If you are creative, you can make your own saw handle out of a variety of materials. I have seen handles made with screw drivers, pieces of metal, and tree branches. Here’s a wonderful handle made by saw player Terry Lee out of an antler:

 

The purpose of using a handle is to make your playing more comfortable. If you are a beginner, have arthritis, or simply like to play for long periods of time, a saw handle might be just what you need.

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Rowena Southard, your blog hostess, is a musical saw enthusiast who lives in California. She loves all kinds of music and has a special fondness for unusual instruments.