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Fret Saw vs Coping Saw comparison

Coping saw vs Fret saw

Find out how fret saws compare to coping saws. Learn about the similarities and differences in their frames and blades, as well as their uses.

The industrial revolution gave rise to the introduction of different types of saws and saw blades to increase efficiency and effectiveness in wood and metal cutting. Two common types of saws are fret saw and coping saws, which are used in detailed cutting applications.

What a coping saw is used for & what a fret saw is used for
Example of use for a coping saw

What to buy?

Our reco.
Olson Saw SF63510

Regular fret saw model

Standard screw blade tensions system

Hard wood handle

Buy now

We presented earlier in this article our top choice, which is also the less expensive. Nevertheless, if you are un experienced worker, a carpenter or if you are planning to perform extensive cutting work, you should take a look to Knew Concepts Fret Saw & Coping Saw. Knew Concepts has been regularly providing very reliable and innovative tools over the last years. They have built a solid brand name and are now widely recognized for their quality tool as well as their original manufacturing methods that allow them to differentiate from regular saw brands. If it was not for Knew Concepts, there would not be much difference between Fret & Coping Saw manufacturers.

Every model comes with an advanced screw / lever tension system so you can adjust your blade for the type of cutting you want to perform without breaking it. The tension feature is actually a proprietary system patented by Knew Concepts. They usually come with a 15 TPI skip tooth blade or swivel clamp model.

Top quality
Knew Concepts Birdcage

Highly resistant saw structure

Regular hard wood handle

Advanced blade removal & tension system

Buy now

The titanium birdcage model has the advantage to come with a 360 rotating blade with click stops every 45 degrees. The spine is made of titanium beam and the whole structure “birdcage” structures provides a much higher resistance, reducing the chances of breaking the saw -even when using extra force- and making the saw extremely durable.

IRWIN Tools ProTouch

Excellent depth

High tooth count

Ergonomic plastic handle

Buy now

The IRWIN Tools ProTouch 2014400 is the best coping saw for the money on our list. It comes with one of the biggest depths on our list at 5-½”, or about ¾” deeper than most coping saws. It also comes with a blade with 17 teeth per inch, instead of the standard 14, which means that you’ll have faster, easier, more precise cuts with that blade. It’s also one of the cheapest models on the list, meaning that you get all these features for a much lower price than most of the other models.

It has a durable steel frame, but it’s not treated or nickel-plated, so it will eventually corrode. It also comes with an ergonomic plastic handle, which is more comfortable to use, but ultimately less durable. If the handle breaks, you may have to throw the whole saw away, so that is something that you should consider before buying this product. However, the rest of this model is well-built, and it comes with a greater depth and a better blade than most models, at a lower price, making it a great value.

Smithline SL-400 Coping-Saws

Comes with additional blades

Hand grip is decent

Buy now

Although this coping saw from Smithline is a bit more expensive than most of its competitors, it doesn’t seem to offer too much to justify the extra expense. It does have a quality steel frame that is nice and strong and doesn’t flex, but the throat is a shallow 4.75 inches. The rubber handle is comfortable, but it’s very weak. You can feel the handle flex and we can easily see it snapping off with regular use. One selling point is that it includes four additional blades, which does somewhat make up for the price difference. Overall though, you’d be better served by a saw with a stronger handle and deeper throat that will last longer.

What is a Fret Saw?

A fret saw is a saw with a narrow blade that’s used for intricate wood cutting work, and it usually incorporates elaborate or complicated curves and patterns. This type of saw is particularly efficient when it comes to small curves. It has a very deep frame that it gives it an odd appearance, but its blade is shallow when compared to those of other saws.

Regular coping saw with its deep frame
Regular coping saw with its deep frame

A fretsaw table may assist woodworkers in using the tool correctly without damaging the wood. This type of table allows carpenters to clamp the wood to the table in an area that accommodates the unusual shape of the fretsaw. Carpenters may also prefer to use an electric fretsaw, which is frequently referred to as a scroll saw. The blades on the two saws are the same, and they perform similar duties

Also known as a scroll saw, a fret saw works best when cutting the interior of a wooden surface. The saw takes its names from the French word freter, which refers to the delicate patterns which are associated with fretwork.

What is a coping saw?

The best way to define a coping saw is to first understand how it is used. Coping saws are used for cutting detailed external shapes and cut-outs in wood. The saw can be used to cut intricate shapes in the middle of a piece of wood by unfastening the blade from the saw, threading the blade through a drilled hole in the material, and reattaching to the bow saw.

Shape cutting with removable blade
Shape cutting with removable blade

But more often than not, they are used to create joints and edges of wooden moldings.

A comparison between Fret Saw and Coping Saw


A fret saw is very similar to a coping saw in that they’re both attached to bows and both come with removable thing blades. Coping saw uses are more or less the same to fret saw uses, even though fret saw are somehow preferred for curvy cutting.

Both can be customized with specific blades in order to cut on wood, plastic, ceramic or metal. The U-shaped frame has a swiveling spigot (clip) at each end to hold the ends of the blade. The handheld saws come handy in precision cutting, which is why those saw are usually popular for wood applications and carpentry.

Blades made of carbon steel and from tungsten carbide are specifically used to cut non-ferrous metal and ceramic, respectively. Blades of coping saws and fret saw are attached on the frame with the blades pointing back towards the frame. Like a fret saw, a coping saw has small-sized teeth and shallow gullets, which manage less material per stroke of cutting. The handles of these saws are straight, and they may help loosen or tighten the blades. Both usually come with a hardwood or plastic handle allows the user to turn the blade during the cut. Most saws have small sized teeth, usually 12 to 15 teeth per inch, though coarser and finer blades are available for specialized jobs.

Their physical aspect implies that the saws are fragile and not suitable for aggressive cutting and other heavy-duty applications. Using extra force when using the saws may break them beyond repair.


Although fret saw and coping saws are similar in various aspects, the former has longer frames which extend farther away from the blades. A longer frame implies that a fret saw is perfect when cutting further from the edge of a material. The frame may be longer, but its blade is relatively short when compared to that of a coping saw. In essence, fret saw blades measure approximately 5.11 inches long.

The types of blades of fret saw and coping saws may differ in one way or the other depending on their use. The fixed orientation of the fret saw blade means that the saw is less useful when cutting long and narrow components. Additionally, the blade of a fret saw is thinner than that of a coping saw. Both saws are ideal in intricate cutting, but fret saw work best for tighter curves and complex shapes. A fret saw features 14 to 48 teeth per inch (TPI). In contrast, a coping saw has 12 to 20 TPI.

In a nutshell

There’s not much difference between a wood coping saw and a fret saw, not to mention that the blades of these hand saws are interchangeable. It’s difficult to apply much force when using these saws, given that they are prone to breaking. As mentioned, these saws are intended for woodwork; however, metal, plastic and ceramic cutting blades are increasingly becoming available in the market. Industrial fret saw and power or electric coping saws are suitable for fast, intense applications. For example, spiral and other alternative blades can be inserted in these saws to increase their versatility.

In the end, it seems that coping saws are easier to find as there are many more in the market. Long story short, they are basically more popular and mainstream than Fret saw. As a consequence, we will focus the rest of this article on Coping saws rather than Fret Saw.

How to use and maintain a Coping or Fret Saw?

To install a blade, set the frame’s front edge on a bench and hold the handle so it is pointing up. Attach one end of the blade to the spigot farthest from the handle. Then press down on the handle to compress the frame so the other end of the blade can be attached. Release tension and adjust the spigot as needed.

To safely use the coping saw, firmly hold the material in a vise or with clamps. Place the saw’s central teeth on the line to be cut and push the saw in a short stroke to start the cut. Continue the cut, turning the handle and frame as needed to follow the cut line. For safety, keep hands and other objects away from the sharp teeth.

A complete guide on how to use a Coping Saw

Replacement coping saw blades are available at most hardware stores. Make sure you select the appropriate blade as indicated by the number of teeth per inch.

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