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Yuppie music catalogs would have you believe that you can only play
music on professional, $50+ musical saws. This is simply not the case. My 
very favorite saw is a $6 - red plastic handled "Vermont-American" 
off-the-shelf general purpose saw. In general, just about any 
straight-backed saw (not curved, like the old-time saws were) will work 
just fine. Some have a slightly better range than others (you ought to 
see the stares I get from store clerks when I start tapping and bending 
their saws to determine range!) In other words - experiment!

A super-simple, but perfectly satisfactory bow can be made in a half hour
or so out of a yardstick (or other similar strip of wood), some 8 Lb
nylon fishline & a few dabs of Elmer's glue.

                          HOW TO MAKE THE BOW                          
Materials needed:

   - A wooden yardstick, or similar piece of wood

   - Nylon fishing line. 8 pound test strength is best, but other
     strengths will work

   - Elmer's, Titebond or similar harmless glue

   - A cake of fiddle rosin


   - Cut the yardstick in half (18")

   - Drill a small hole about here (marked with asterisk)

                    "the other edge"
    |                                         *      |
                      "one edge"

   - Tie one end of the fishing line through this hole

   - Bend the wooden strip as much as you can without breaking it

   - WHILE BENT * carefully wind 75 to 100 continuous loops of the line 
     around and around and around the bow -- have the line lay against 
     the convex part of the bow, then have it "bridge the gap", in free 
     air. Wind as evenly as possible, working your way from one edge of 
     the bow, to the other edge. Be careful not to let the line run off 
     the back of the bow.     
     * It's hard to keep the strip bent and wind it with the fishline at 
     the same time -- one trick I've used is to drill two small holes 
     along the strip's centerline about an inch from each end - & hook 
     one end of a fairly stiff length of wire through one hole, bend the 
     wood strip as much as you safely can, then hook the other end of the 
     wire through the 2nd hole. This wire will hold the strip in a nice 
     bent position until the fishline can be wound on.

   - When finished winding, cut the line and tie it off to the same hole
     the other end is secured to, then carefully (using your fingers)
     smear Elmer's glue over the part of the wound-on fishing line that
     is laying against the convex part of the wood. This secrues the line
     in place so it won't fall off of the bow. Be careful not to get any
     glue on the straight part of the line. Allow to dry overnight or
     longer. When completely dry, rub the bow over a cake of rosin for
     several minutes until it is thoroughly covered with rosin (musical
     saws require a LOT of rosin to get such a big mass of steel

                      HOW TO PLAY THE MUSICAL SAW

While sitting down, preferably in a straight-backed chair, clamp the saw
handle (with saw in a vertical position), teeth facing you, tightly 
between your legs. Now with your left hand grab hold of the saw's tip
like you would grab the lever of a slot machine. Bend the whole blade
leftwards 8" to 12" or so then rotate your left wrist a bit 
clockwise (to the right) to give the tip of the sawblade the 
all-important tip-bend. The musical pitch is changed by making the 
"big bend" larger or smaller (see diagram below) -- all the while taking 
care to maintain the bend at the tip.

So - essentially, the properly "bent" saw takes on a bit of an "S"
configuration - as shown below: (This view is what you'd see while
sitting & playing it)

                      o   <--- small bend (MUST be maintained or saw 
                       o       will not sing!
                                o   <--- big bend (varies musical pitch)
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Another key point is to try to orient the bow as close to 90 degrees to
the sawblade as possible.

Also, low-pitched notes are bowed closer to the saw's handle whereas 
higher-pitched notes are bowed further out towards the tip of the saw. 
This is not hard to get used to, but does take a bit of experimentation 
to get right. 

Dennis Havlena W8MI, Straits of Mackinac, northern Michigan

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