Re: How to Make DoveTail Joints? Dovetail Saws

Lowell Holmes wrote:

snip

Preface #1 to comments: I'm a tool junkie and a handcut dovetails aficianado
I do have the "less expensive" barell handled dovetail saw, two in fact, a LN DT saw, a PAX DT saw, a relatively inexpensive dozuki and a moderately priced japanese DT saw from either LV or Garrett Wade. Haven't tried an Adria/Ardia dovetail saw but I'm betting it'd cut somewhere between the LN and the PAX.
Preface #2 to comments: I like japanese pull saws. The kerf's narrower so they cut easier with less effort - per stroke. They leave a nice cut surface and there are so many ways to grip and cut with them - oriented up and down for ripping, horizontal for cross cutting shoulders on either the left or right sides. You can orient the stock horizonatally and sit or kneel while you saw vertically - with your face close to the blade if you need to really see the cut as it's being made. Maybe it's because I used a jewelers saw before coming to wood saws that I prefer the pull saw and am more comfortable sawing with the blade cutting up and down rather than foreward/backward. With a jeweler's saw blade, some with teeth so fine you can't see them but must rely on feel to get them in the saw frame right, one learns to let the teeth do the cutting at their own pace and with very little foreward pressure. Same thing works for pull saws but not for push saws.
Preface #3 to comments: If you've seen Frank Klausz's video on making mortise and tenon joints, you've seen his suggested sawing exercises - draw a bunch of parallel lines on the face of a board, carry the lines over the end grain then a) cut leaving the line, b) cut splitting the line, c) cut taking the line and then freehand/eyeball lines between what's left. With eight or ten lines per practice piece you can try a lot of cuts on one piece of scrap. By your third practice piece you have the feel for how the saw works and what you must do to make it work best. I did three practice pieces with each saw I've got so I'm somewhat familiar with these tools.
OK - my comments
Getting the cut started - where and how you want it is the hardest part of using any of these saws. Cutting dovetails, that involves two alignments - one "on the line" and one on the vertical axis. Chewing gum AND walking is sometimes a challenge for me so those two criteria are enough. Add a bit of difficulty getting the cut started while maintaining the saw's orientation and I'm half way to Screw Upville.
The "less expensive" barell handled saws are the worst to get started, perhaps because of the teeth set and probably because they didn't come very sharp.
The LN DT saw is next in line as far as getting the cut started. Even with a very light back draw cut and then a more forceful foreward cut it tends to chatter. That makes the start tricky. But once the cut is started, right or wrong, it cuts straight and quickly with a good cut surface.
The PAX DT saw starts a little easier than the LN though it still chatters on the light back cut. Once the cut is started it too cuts straight and quickly with a good cut finish.
The dozuki starts the cut very easily, doesn't cut as fast as the LN or the PAX and can flex and wander in the vertical axis if you're impatient. The cut surface is good though.
And then we get to the japanese DT saw. Having used the other saws and having difficulties with all of them in starting the cut, this puppy was the answer to my prayer - dovetail saw wise. Starts easily, cuts straight with no flexing, despite it's apparent delicateness, compared to the western push saws. The japanese are right when they say it's easier to pull a string than it is to push one. With a narrower kerf than the western saws, it slices with less effort and with little if any chatter.
There's another thing that you have to be able to do when cutting dovetails - and that's stopping at the bottom of the cut line - on both the face and back of the stock. There's several tricks to stopping in the right place - watching the back of the cut in a mirror, pencil line on the saw blade etc.
On all of the western saws, the spine/stiffener on the top of the blade is parallel to the teeth. If you can keep the top of the spine paralleling the top of the stock you only have to keep an eye on the bottom of the cut and the stop line. But on the dozuki and japanese dovetail saw the spine and the teeth ARE NOT parallel. The distance between the teeth and the spine decrease towards the handle so watching the top of the saw works against you and you need to see both the front and the back stop line.
Because the japanese saws cut on the pull stroke, the sawdust is pulled out towards you, slightly obscuring the stop line on your side of the piece. Not a big deal but notable.

I think you meant tenon shoulders rather than mortise shoulders. Yes, the LN works on them as well, though is limited to tenons less than about 1 1/4 inches long. The PAX will do about 2 1/4" and their tenon saw closer to 3 1/2 inches.

And I haven't - yet.
charlie b
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There
will
I agree Charlie, I have 3 dovetail saws and 1 Japanese saw. Never could repeatedly cut a straight line until I got the LN saw. Took me a long time to learn "you get what you pay for" Ray
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rj responds:

Try the Lee Valley dovetail saw. It's a mid-range, does a really nice job.
One of these days I'm gong to get settled and re-tooth my Freud gent's saw. That should work nicely, too. Next year. Get this house sold, get home and get back in a real shop.
Charlie Self "Character is much easier kept than recovered." Thomas Paine
http://hometown.aol.com/charliediy/myhomepage/business.html
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I've got both an LN and an Adria. The Adria is every bit as nice of a tool as the LN. In fact, I slightly prefer the Adria.
David
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I used an Adria when they first came out and before LN bought out Independence Tool. I'm not sure if either has changed, but at the time Adria had a slightly larger handle which folks with big mitts would find more comfortable. Both cut equally well.
--
Scott Post snipped-for-privacy@insightbb.com http://home.insightbb.com/~sepost /

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Heh. Who wold have guessed it? :-)

Yep, that's been my experience as well. I usually only make one "scoring" cut by drawing it back towards me (with basically no more pressure than the weight of the saw itself) and then I go forward (again using very little downward pressure. It can still skip, but if you concentrate on "aiming" the saw rather than bearing down on it, it works *most* of the time. And then, as you say, wherever your cut is, it will go straight from there.

I like to use a mini-dozuki "Z" panel-saw for cutting dt's in softwood, and I've found that the shallow blade seems to help control the flexing, as the spine is closer to the cut. But the kerf is small and the surface is very good. To control it vertically, I tuck the end of the handle next to my wrist/forearm so it becomes an extension of my arm. Then as long as my arm moves straight, I don't have to worry about any wobble off of vertical. BTW, this brings up what may be one of the biggest advantages of the western-style dt saw with a pistol-grip. A good saw with a well-shaped handle will just naturally put your hand and wrist in the proper position to saw. I remember the first time I picked up an old western dt saw; it was like shaking hands with an old friend.

Yep. I've tried the mirror trick and it just confused me. :-) What I do now is start my cuts on the show side and go all the way to the baseline there, concentrating on keeping the spine parallel with the stock (or just shy of it with a dozuki). I then flip the board and check to see if any of my cuts didn't reach the baseline on the other side. If so, I cut from that side, making sure to angle the saw slightly upwards so I don't cut any lower on the show side.

My biggest gripe with pullsaws in general. I use a stroke that goes something like this: *pull* *blow* *pull* *blow* :-) Anyhow, another outstanding post charlieb. I hope the folks with questions will file it away for future reference. It's also good for those of us who think we know it all ;-) as it makes us re-evaluate our selection of saws and the techniques that go along with them.
Chuck Vance
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