Featured Maker: Charles Niswonger

Charles Niswonger has an awesome and unique talent — he plays the musical handsaw! He will be performing on our musical stage at the Shreveport Mini Maker Faire. If you ask nicely, he may even let you try a hand at playing his instrument.

Sawman Charles

Charles Niswonger

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your interest in making.

My father played a handsaw back in the 1930s, and I grew up watching him play the saw at churches in the 1940s up to the year he died, 1985. I inherited his old saw and bow, and decided to learn to play it, to carry on the family tradition. The saw is not an easy instrument to play. I practiced for two months before I could play (poorly) a simple song. Now, I have been playing the saw for 30 years, and have made some improvements in the technique, and I have learned some things from other sawplayers.

What will you be making at this year’s Shreveport Mini Maker Faire?

I will show people how to hold the saw, and how to bend it just right and stroke it with the bow, to get the sound you want. Also I will show several different saws, and explain how they differ. Also, I will show an invention of mine which I made from a ceiling fan motor which vibrates the saw, giving it a better sound. I also have CDs for sale.

Why is making important to you?

I have played the saw in many different places, and many people have never seen someone play music on a saw. Some people, mostly children, would like to try holding the saw, and playing a few sounds on it. I enjoy helping them to try it out.

If you had an unlimited budget, what project would you make?

I would make a video DVD of my favorite songs of different styles of music: Classical, Religious, Country, and Patriotic.

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