Happy day at Ottawa Wood Show - mini dovetail saw tool review


Yesterday I took a day off work. The morning was spent in parent-teacher interviews, but I spent the entire rest of the day at the wood show. I go every year, and it's the best entertainment money I ever spend. Inspiring turnings and carvings, informative seminars, friendly people, and tools everywhere. Felt great!
Dovetail saws:
I was shopping for a dovetail saw, and I was able to do a couple of really poor but telling comparisons. First I tried the Lie-Nielson dovetail saw on a piece of aspen that was maybe 3/8" thick, tops. The cut wasn't perfectly perpendicular to the end, but I'll take full blame for that. I wasn't really trying to line it up. But the cut was very straight over the entire inch to inch and a half of its length, and it was very easy to make. Crosscutting wasn't quite as easy, but no big deal. The show price was $150Cnd. I can't remember if it was tax included, but probably it was, judging from other exhibits.
On to Lee Valley. I really wanted to try their Pax saw ($100 + tax), and my buddy George spotted one way up high on the wall, thank goodness. The salesman gave me a try on a piece of maple, likely 1/2" thick (there's where the comparison breaks down a bit). It cut reasonably quickly for the material, but it was much much harder to control, wobbling from side to side and producing a much wider kerf. The cut wasn't as straight as the LN saw, there was some tearout, and if you left the saw in the kerf you could swing it side to side (yaw) and twist it to and fro (roll) over a surprising range. It seemed a bit short in length, too, because after reaching a bit of depth it started riding up where the handle was hitting the wood. I was definitely disappointed, because I was seriously considering buying this tool. $150 seems like a lot to spend on something made with just a few non-moving parts; it was enough for me to work up to the idea of spending $100 on the Pax saw. (Please, no lectures--it's my personal opinion and I'm entitled to it. I seem to be learning a lesson here, so let me take my time.)
The salesman said he had been considering buying that tool for himself, too, and since he had only been using the gent's saw ($23+tax) he was interested in my opinion. We hauled it down and frankly it performed better than the Pax saw. It took a LOT longer to reach the same depth of cut, but the cut was better. He floated the idea of changing the set on the Pax saw, but George pointed out just how much work that would be, and considering the risk, it's probably not a good choice. I left feeling that I'll probably buy the gent's saw for the time being. (I have another friend who's using one and he's not complaining. Maybe I'll just put a different handle on it.)
"If we can't afford to do it right, we certainly can't afford to do it wrong and then do it right." Have any of you tried to make do with a gent's saw only to turn around and buy something like the LN (or Adria, which I hear is also as good as the LN)? I'm interested in hearing your reactions to my story, above.
Jointer dilemma:
There's a guy selling a General 6" jointer for $800C, tax included, plus a good deal on a mobile base. It really seems like a good deal to me. That was the show special, but he told me he'd extend the deal for me to give me time to think about it, and talk to SWMBO. She has actually given me the go-ahead, but I'm the one responsible for filling the bank account and with my other purchases this would definitely put me over budget for this year. (I can hear the response now. "You moron, SWMBO gave you the go-ahead, so go ahead!") I think I just want to hear from you folks that this is indeed a good jointer, and a good deal for a good jointer. It's the one with the enclosed base. Anybody?
I had a great time at the show, but I tossed and turned all night thinking about that jointer. I'm the sort of eskimo that'll buy a fridge so I'm wary of being pitched to by expert salesmen. (Sucks to be me, eh?)
Have fun!
- Owen -
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On 03/12/2005 10:56 PM, Owen Lawrence wrote:

OK, I'll bite: You moron, SWMBO gave you the go-ahead, so go ahead!
P.S. I've been using the inexpensive gent's saw for years; it works just fine for me.
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<Snip of story about Dovetail saws>

Never used a Pax saw...
The gent's saw didn't cut it for me at all. And a Japanese style pull saw never fit my style particularly well either.
So I bought an Adria. And a couple of LN saws. They are really nice tools to have, and when I cut joinery for special projects, I'm really glad I spent that money. There's usually more money, eventually at least.
If you're going to have an addiction...
Patriarch
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I own the 6" jointer in question and it's a great machine. My first thought was $800 is a bit steep, but I suppose you have to pay PST and GST... so it's probably a very good savings. The only thing I can say is: If you've got the go ahead for a 6", maybe you can talk her into a 8"! Just kidding, I'm sur eyou'll be very happy with the jointer.
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I went for a walk with my wife this afternoon. Looks like it's going to happen sometime between Christmas and New Year's. Yippee!
- Owen -
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Preface: I'm a tool freak AND have no SWMBO to rein my addiction in.
I have and use the LN dovetail saw - with rosewood handle the PAX dovetail saw the PAX tenon saw a Disston gents saw a mystery gents saw a japanese dozuki with the curved end the Odate japanese dovetail saw a triangular saw file a "feather" file AND a tooth setting "plier" (I'll skip the other japanese saws - their more of a specialy thing)
If you are getting wobble and roll while cutting I suspect the source is the loose nut holding the handle (sorry, but a well tuned saw will cut straight if used properly, almost regardless of the price)
If you want a thin kerf, precise cuts with a nice finished surface - go with a dozuki or japanese dovetail saw. They're finesse saws, not brute force saws so they're not "three stroke" saws. They're also one quarter to half the price of the "better" push saws.
Try one, even a relativley inexpensive one and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
(I got the PAX saws to cut dovetails in the apron of my bench - the LN wouldn't cut deep enough, nor would the japanese saws)
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[Gratuitous Neener Snipped.]
You don't have an Adria?
How's the Odate saw? Rockler carries it and I've got a 25% of anything postcard from them.
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Lobby Dosser wrote:

snip

That's it - taunt a tool addict.

It's slow cutting. even for a japanese saw. But it's not really intended for really hard woods or stuff over 1/2 inch thick . It's a "delicate" work saw. Great for cherry, poplar, birch, mahogany and the lkfe. Not so great for A&C/ Greene & Greene/ Stickley style QS oak or woods like bubinga, rosewood, gum (eucalyptus)_
The dozuki cuts pretty quick in just about anything. Not as fast as a western push saw, but the finish is nicer.
The nice thing about the japanese saws is that you have almost an infinite number of grip positions. When doing the horizontal/shoulder cuts on tenons and the end waste on dovetail pins the grip, the balance and the weight of a western push saw work against you. Not the case on japanese pull saws. Like hand planes, there are saws for all occassions.
charlie b
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Heh! Heh!

Would you buy it again?
Also, can you post a review of the Adria after you buy one? :o)
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<snip>

{not charlieb}
I find _very_ little difference in using the Adria, in comparison to the LN dovetail saw. It _is_ prettier, however, with the darker handle. :-)
Patriarch
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Bastard! :o)
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Yes, I'd buy the Odate dovetail saw again - even without the 25% discount. It works particularly well in soft woods that the LN and PAX tend to tear up a bit. I wouldn't want to cut dovetails in 3/4" maple, but for stuff like cherry and mahogany - it's a dream saw.
As for an Adria, my saw addiction is under control - for now. But the turning chisels and gouges are appearing with startling frequency. Like junk dealers, they sell you a midi lathe cheap, knowing that you'll be spending 5 times that on accessories and tools.
charlie b
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Just an interjection here, as inexperienced.... I read that the steel of the LN is Swedish, shipped from Sweden, and as a finished saw it is RC 52 hardness. I also read that Adria steel is RC 54 and that is a good difference. This is what turned me off about the LN saws for the price. I have also read that the standard RC for (American?) "cast steel" is 60 as a standard, but I bet that that is WAY too expensive to amortize into production these days. I know I could be wrong.
I think the big love about LN saws is that the teeth are a masterfully filed shape, related to both the intention of the job (type of saw) and the thickness of the blade, you get perfect* cutting. I imagine as well that one could buy a cast steel, warrented superior saw of old, and with a learned comprehension of filing, setting and sharpening, be able to make it as good as any LN or Adria saw, given that the blade is 0.020" thick.
Has your LN ever needed sharpening, like too soon? (just curious)
Some saw stuff: http://www.norsewoodsmith.com /
--
Alex - "newbie_neander" woodworker
cravdraa_at-yahoo_dot-com
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I'm starting to wonder how much of all the "objective", "technical specs", "special manufacturing methods" really tells you about how well a hand powered cutting tool will perform (and maybe how long it will continue to perform that way in use over time)
RC 52 vs 54, induction hardened, bi-metal, laminated, titatnium coated, chrome molly, special teeth grinds, 3/32nds vs "a full 1/8th inch thick!" - impressive but is this info really significant when it comes to you using the tool.
Graham Blackburn is, shall we say, "partial" to handtools for many common woodworking functions. He points out that the right choice of tool for a task, proper preparation of a handtool, and proper use of it have a greater effect on the end result than all the techno hype the marketing departments come up with to get you to buy their stuff rather than a competitor's.
Since it's saws we're discussing, let's use one as an example. Handsaws have been around for a long time. Before high carbon steel, before high speed steel and before induction hardening came along, craftsman were making pretty fine joinery using what today's marketing departments would call "primitive" saws. How'd those guys get by with crappy saws?
Let's skip technique, learned probably via a long and riqorous apprenticeship, and focus on the tool. Do you know the difference between the teeth on a rip saw vs a cross cut saw vs a combination saw.- the angles, the tpi and set - and why? What happens when there's too much or too little set to the teeth? How significant is it if a tooth or two is set out too far or too little? Did you know that tuning a "western/push" handsaw, assuming it isn't a 50 TPI, isn't all that hard - though it can be a little time consuming if the tpi gets up above 20 or so? (I'm excluding japanese pull saws because they are far more complicated than western saws).
Back to Graham Blackburn. In one of his presentations, he takes a $14 gents saw and tunes it. The set on this one is too big. Too much set means a wider kerf, more work, causes a tendency to wander in the cut and leaves a bad surface behind. A minute of tapping the teeth on a steel plate with a small hammer, frequent sighting down the blade, more taop and that problem's taken care of.
A close look at the tips of the teeth show that their not sharp points.. Clamp the saw between two pieces of wood, run a mill file over the tips until they're all flat - just a little - and in a plane.
Next, a small triangular file, a few strokes on the cutting direction side of every other tooth, stroking at a slight angle to the long axis of the saw blade, and the flat tip becomes a sharp point. Down the blade he goes, stroke, stroke, skip a tooth and repeat. Turn the saw around and he does the other teeth.
Before removing the saw he checks for any flat topped teeth that might have been missed. A stroke of the file here and there and he's done.
Next he grasps the saw handle - lightly, index finger pointing down the side of the blade, hand relaxed. The thumbnail on the opposite hand is place on the far edge of the board and the saw blade is set against it - a short human fence. Two or three light pulls on the saw and then s push stroke - letting the weight of the saw determine the depth of cut of the saw pass, the hand merely steering it. No white knuckles, no forcing the teeth down into the cut by white knuckling the handle - but a relaxed, hold a baby chick, grip, the heel of the hand doing the pushing.
The saw cuts a nice, clean straight line almost effortlessly. Thumbnail, set the saw, pull, pull and stroke. another cut is made. No hand cramps, no clenched teeth, no furrowed brow- the hand and the saw do what they're suppose to do - no sweat. It's all tool prep and the right technique.
Great technique can compensate for a less than perfect tool. No expensive hand tool will compensate for crappy technique.
Knowledge is power. Skill is earned, not purchased. Patience is a virtue. And "it's not the meat but the motion".
ramble mode off
charlie b
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They sharpened their tools - frequently. As you point out later.
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On Sat, 10 Dec 2005 01:08:12 GMT, with neither quill nor qualm, Lobby

That's a task which, once you master it, takes very little time. The first time make a couple hours, the second an hour, the third half an hour, and consecutive times perhaps 10 minutes. (insert "riding bicycle" simile here)
--------------------------------------------------------------- Never put off 'til tomorrow | http://www.diversify.com what you can avoid altogether. | Dynamic Website Applications ---------------------------------------------------------------
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Practice. Developing a Sharp Eye and Sharp Skills.
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MMMMMMMM!!!! ...Aren't *WE* happy these days???
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Alex - "newbie_neander" woodworker
cravdraa_at-yahoo_dot-com
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