Playing The Violin With A Sawzall

January 26, 2011 at 06:07 PM ·

Men everywhere will be abandoning do-it-yourself projects like building a new deck, and taking up the violin instead.

The latest in my violin-Sawzall series:

Replies (43)

January 26, 2011 at 06:22 PM ·

Gee, that is sooooooooooo funny I'll send it to all my family!


January 26, 2011 at 06:44 PM ·

I never thought I'd see an intersection between classical music and Red Green ...

January 26, 2011 at 06:44 PM ·

I prefered the sound of that yellow vibrator thingy to the violin sound.

January 26, 2011 at 06:45 PM ·

 actually it sounded the best when he played something,,,bad! :)

January 26, 2011 at 07:23 PM ·

Next up -- how to make a cello with duct tape, fishing line, and a radiator from a 1979 Impala!  :-)

January 26, 2011 at 08:12 PM ·

Umm......I think I'll stick to using my sawzall for remodeling, thank you!

January 26, 2011 at 08:20 PM ·

Susan, you're a girl, and can't be expected to understand the thrill of finding new and unnecessary ways to use power tools. ;-)

I bet you'd like my electric dog polisher though......

January 26, 2011 at 09:53 PM ·

Nice vibrato!

January 26, 2011 at 10:18 PM ·

The Sawzall has a much better sense of rhythm than many musicians.  Nice, steady, even sixteenth notes.  What key is it in?

January 26, 2011 at 10:37 PM ·

The key that unlocks the toolshed, if I'm any guess.

January 26, 2011 at 11:13 PM ·

"The Sawzall has a much better sense of rhythm than many musicians.  Nice, steady, even sixteenth notes.  What key is it in?"

I simply turned the dial to the tremolo setting, rather than attempting to use the more complicated "key" and "time signature" inputs. The guys at the hardware store will know more about these more advanced features than I do.

January 26, 2011 at 11:22 PM ·

Ya know, I have a variable speed control for my router; I wonder if I could use it for my sawzall?

My sawzall is a pretty old one, two speed rather than variable speed. I think I may need to see what I can do!

January 27, 2011 at 01:36 AM ·

" Susan, you're a girl, and can't be expected to understand the thrill of finding new and unnecessary ways to use power tools. ;-) "

David, I can understand perfectly.  My husband and I run a remodeling business and I often assist him and not by just handing him a hammer.  He expects me to know how to use it and work along side him.  I have framed walls, hung and taped drywall, laid HW floors, laid tile floors and walls..... the list is endless.   Still, having my sawsall anywhere near my violin gives me the creeps!

January 27, 2011 at 02:18 AM ·

Ok, I HAVE to try that.  Let's see...  old bow, check.  old viola, check.  saws all, check.  duct tape - ran out :(  Should I pick up the standard gray or go for one of those fancy colored ones?

January 27, 2011 at 02:41 AM ·

Don't know what a sawzall is. Looks like a reciprocating saw to a Canadian. Is that a DeWalt? You may want to try a Makita, more overtones!

January 27, 2011 at 03:07 AM ·

Nice sounding fiddle.

But PDQ Bach was way ahead of you on this.  His Sonata for Viola 4 Hands uses a hacksaw in  the last movement, strung with a blade made of fishing line.

January 27, 2011 at 08:21 AM ·

Just think what Paganini could have done if he'd had access to one of these. 

January 27, 2011 at 09:06 AM ·

Was that really you playing David?

If I had known that I would have been a bit ruder and mentioned your intonation ... (wink)

January 27, 2011 at 11:28 AM ·

"Was that really you playing David?If I had known that I would have been a bit ruder and mentioned your intonation ... (wink)"

Heh heh, my excuse is that I was having difficulty adjusting to a 5000 gram bow. String changes are accomplished by contorting the upper body more than by changing the bow angle. ;-)

January 27, 2011 at 11:34 AM ·

Rather you than me, I have enough trouble with a good 62 ouncer ...(or is it grams, I can never remember - must be grams).

January 27, 2011 at 02:35 PM ·

In the true spirit of the bridge fitting series, the next video should have the violin duct taped to the sawzall and the bow perched comfortably on top.  That should solve your 5000 gram bow issue...

January 27, 2011 at 02:37 PM ·

 won't that turn into a 5000 gram violin issue? :)

January 27, 2011 at 04:49 PM ·

Now I understand why the Sears catalog carried violins when I was a kid.  Does anyone remember, were they under the Craftsman label or Black & Decker?

This innovation in violin technique makes clawhammer banjo seem so old-fashioned.  Has anyone explored the possibilities of a .22 caliber ram set there?

January 27, 2011 at 05:37 PM ·

 Hahaha, that was HILARIOUS! 

Looking at the comments on the other two videos, I'm sad that people just don't get that it is a joke :( 

January 28, 2011 at 03:33 AM ·

Are you accepting students? I have a violin and a sawzall. Do I need to supply my own duct tape? Does the rosin interfere with the bow hold (duct tape adhesion problems)?

January 28, 2011 at 11:25 AM ·

"Are you accepting students?"

I'm terribly sorry, but trying to maintain the good standing of the United States in the international violin/power tool competition leaves no time for teaching. So you can see what I'm up against, here's a video from my worthy foreign competitor and colleague , Peter Goodfellow, "Carving a Violin Back" (with a chainsaw)

January 28, 2011 at 03:36 PM ·

Jeez, David-- What a waste of a perfectly good Sawzall.

I loved the video of carving the violin with a chain saw, too, but I was years ahead of Peter Goodfellow. I use two electric chain saws without chain oil to roughly carve out bass backs and tops. The chain gets hot without the lubricant, and when that happens I switch to the second saw while the first one cools. I can roughly arch a maple back of a very big bass in about 45 minutes as opposed to days of work with a gouge without getting any oil on the wood.

Sigh. I keep thinking there must be a better way. If I had room in my shop for a CNC router, that's the route I'd take! In the meantime, keep those informative videos coming! :-)

January 28, 2011 at 05:50 PM ·


If you are not using chain oil, then you should use something else to make the chain non-stick. Possibly tri-flow or silicon, and let it dry before you cut? The chain will have less friction, and stay cooler.

NOTE: When the chain warms too much, the teeth will dull quicker; make sure to sharpen often.

NOTE2: Longer chain = less work for each tooth; use a 42" bar!

January 28, 2011 at 07:25 PM ·

Someone mentioned a viola. That would be a good reason to use any sort of saw to carve it up ...

January 29, 2011 at 02:11 PM ·


I see you are starting a holy war, here.  The original Sawzall was made by Milwaukee!  The DeWalt is just a garden-variety reciprocating saw.

I thought everyone knew that Stradavari used the Milwaukee brand.  It was only later that DeWalt came into use.  DeWalts just don't have the same provenance.

However, I am reluctant to compare them in a blind test.  How would we decide who would sit on the panel of judges?!?  Norm Abrams and Roy Underhill?

Whatever.  I think I just found an answer to my tremolo problem.


January 29, 2011 at 02:49 PM ·

Great for those long tremolo passages.

Now that the instrument has been invented, the compositions will flow.

The bridge-cutting videos were nice, too; the second one could be a combination bridge foot and polishing tool!


January 29, 2011 at 04:48 PM ·

True, the Sawzall name is owned by Milwaukee. Wouldn't "reciprocating saw" have sounded a little prissy though to the heavy equipment operator who is considering taking up the violin?

For the ultimate he-man and power tool freak, there's the toilet paper attachment, called the Wipezall....

January 29, 2011 at 06:02 PM ·

David, would this be an option for the ultimate he-man cellists  or double bass players? 

This electric breaker will easily break through 4 inches of cured concrete. The perfect tool for plumbers, electricians, and remodelers. Rental equipment Athens Alabama. Tall Pauls Rent All.




and what about a jigsaw  for the ladies ?

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January 30, 2011 at 12:49 AM ·

"For the ultimate he-man and power tool freak, there's the toilet paper attachment, called the Wipezall...."

For men, right. But I know women (no names, please) who can go through the stuff faster than that without mechanical help.

February 1, 2011 at 04:15 PM ·

Don't give George Crumb any ideas.

February 1, 2011 at 05:21 PM ·

I can't wait until summer music camps! There has to be at least one dedicated to power tool music.

February 1, 2011 at 11:18 PM ·


Hi David,

Only now do I see that you have given a new meaning to the term "musical saw."

(And thank you for doing it.)

All the best,


February 1, 2011 at 11:31 PM ·

"I can't wait until summer music camps! There has to be at least one dedicated to power tool music."

I just had a Cleveland Orchestra clarinetist here (his wife is a violist), and I think he might have been interested in making a video of playing the clarinet with a Shop-Vac, but they needed to get back to the hotel and get ready for their gig.

If the blizzard keeps up, they may be here for another day though. :-)

February 2, 2011 at 01:47 AM ·

The late and much lamented humorist Gerard Hoffnung composed a piece for vacuum cleaner and orchestra, which actually got performed by a professional symphony orchestra many years ago.

February 2, 2011 at 05:09 AM ·

Hey, I have a couple of air compressors that combined could possibly power the entire horn section; I think we may have something here!
We may not need any additional percussion if we can get all the motors and engines in sync.

February 2, 2011 at 07:49 AM ·

I think about this thread every time I brush my teeth now.

February 2, 2011 at 08:00 PM ·

With all due respect here - and I hate to burst any bubbles - but the Sawzall is defintely old hat. David, indeed.

Dr. Felix Wankel way back in the sixties proved that all that silly reciprocating motion is just a waste of energy. Back and forth, back and forth... humbug! Rotary is the only way to go!

I thus humbly suggest trying if not a circular saw, at least a chainsaw. Especially the noise of the latter would add interesting counterpoint. Concerto per orchestra da camera con McCulloch obbligato... 

February 3, 2011 at 01:16 AM ·

Does it do up bow staccato?  If it does there probably will be a waiting list for one.

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