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Fretwork - Basics and Templates

With fretsaws you create magical decorative elements made of wood - whether for festive occasions or simply for the joy of handicrafts and do-it-yourself. This guide introduces you to the world of fretwork - with general information and all kinds of practical tips so that you can buy all the necessary utensils right after reading the article and then start your first project. Here we go!

Do you find window pictures and figures made of wood wonderful and would you like to create a corresponding work of art yourself? Then we recommend that you learn to saw fretsaw. It's a craft that you can learn relatively easily. Also offer Fretwork a lot of leeway in terms of difficulty. Depending on how excited you are about this activity, you can create elaborate works of art over time (and practice) - or stick to making small, simple creations every now and then. By the way, children also have the chance to experiment with a small fretsaw.

In our guide we explain in a simple but detailed manner what you need to do fretwork. We also give you practical tips for getting started - in the form of a Step-by-step instructions. As a practical extra, you will also find templates for simple and difficult work to download for free in the article. In short, we will equip you with everything you need for your fretsaw premiere. You only have to get the materials or tools yourself, of course.



What do you actually do when you saw fretsaw?

When working with fretsaw, you are working with a fretsaw. You can use this tool to cut thin sheets of plywood. In this way, very beautiful patterns are created in the wood. With the finished works you can decorate your four walls or make your loved ones happy in an individual way.

Our Talu handicraft templates for fretsawing we have made available for you to download free of charge!

Free download | Fretwork Basics | Templates for beginners
Free download | Fretwork Basics | Advanced templates


Tools and wood for fretwork

In the following we name and describe the tools and the wood - i.e. everything that is required for fretwork.


The fretsaw is a special tool with a wooden handle and a U-shaped bracket (steel tube or square tube made of steel). Screw terminals are attached to the ends of the latter. Clamp the respective fretsaw blade between these clamps.

Tip: When buying, make sure that the wooden handle is ergonomically shaped and fits comfortably in the hand.

Special fact:

  • The fretsaw was invented in Italy
  • it got its name because it was originally intended to decorate wooden objects ("marquetry"), which were often leaf-shaped

There are fretsaws in various sizes available in stores:

  • 200 to 300 millimeters for small to medium-sized jobs (beginners and children)
  • 400 to 500 millimeters for larger jobs (advanced and professionals)


  • the size of a fretsaw is called the throat
  • this tells you how far you can saw without being hindered by the outer arch

Scroll saw

The electric fretsaw

In addition to the classic, "conventional" fretsaw, with which you can do your fretwork entirely by hand, there is also the electric fretsaw - the so-called scroll saw.

The big advantage with a scroll saw:

When sawing, you do not have to make sure that the correct cutting angle is maintained.

The big disadvantage:

High-quality scroll saws often cost at least 100 euros, while normal scroll saws are available for a tenth of the price in many cases. Scroll saws are used for fine cutting work, not only in the processing of wood, but also of plastic or metal. There are entry-level models that are aimed at ambitious ones Hobbyist straightening, as well as high-quality machines for joinery, other workshops and industry.

You can see what the scroll saw can do when you cut out very tight radii. With a saw like this, you can filigree cutouts and process fine contours particularly precisely and quickly.

Important: In contrast to working with the fretsaw, when working with the scroll saw you only move the workpiece on the saw table. The saw blade is firmly clamped - it moves up and down through a saw arm.

Tip: In addition to special machine saw blades, you can just as easily use commercially available (cheaper ...) fretsaw blades for most devices. Retrofitting with an adapter may be necessary for this.

Here are some things to look out for when buying a scroll saw:

  • stable construction with robust saw arms including high-quality slide bearings
  • Logically arranged and smooth operating elements
  • practical extras: Blower, vacuum cleaner connection, swiveling work table, quick release for the saw blade, speed control
  • well-known, good manufacturers (selection): Hegner, Einhell, Scheppach, Jet, Rexon

Warning, the scroll saw is a machine saw, so a electric device. That is why we have briefly summarized the most important information on how to use a scroll saw correctly.

  • wear safety glasses
  • NOT work with gloves
  • do not wear loose clothing
  • do without jewelry
  • Keep children away
  • Always press the workpiece flat on the saw table with both (!) Hands
  • Ensure a good view of the workpiece (optimal blower)

When sawing with a scroll saw, the rapidly moving fret saw blade can be heavy Injuries cause. For this reason, you should follow the instructions above.

Tip: We advise beginners to buy a whole set of fretsaws. This should consist of a board as a base, a clamp, fretsaw blades and, if necessary, other accessories. Such sets are available from around 13 euros - in local craft stores as well as in various online shops.


If you are completely enthusiastic about fretsaw, you can also get yourself a scroll saw. This still enables finer fretwork and results.

Fretsaw blades

In order to be able to do anything with the fretsaw at all, i.e. to be able to saw wood, you also need a fretsaw blade. Such Saw blades are available in a variety of variants. There are fretsaw blades for particularly fast, very precise or filigree sawing. A distinction is essentially made between round and straight fret saw blades. Round fretsaw blades make it possible to saw tight radii and fine contours in all directions.

Tip: When sawing with a round fret saw blade, you must always make sure to keep the saw line. Unfortunately, the leaf tends to "swim" quickly. It is therefore easy to get off the right path when you are unable to concentrate.

Straight fretsaw blades make it possible to saw very quickly.

Note: Both round and straight fretsaw blades can be found in different designs (single, double tooth, with opposing tooth) and strengths as well as with different numbers of teeth. Speaking of the number of teeth: the higher the number of teeth (tooth pitch), the faster the fretsaw blade cuts.

Tip: A fretsaw blade with a counter-tooth prevents the wood on the underside from tearing out.

Pay attention when buying as a beginner ideally only to the specified sizes of the fretsaw blades.

Typically, when comparing, you come across numbers like these:

Thin, fine-cutting fretsaw blades have low numbers such as 2/0, 0 or 1. Furthermore, they usually have a high pitch. The focus here is on the exact saw cut, not the speed. A small width of the saw blade is essential for filigree fretwork.

Tip: For beginners in fretwork, medium sizes such as 3 or 4 are ideal. We advise you to only use finer saw blades (see 3) as an advanced user - otherwise the inexperience can cause the blades to break quickly. But: try out round AND straight saw blade shapes. This is the only way to get a feel for the different variants and to learn how to deal with each of them.

The thickness of the wood to be processed also plays a role:

  • Size 2/0 to 3 for thin wood
  • Size 4 or higher for thick wood

The total length is classic fretsaw blades commonly to about 13 centimeters. Normally you can use such conventional models in both hand-scrolling and scroll saws.


For your fretwork you can, for example:

  • Birch plywood,
  • Poplar plywood or
  • Beech plywood

use. Birch and poplar in particular are easy to work with. Customize the Wood thickness on the one hand to your skills and on the other hand to the motif to be sawn.

Our tip: Beginners do it easiest with medium-thick wood (no / little risk of breakage, no excessive effort when sawing). But we recommend (and other experts) even more experienced sawmasters not to use plywood that is too thin. Practice shows time and again that medium-strength wood is robust and particularly durable. Medium-thick wood is around five to eight millimeters thick.

Complementary aids

In addition to the basic elements (fretsaw, fretsaw blade and plywood), the following Aids be necessary or practical.

  • Fret saw board with screw clamp (as a stabilizing base and work aid, is attached to the table - has a V-shaped opening on the front)
  • Spray glue or paper glue stick (for transferring the template to the wood)
  • small wood drills, drill bits or cordless drill (for precise machining of internal recesses)
  • File or sandpaper in several grain sizes (for reworking the sawn wooden parts)

Instructions | Procedure for fretsaw

Step 1: Fasten your fretsaw board to the table top with a clamp (alternatively to the workbench, if you have one). The front with the V-shaped opening must point to the outer edge of the table.

2nd step: Clamp your chosen fretsaw blade between the screw clamps on your fretsaw.

In detail:

  • First attach the fretsaw blade to a screw clamp
  • then press the U-bend together a little so that the other end of the jigsaw blade extends to the second screw terminal
  • Secure this other end of the sheet by tightening the screw clamp

Important: Always make sure that the steep side of the saw blade teeth is facing the handle of the saw. It is also important not to tighten the fretsaw too tightly - otherwise it could break.

Professional tip: Experienced craftsmen determine the correct tension of the saw blade acoustically. You pluck the jigsaw blade briefly with your finger and listen to the sound. While this is deep or rattling on a slightly tensioned reed, it tends to sound bright and clear when tensioned correctly.

3rd step: Glue the motif to be sawn (painted or printed on paper) onto the plywood using spray glue or paper glue stick.

Note: You then saw directly through the template. At the end, you simply peel off the scraps of paper. A damp cloth may help.

4th step: Place the prepared plywood on the fretsaw board.

5th step: Drill holes in all recess areas (works with a drill bit). It is important that you do not drill the holes too close to the edge.

6th step: Now the sawing pleasure can begin. Take your fretsaw in your stronger hand. The wooden handle and the teeth of the saw blade point downwards. Hold the workpiece with the other hand and guide it in the desired direction.

Tips for sawing:

  • position the saw at a slight angle for the first cut (simplifies the start)
  • move the fretsaw up and down
  • guide the jigsaw blade horizontally towards the workpiece so that it does not tilt
  • saw without pressure - loose and even sawing movements are the goal
  • When changing direction, you turn the workpiece, not the saw
  • With tight radii you should saw with smaller up and down movements
  • When pulling back the fretsaw, it is also important to make sawing movements
  • saw the motif directly through the glued template
  • always saw the motif from the inside out

Note: Inside cuts are the biggest challenge for beginners. To do this you will need the fretwork.

  • first unclamp from the fretsaw on one side,
  • then thread through the drilled hole and
  • Finally attach it to the fretsaw again.

Practice creates masters!

7th step: Check the result. Are you not completely satisfied with some jobs? Then simply rework them with sandpaper. Basically, start with one simple motif (not too big, round or straight shapes, simple inside cuts).

Motifs | Templates for beginners and advanced users

Here you will find varied templates for beginners and advanced users to download and print out.

For beginners:

  • heart
  • Stars
  • cloud
  • bat
  • deer
  • Hedgehog
  • Christmas tree
  • tree

For advanced:

  • tree
  • Bells
  • tiger
  • wolf
  • automobile

Tip: Of course, you can also sketch out your motifs yourself if you want.