Hey group. First of all, let me get this out in the open. This is not a
troll !!!!! So I don't want to read any of that whining and moaning. I'm
just a guy looking to start cutting my dovetails by hand and am looking for
some personal experiences and insight on which type of saw to pick up. My
choice is between a Japanese dovetail saw and a Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw.
Lonnie Bird's article in Popular Woodworking sort of leaned towards the
Japanese saw but also complimented the Lie-Nielsen saw saying that some of
his students felt that it gave a truer cut. So, if anyone wants to weigh in
on the topic, like I said, I'm just looking for input, not a full on debate
or any flame throwing. Thanks in advance, Brian.
I have the LN dovetail saw and two styles of Japanese saw - a ryoba and
a dozuki. Either way, you want rip teeth.
I've noted several differences.
1. The push saw (the LN) blows out your layout line on one side of the
piece and the pull saws blow it out on the other. Personally, I look at
the outside face while I'm cutting, and this can be an irritation with
the LN. This depends on the wood to an extent.
2. In my experience, the rigid LN is easier to start accurately. The
slight cut it gives one the pull stroke is what does it. The japanese
saws can't really do this because of how floppy they are.
3. The japanese saws are harder to correct wandering with. This might
just be my technique, though. With the Lie-Nielsen you don't really have
to aim once the cut is started correctly.
Personally, I would love if LN offered their dovetail saw with the blade
reversed for a pull cut.
As you probably know a dozuki has crosscut teeth. IIRC, 'dozuki'
is the Japanese word for the shoulder of a tenon, the dozuki
saw is made for those shoulder cuts. However it does a pretty good
job ripping. I have a Japanese saw with the reinfornced spine
and ripping teeth, but cannot remember what it is called. It is
pretty much the Japanese counterpart to an English gent's saw
How, do you use a mirror?
One objection to pull saws is that the sawdust comes out the
side facing the worker and can obscure the layout line.
We're probably talking about the same thing -
or Lee Valley has one
These are the first two google hits for "rip tooth dozuki", so whether
or not there's a better term for them this seems to be the convention.
Hm, I put the board in the side vise and just look down at it, leaning
over it slightly... This seemed natural to me, so that's how I do it. If
my bench was much higher I would probably be doing it the other way.
That may be the one I have as it uses the same handle as my
dozuki. However I recall a different word for the Japanese
dovetail saw, beginning with a 't' perhaps? Somewhere on
one of the vendor's webpages it was reffered to as "the closest
thing to a Western dovetail saw" to words to that effect.
On Sat, 15 Oct 2005 19:23:24 GMT, with neither quill nor qualm,
Get a www.japanwoodworker.com razor saw, a Ryoba, Brian. They're
$25.95 DELIVERED! (ask for the hardwood version of their 9-1/2"
Gyokucho) 1-800-537-7820 (Dept. D2, Fine Woodworking ad)
If you don't like it, put it on Ebay, sell it for $50, and put a small
down payment on the LN saur. ;)
I'm sold on the ease of cut, speed, finish, and control I get with the
Japanese razor saw...but I'm keeping my Atkins/Disstons.
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Learning to use the saw is the most difficult part. You can make either work
as long as you master the skill. I love Japanese saws. They are very sharp
but also very thin which makes it hard to master.
I watched a tv wood working show once and they had a piano maker show how he
makes veneer. He brought a mahogany 2x4 about 18 inches long. On camera he
cut a slice that had to be less than an 1/8 of an inch off the face. It was
very accurate. He then hand planed and then scraped it. It was awesome!!!!
Either will work. The main thing is that you pick the right sort of saw
(rip teeth, correct set, stiff, accurate, easily controlled). There are
at least two ways to achieve this, as you describe, and there's much
more importance about using _either_ of these than there is about
_which_ one to use.
It's hard to find a good Japanese saw for cutting dovetails. It's easy
to find a good Japanese saw for tenons, but dovetails are harder to
find. You want a full back. You also need teeth that can rip - now
relatively few Japanese saws offer suitable rip teeth and although their
crosscut teeth will rip better than Western crosscut teeth, they need to
be the right size. You want the right size of teeth, so the
micro-dozukis are out. You may also find that a deeper blade away from
the handle gives better steering, because the handle isn't parallel to
the teeth line. Mainly though, your sawig technique needs to be good.
Japanese saws with rod handles don't have the steering through wrist
action that Western saws with bow handles do, so you need an accurate
elbow action that pulls the saw straight.
On the whole I wouldn't recommend a Japanese saw for cutting dovetails
unless you already have a Japanese saw for crosscutting and you're more
familiar with the type.
Japanese saws _must_ have rigid handle attachments, and this means wood
not plastic. Those plastic handled Shark and Bear saws rattle!
Personally I used to use Japanese saws for everything, including
dovetailing. Now I use a pre-war Preston dovetail saw for dovetails
(small, very shallow slightly tapered blade below the back, and small
rip teeth). I still use Japanese saws for the rest.
Cats have nine lives, which is why they rarely post to Usenet.
I've taught some classes on doing handcut dovetails. I always bring in a
few saws, including a dozuki or two, an old Disston #4, an couple of old
English-made backsaws, a gent saw, etc. I also have a LN Independence.
I've found that some guys prefer the dozuki, and others gravitate to the
Western saws. It doesn't matter, all can work equally well. You just want
something that's sharp with well set teeth. The only thing I try to steer
students away from is the gents saw. IMHO it's easier to develop bad
habits on a gents saw.
My own favorite is a little Groves and Sons dovetail saw with an open style
handle (like a mini version of the LN Independence). I sharpen my and set
my saws myself, using instructions from the web (can't remember where I got
them, maybe from a website by Tom Law?).
If you want something off the shelf ready to go, I'd look at the Lee Valley
dozukis, the Lie Nielsen Independence, or the Adria backsaws.
I took Rob Cosman's Training the hand class in July. I came with a Lee
Valley Dozuki. I left with a Lie Nielson dovetail saw.
The Lee Valley would cut "true" but was ragged. Could likely be fixed
with a bit of stoning of the side of the teeth. There must be one or
two that were mis-set from the factory.
The Lie Nielson is the last dovetail saw you will ever need. It's is
excellent, I've also heard the PAX, and Adria saws are excellent. The
Pax can be bought from Lee Valley and returned if it is not up to
The second problem with the Japanese saws, is they are SLOW, ESPECIALLY
if you get into maple or even cherry. Nearly 2 times as many strokes,
which makes it easier to misguide on your own.
Use bigger teeth. Japanese saws have limited chip clearance (compared to
a Western saw of the same pitch) and so they'll quite easily block up.
Because they vary the tooth size along the blade you can still start
one, even if it's quite a large "working" tooth size.
They'll work maple too, but you need a blade that's sharp. Many Japanese
saws, particularly the lesser brands after a few months use, use a ot of
their initial sharpness.
I've been eyeing those at Lee Valley:
Why do they show two saws here, under the "Dovetail Saw" heading? Maybe
they're just grouped by make. Left fo my own decision I'll probably buy the
20tpi rip saw. At roughly half the cost of a LN, it's the most serious coin
I'll be spending. Is there any reason why I might regret the decision in
the long run, and end up saving up for a LN?
- Owen -
If you are already accomplished enough with a Japanese saw to cut to a
line, then by all means try dovetailing with it. But if your
experience with Japanese saws is more limited, then I would strongly
recommend a saw with a proper handle (a stick is not a proper handle).
The extra control will make all the difference. The Lie-Nielson looks
like an excellent choice.
(remove all letters after y in the alphabet)
The technical term for 'proper handle' is tote. Of course if
you had just written "I would strongly recommend a saw with a
tote." probably someone would be posting the question "What's
a tote?" while others would assume you meant a toolbox used to
store and carry the saw.
I was in your situation earlier this year, and here's what I did (sort
I was torn between the LN saws and the Japanese saws. Since I live in
Alameda, I'm able to visit the Japan Woodworker to test-drive their
saws. They have all of their Japanese saws out on a counter with scrap
wood so you can sample how they cut. I chose to get the japanese saws
and bought 2 of them (rip and cross-cut). They cut very nicely, but
using a japanese "pull" saw is very different and takes some getting
Last summer, I took a course at the NWS with Christian Becksvoort
making a shaker clock. We hand-cut the dovetails in this class and I
was the only one with Japanese saws. Most everyone had LN saws
including Mr. Becksvoort. (see www.chbecksvoort.com if you're unsure
who he is)
After all that, I found that the Japanese saws are so thin that they
will tend to follow the grain of the wood sometimes when cutting
dovetails because of the shallow angle. Does this make sense? I found
that I struggled to make a straight cut because the blade wanted to
follow the grain of the wood. Granted, my technique was probably as
much of an influence here as anything, but it was difficult. I tried
one of the LN saws and did much better, so I have since bought LN saws
and use them now.
In short, both are good, but there might be a greater learning curve
with the Japanese saws than traditional saws. Also, you don't sharpen
Japanese saws; you replace the blades. I'm not sure how much of an
issue that is for you.
I hope this helps you.
Give each one a try and see what works best for you. I have tried a
hack saw (!) to cut dovetails and it works fairly well. My favorite
is a 25-year-old Sears (Craftsman) dovetail saw. I like Lie-Nielson
products, although these can be a little pricey but worth it.
Half-blind dovetails are common, and for that get yourself a decent
skew chisel. Most important, sharpen your chisels!
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