So, I was talking with Bob Plummer last weekend in the shop and we was
lookin" at some drawer boxes that I had cobbled up for these fancy
kneehole desks that I've been working on.
Bob asked me, "What kinda saw do you like for cuttin' out the pins and
tails on yer drawer boxes?"
I said, " Well, when I do a bunch, I like to use the Leigh Jig, but
when I do a few, I have this nice Pax Dovetail saw that I like a lot."
Bob reflects on this a bit and then says, "Have you ever considered
cuttin' yer dovetails out with a hacksaw?''
Hmmn, Bob's a friend and I wouldn't say anything to intentionally
insult him, except in the regard of his incomprehensible love of the
Chicago Cubs, for which I take him to task most heartily, and at every
conceivable opportunity - but the idea of using a hacksaw on fine
"I never have given that much thought, Bob."
Now, let me say that when Bob starts to thinkin' he starts to workin'
his jaws a lot - and Bob chaws - you might say "chews" where you come
from but the point is that he keeps a wad of Redman workin' in his
cheeks, pretty much twenty four hours a day. When he gets that
thoughtful look in his eye I'm always afraid that he'll let go and
spit - although I've never seen him spit in twenty five years of
knowin' him and actually suspect that he simply absorbs the chaw into
his system - which worries me a little bit, as he is a decent friend.
Anyways, the tension of waiting for the unreasonably expected
expectoration onto the shop floor, or the tools, if he is tired enough
to not be entirely accurate, adds a bit of suspense to our shop time
After chawin' for a good bit Bob continues, "Ya gotta figger, Tommy,
that the point (Bob never made a pun in his life, so I won't include
one here, as it wouldn't seem natchural) of those fancy saws is to
have a buncha fine teeth bitin' into the wood - and what has finer
teeth than a hacksaw?"
I was sorta wishin' that I was a chawin' man at this point, so as to
have time enough to reflect on my answer - but I settled for a belch,
as Bobby and I had been suckin' down a bit of Yuengling Lager - and it
seemed like a reasonable comma to the dialogue.
"Well, Bobby, let's give her a try."
Seriously, that was the best that I could come up with.
I pencilled out a dovetail and struck it with the layout knife, put
the stick into the bench vise, and had a go at it with the hacksaw.
Now, I've got a few hacksaws and I was careful in my selection. I
opted for the tubular framed Stanley, as I thought that it would take
the sort of tension that I intended to apply to the blade.
I was less fortunate in the avaialability of blades and had to settle
for a 32 tpi of nondescript origin, as it was the only fresh blade
Bobby camped out right over my left shoulder. I've always hated that.
"Bobby, would you give me a little room to breathe here, I'm tryin'
something I've never done and yer makin' me nervous."
"Hell, I was just tryin' ta see if you was gonna start forwards or
"Bobby, I don't think there's any right or wrong way to start a
dovetail with a hacksaw, since, so far as I know, it's never been
"Well, come on, Tommy. One ways gotta be better than the other, and
it's something to consider, technique wise and such."
I was trying not to concentrate too much on the thought that I was
about to violate a piece of haf assed decent white maple with a
"Alright, Bobby, we're a goin' in."
I ultimately decided on the pull stroke, as it seemed more natural to
me, and it seemed to work just fine. In fact, the push stroke and the
following sequence of pushes and pulls worked to such a satisfactory
degree as to make me lay out a few more and cut them.
"Ya see, Tommy, it cuts clean as a whistle."
Well, it did at that!
I'd not be the one to say that I will give up my fancy saws, as I
enjoy the heft of them and what they do - but Bobby Plummer had taught
me that a man doesn't need a sixty dollar saw to cut a decent line.
So, the moral of story is: if'n yer ever stuck out in the woods, with
nuthin' but a hacksaw - you can pursue yer fine wooddorking hobby
without fear of poorly results.
That damned hacksaw works just fine.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker