Review: Bonny Doon's 'New Concept Saw'

After an hour or so of cautious sawing and lots of blade changing
Mark Nelson at Rio Grande and I somewhat humorously concluded that
the saw is great but there’s something wrong with me. As skilled as I
am sawing manually, I can also be somewhat heavy-handed, and since
I’m automatically aggressive when I saw dies, I had to force myself
to relax and let the saw do the work instead of bearing down sawing
fast. It being my first time on this saw, I had a poor feel for how
to use it without breaking blades.

My overall impression and opinion of the saw is that it is one
exceedingly well designed and built tool and that it works as well as
any motorized saw then, now, or later, probably ever will. The thing
is rock-solid, and super smooth, and that goes a long way towards
delivering a tool that has good feel to it. Not just that it feels
good in use, but that you are able to feel those subtle nuances of
what the blade is really doing.

I have to emphasize early on, or again, that it is virtually
impossible for me to be a fair judge of a machine like this, for
several reasons. I learned today that it would take me many hours of
sawing to learn to use it well enough to find out how it would
compare to my current setup, so right off the bat, I don’t have
enough data to give a very informative answer about that. I have been
sawing “my way” for almost 20 years, and it took months before it was
comfortable and I was any good at it, and a couple years before I was
great. My other powered BD saw, the gearmotor-driven one, gave me
fits at first too, and it took dozens of hours of sawing before I
could turn corners decently with it. I absolutely HATE scroll saws, I
simply cannot use them worth a darn at all. So even though I wasn’t
very good on the new BD saw today, I know that a large part of that is
because of me.

And sometimes today I did pretty well, and felt like I had a groove
going, and I was cycling pressure with my hands, and keeping the work
in place and things felt like they were were working nicely. So I do
think there’s hope for… me. I predict a bright future for the saw,
while encouraging anyone with a first-try like mine to be patient. It
was frustrating because I kept breaking blades and I knew it was
usually because of something I did wrong. Me, the greatsest die sawer
on my block… being lousy at sawing dies is not something I’m used

I suppose I could have started out with something easy like brass,
flat, but I jumped right in with some 1/16" tool steel and a design
with sharp corners. I broke enough blades that, by the end of my 1.5
hour visit, I had gotten fairly good at changing blades, and came to
appreciate the superior design of the whole frame and blade- holding,
guiding, and supporting assembly ; extremely well thought out and
pulled-off. The tensioning adjustment is quick and easy enough to
use on every blade, if desired, and actually very very good to have,
in order to accommodate differences in blade loading.

The aspect of the design that leaves the table flat, while the
sawframe itself tilts, is a great feature because it lets your left
and right sides stay balanced. An angle guide would be a nice
addition but that’s minor; I couldn’t find anything at all major that
I would change or modify on this baby. The little steel nib there
that has a slot in it for the blade, that rotates to accept tilted
blades, that’s as slick as a teflon-coated baby’s-butt . It took me a
while before I had other basics in mind, and noticed that if I kept
the blade there, things went much more smoothly. See, I didn’t just
wake up today and expect to be good at this. I like to think of myself
as a fast learner, but some of my talent is in the area of stubborn

Again, a very biased, overly agressive, slightly impatient user,
combined with a difficult first test , is not the gentlest way to go
about assessing a new tool, but what you do get is a tough test. Sort
of a "let’s roll it off a cliff and see what happens " thing.If it
survives, you know you have a pretty good product.

It definitely survived, and trying to be honest, not nice just to be
nice, and not negative just because I wasn’t good within an hour, I
have to say that my experience was very good. I would need more time
with one to explore it’s die sawing potential. I wish I could be more
definite about this aspect ; I think it’s a great machine, and I
liked using it quite a bit.

I’m also thinking about if situations were reversed, if people who
had been sawing on one of these saws for 15 years had to come and use
my manual or gearmmotor saws to cut dies. I don’t doubt that many
would run away screaming in horror at the thought of having to saw
that way. It’s crude by comparison, physically demanding and the work
flops around and how do you keep from breaking blades !!!??? “This
totally stinks , I hate it, gimme back my New Concept Saw, I’m not a
barbarian !!!” I can hear them say. I don’t think I’m exaggerating
here, so I have to be patient, and give the saw, and myself (perhaps
myself especially) some time and not decide anything or say anything
very definite until I actually know more. It just isn’t fair to
compare 20 years with an hour.

But really, this is a very fine machine, very highly evolved for the
process and the most highly evolved machine of it’s kind. Lee
Marshall is a wizard and this saw proves it.

Dar Shelton