Slotting a Saw Tote….

Until now, I have always instructed students in my saw building classes to cut the saw blade slot in their tote free hand. This is usually the most intimidating step for novice sawyers to complete, as they are nervous about cutting askew and possibly ruining their saw. Because I normally teach class like a heartless dictator, I simply call them names, break their spirit to resist, and make them do it anyway.

But no more. I have acquiesced. I must be getting soft in my old age.

So, from now on, I will offer students the safe way out: a jig.


Ironically, this is how I first started to slot saw totes years ago when I started making saws. Its quite simple. All you really need is a pull saw and some scraps…







Before you begin its still a good idea to mark the blade slot with a cutting/marking gauge. Then lay the tote on the shim piece and make sure the teeth of the pull saw line up exactly with the marked line. Plane down the shim if its too tall, or shim with paper if its too short.







Make sure the bench hook and shim are cinched down tight and slowly kerf in the slot with the saw running lightly back and forth along the layout line.







I simply run the saw back and forth with hand pressure. Make sure you keep the plate flat and true on the bench hook and hold the tote firmly…






When I’m about halfway through the cheek I finish up by clamping the tote in my face vise and saw the slot to final depth by hand. The slot is deep enough at this point to guide the saw without fear or running afoul. And voila: a perfectly true blade slot…





Its pretty idiot proof….believe me (I’m an idiot).

This ones for you, Del. ;)








7 Responses to “Slotting a Saw Tote….”

  1. Mitch Wilson says:

    Matt-how big is the kerf on the saw blade you are using to cut the slot? Does it correspond to the kerf for the new saw or just one you have lying around? And aren’t you a little inclined to chew up your right hand since you are using a double sided saw blade?

    • matt says:


      I’m not much for measuring things…but the slot width ends up about 0.022 or so due to the DT saw plate that i finish the cut with.

      And yes….my fingers get all chewed up from the saw plate. I love it.


  2. Jason says:


    That is a nice little trick I will have to try. I have a Gramercy tools dovetail saw kit that is in need of a tote and I have been racking my brain on a good way to kerf it in.

    On a related note. Do you have any plans to do another backsaw building class. I have wanted to build a saw with you ever since I saw a holly handled saw that one of your students made a couple years ago. I would love to do a sash saw (hint hint). Plus it would be great to learn how to sharpen with the master ;) .

    Keep up the good work!

    • matt says:


      I offer the backsaw building class several times a year at CT Valley School of WW, and I travel to teach the class at other schools as well.

      I’m also going to be doing an online class on building a backsaw. More details very soon. :)


      • Jason says:


        Sounds great! I live in Northeast Mass so Connecticut is an easy drive for me. I will keep an eye out for the CT Valley School class listings.


  3. Ryan says:

    Is there a source to buy the saw plates and saw nuts if I was to partake in an online course, or would I purchase those supplies from you? Thanks

Leave a Reply