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In need of a dovetail saw, a saw file and the setting tool

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bp122

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I cut a few dovetails using a teflon coated tenon saw from Axi (teeth were coarse and it didn't cut very well - felt more like a rasp than a saw really!) and also using a 40 year old Japanese dovetail saw which I borrowed from a friend, who said it hasn't been sharpened in decades.
This was just a practice run to see if I had it in me. The results were better than some first attempts I have seen online, but far from what I'd call acceptable. Need to practice more (needless to say this!)

Anyway, I am in need of a whole set of things for me to cut dovetails on hardwood - a saw, a file to sharpen it and a saw set to set the teeth (based on watching Mr. Sellers on youtube)

I was wondering to buy an old small tenon saw, 10 inch or so (13-16 tpi) with a decent blade on it and then sharpen and set the teeth on it - again this is based on Mr. Sellers blog.

Any recommendations on the makes, types of these items? Or have I got this completely wrong - if so, please don't hold anything back :lol:

Please share your thoughts!
 

bp122

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Regards to budget, I don't want to spend an arm and a leg buying anything new (except for the file, I guess) All together less than £30-£50?
 

Cheshirechappie

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If you're thinking vintage, look for one with a fairly shallow blade, less than 2" if you can find one, and an open handle. Ideally, you'd visit someone like Bristol Design, and hold a few saws to find one with a handle that fits your hand nicely. They can be surprisingly thin and spindly-looking, and still very comfortable; big, chunky handles on small saws just feel clumsy.

The shallow blade helps. The saw is more controllable because your hand is down near the line of cut, not held way above it as with later, deeper bladed, saws. The shallowness of the blade is no real disadvantage, because few dovetail cuts are deeper than about 1", so lots of metal between toothline and back is just going to do nothing.

Be aware that smaller teeth are not as easy to sharpen as large ones, but a needle file, good solid holding and good light will help a lot. Saw sets may be a problem - most were made with hammers and anvils to suit larger teeth. If you can find an Eclipse 77 with the area around the anvil and hammer painted red, I gather they had smaller working parts suitable for small teeth. You won't need much set, either; start with virtually none, and add a bit more until the saw works sweetly in it's kerf without a hint of binding.
 

ED65

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If you can't wait for car boot season to get going the saw could likely be sourced in fairly short order from Gumtree, fleabay or Facebook's marketplace.
 

bp122

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Cheshirechappie":mjkrwkvd said:
If you're thinking vintage, look for one with a fairly shallow blade, less than 2" if you can find one, and an open handle. Ideally, you'd visit someone like Bristol Design, and hold a few saws to find one with a handle that fits your hand nicely. They can be surprisingly thin and spindly-looking, and still very comfortable; big, chunky handles on small saws just feel clumsy.

The shallow blade helps. The saw is more controllable because your hand is down near the line of cut, not held way above it as with later, deeper bladed, saws. The shallowness of the blade is no real disadvantage, because few dovetail cuts are deeper than about 1", so lots of metal between toothline and back is just going to do nothing.

Be aware that smaller teeth are not as easy to sharpen as large ones, but a needle file, good solid holding and good light will help a lot. Saw sets may be a problem - most were made with hammers and anvils to suit larger teeth. If you can find an Eclipse 77 with the area around the anvil and hammer painted red, I gather they had smaller working parts suitable for small teeth. You won't need much set, either; start with virtually none, and add a bit more until the saw works sweetly in it's kerf without a hint of binding.
Thank you for the detailed pointers. I am looking at a few eclipse 77s on ebay, don't know which one to buy as there are so many between £6-£30 :( and not many have info on whether it is for smaller teeth or larger. However, I may have spotted a couple with red innards.
Also, thanks for the pointer on the blade depth - I was assuming the opposite and looking at deeper saws as I thought they might last longer. But I will look for a shallower blade now.

ED65":mjkrwkvd said:
If you can't wait for car boot season to get going the saw could likely be sourced in fairly short order from Gumtree, fleabay or Facebook's marketplace.
I'm possibly the only millennial to not be on facebook (homer)
So I will ask my wife to look at fbm! I have been looking at gumtreeand fleabay so far - have a few options on the latter.

Thanks, fellas.

Any suggestion on the files? Or is it just any good quality three square file which is small / large enough for small teeth?
 

nev

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Why not just buy a Bahco or Zona or similar dovetail saw for around a tenner and get sawing?
It seems a long way round to buy a used (blunt) saw and the tools to sharpen it, then learning how to sharpen it, sharpening it properly the first time (or you're back to step one) and then learning to cut dovetails.
How long does it take to blunt a saw?
I'm guessing you could be fairly proficient at cutting dovetails before the saw needs sharpening or replacing.
 

Jacob

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Dozens of them on ebay £5 - £20. Just make sure they have fine teeth 15 tpi ish. Don't think about buying a different t.p.i and altering it, loadsa work and no point - just wait til one comes along.
Those thin looking old saws on ebay are just worn out ordinary saws but OK for DTs if the tpi is OK
 

MikeG.

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How much is a Pax gent's saw new these days?* They're a great way of getting into dovetail work. OK, they get tiresome if you've got lots to do, but one of those will last years before it needs sharpening, and by then you'll have a good idea of how a saw works and what you're looking for. Again, bp122, if you lived closer you could drop in and try a few different saws out. It would give you a much better idea of what to look for in tenon and dovetail saws.......and you could be sharpening a saw with confidence after half an hour. You'd actually be amazed how easy it is, but I can well remember the trepidation of taking those first strokes with a file when you have little idea what you are trying to achieve.

* To answer my own question.......£20 or less. Frankly, that's where I'd start (frankly, that's where I did start!! :) ).
 

NickM

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I wondered about a gents saw for dovetails but was a bit worried about the handle shape making it harder to cut square/at the right angle. Perhaps I shouldn’t be worrying about that?
 

MikeG.

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It's no issue, honestly. The issue with the handle isn't accuracy but tiredness if you are cutting for a long time. In some ways it could be argued that it is easier to be accurate, as everything is in line and somewhat closer to the action than with a more orthodox pistol grip type saw.
 

deema

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To cut tenons and Dovetails you only need one saw for most applications. A 12” or 14” tenon saw with around 12~14TPI. A short saw that’s not very tall is harder when your starting out to keep straight and true than a longer saw. There is very little difference in plate thickness between a Tenon and Dovetail saw to make it noticeable for most applications. You need at least 3 teeth in the wood when sawing at all times for a smooth cut, which determine the minimum TPI for a saw. Cutting at an angle increases the number of teeth in the wood and allows a saw with fewer teeth to cut thinner stuff. If your using stuff that’s less than 6mm think then you will need a finer saw, but for most people, that’s a very rare event if ever. (Making joints)

You only need a saw sharpened to RIP, there is no discernible difference in blow out on the back of a piece for a properly sharpened and set saw between a RIP and a cross cut backed saw.

What I recommend to everyone starting out is buy a cheap old saw that you need to sharpen up yourself. You can pop into Axminister tools and have a play with the Veritas, LN, PAX saws to get a feel for what a well sharpened and set saw should cut like. -however, I personally find they all put too much set on the saws.

Buy any eclipse saw set. They made two, one for large and one for small teeth. Although they used the same reference number, the finer saw sets usually have red paint inside the area where the anvil and hammer are. However, buy either, they are very easy to disassemble and you just file the hammer to what ever width you want. A thin hammer can set big teeth!

Have a read of the following thread I made a few years back on the selection, setting and sharpening of a hand saw. I know a few have followed it and all I understand have been successful.

hand-saw-restoration-and-re-teething-of-a-99p-saw-t98494.html
 

MikeG.

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deema":x59w3xed said:
.....You only need a saw sharpened to RIP, there is no discernible difference in blow out on the back of a piece for a properly sharpened and set saw between a RIP and a cross cut backed saw.....
True, but only with higher teeth-count saws. I would consider 12-14 to be the absolute minimum I'd want in a dovetail saw.
 

ED65

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bp122":3bqb9fzz said:
I'm possibly the only millennial to not be on facebook (homer)
I'm not a millennial but I literally joined just for the marketplace :lol: It takes some weeks of use before you're approved for it :( so I was fairly itching to see what was on offer when I eventually got access. Unfortunately it's pants here #-o

It's worth perservering on Gumtree BTW unless you're in a bad spot for it, I can't tell you the number of stonking bargains I've seen over the past couple of years. Even now you can still see job lots where you'd pay the asking price for just one or two of the tools.

bp122":3bqb9fzz said:
Any suggestion on the files? Or is it just any good quality three square file which is small / large enough for small teeth?
Yes that's the type you want ideally. As to sources, no suggestions about buying new as I've gotten every one I have from a car boot or similar. But there was a thread just recently in Hand Tools or General Woodworking which mention a few brands.
 

ED65

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I was just having a nosey around your location on Google maps since I don't know the geography of the UK at all well, and you seem well placed for car boots in your county! Two good ones within 20 minutes ya lucky sod.
 

bp122

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deema":3epaml2j said:
To cut tenons and Dovetails you only need one saw for most applications. A 12” or 14” tenon saw with around 12~14TPI. A short saw that’s not very tall is harder when your starting out to keep straight and true than a longer saw. There is very little difference in plate thickness between a Tenon and Dovetail saw to make it noticeable for most applications. You need at least 3 teeth in the wood when sawing at all times for a smooth cut, which determine the minimum TPI for a saw. Cutting at an angle increases the number of teeth in the wood and allows a saw with fewer teeth to cut thinner stuff. If your using stuff that’s less than 6mm think then you will need a finer saw, but for most people, that’s a very rare event if ever. (Making joints)

You only need a saw sharpened to RIP, there is no discernible difference in blow out on the back of a piece for a properly sharpened and set saw between a RIP and a cross cut backed saw.

What I recommend to everyone starting out is buy a cheap old saw that you need to sharpen up yourself. You can pop into Axminister tools and have a play with the Veritas, LN, PAX saws to get a feel for what a well sharpened and set saw should cut like. -however, I personally find they all put too much set on the saws.

Buy any eclipse saw set. They made two, one for large and one for small teeth. Although they used the same reference number, the finer saw sets usually have red paint inside the area where the anvil and hammer are. However, buy either, they are very easy to disassemble and you just file the hammer to what ever width you want. A thin hammer can set big teeth!

Have a read of the following thread I made a few years back on the selection, setting and sharpening of a hand saw. I know a few have followed it and all I understand have been successful.

hand-saw-restoration-and-re-teething-of-a-99p-saw-t98494.html
Thanks, deema, I will check this out today. At least now I know what I am looking for, I can have a quick look on the fleabay for the bits and see what is what! Some of them on there had a tapering blade for a tenon saw - is this a different type of saw or is it just badly maintained and or heavily used?

ED65":3epaml2j said:
I was just having a nosey around your location on Google maps since I don't know the geography of the UK at all well, and you seem well placed for car boots in your county! Two good ones within 20 minutes ya lucky sod.
Like many oblivious creatures, I don't know what I don't know :roll: :D
Please share which boot sales you think are good and I shall give them a try. But I suspect I am going to need one much earlier than that. Still it will be good to know.

ED65":3epaml2j said:
bp122":3epaml2j said:
I'm possibly the only millennial to not be on facebook (homer)
I'm not a millennial but I literally joined just for the marketplace :lol: It takes some weeks of use before you're approved for it :( so I was fairly itching to see what was on offer when I eventually got access. Unfortunately it's pants here #-o

It's worth perservering on Gumtree BTW unless you're in a bad spot for it, I can't tell you the number of stonking bargains I've seen over the past couple of years. Even now you can still see job lots where you'd pay the asking price for just one or two of the tools.

bp122":3epaml2j said:
Any suggestion on the files? Or is it just any good quality three square file which is small / large enough for small teeth?
Yes that's the type you want ideally. As to sources, no suggestions about buying new as I've gotten every one I have from a car boot or similar. But there was a thread just recently in Hand Tools or General Woodworking which mention a few brands.
I'm pretty sure my wife has been on fbm long enough to be approved, so I will pester her - perhaps less now as she is 7.5 months pregnant :D but very understanding and supporting (I know she can't see this or hear me say :D :D :D )

And I agree about gumtree / preloved bargains. I got my Record 52 1/2 in excellent condition, two stanley one handed clamps, a small pine workbench, a wet and dry vac and other bits and bobs - all for £30 from a guy who was moving to a different county.
 

Cheshirechappie

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deema":i382qwdr said:
To cut tenons and Dovetails you only need one saw for most applications. A 12” or 14” tenon saw with around 12~14TPI. A short saw that’s not very tall is harder when your starting out to keep straight and true than a longer saw. There is very little difference in plate thickness between a Tenon and Dovetail saw to make it noticeable for most applications. You need at least 3 teeth in the wood when sawing at all times for a smooth cut, which determine the minimum TPI for a saw. Cutting at an angle increases the number of teeth in the wood and allows a saw with fewer teeth to cut thinner stuff. If your using stuff that’s less than 6mm think then you will need a finer saw, but for most people, that’s a very rare event if ever. (Making joints)
I'd like to add a corollary to this advice, which I think is very sound for anybody doing larger scale work, such as domestic joinery. However, for smaller scale work such as cabinetmaking or box-making, the larger 12" to 14" saws are too cumbersome for the small, delicate joints associated with such work. Indeed, for most furniture scale work in hardwoods (rather than sheet goods), something of about 10" long and 16tpi, with not too deep a blade, will cover pretty well all eventualities (including tenons). For the really small work such as the trays in jewellery boxes, something even smaller such as an 8" x 20tpi gent's saw would be even better.

For 'traditional' style cabinetmaking by hand work in a home workshop, it's probably not a bad idea to have about three backsaws. A small dovetail saw, say 9" or 10" by about 15 or 16tpi filed rip for cutting small joints, a crosscut-filed saw of about 12" or 14" and 12tpi for trimming pieces to length on the bench (usually in conjunction with a bench hook), and maybe a larger saw of about 14" to 16" long, deeper in the plate, and of about 10 tpi to deal with any larger tenons that might crop up.

This was the approach taken way back in the late 18th and early 19th century before machinery became common. Benjamin Seaton's chest (put together in 1797) contains four backsaws, dovetail, carcase, sash and tenon. The dovetail, carcase and sash are approximately (not exactly) as I described above, his tenon saw was a 19" monster with 10tpi - few people would need such a beast nowadays, though I gather a couple of the boutique sawmakers do supply them. That would have covered all eventualities from front doors to jewellery box trays. Much the same is reflected by Holtzappfel in volume 2 of his monumental 'Turning and Mechanical Manipulation', perhaps the most comprehensive description of the tools and methods of the mid 19th century that we have.

From my own experience, doing mostly cabinet work and some domestic repair, the smaller 10" dovetail and 12" carcase saws are the most useful, with the longer 14" tenon saws only coming out occasionally. The smaller saws are lighter and more precise to use for cabinet scale work, the larger are heavier and more commanding, but excessive until the work is of a scale to require them.
 

ED65

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bp122":2few6boj said:
Like many oblivious creatures, I don't know what I don't know :roll: :D
Please share which boot sales you think are good and I shall give them a try. But I suspect I am going to need one much earlier than that. Still it will be good to know.
I should preface this by saying a good car boot IMB is one that's big and busy, there's no telling how tool-rich the environment is until you try a sale out. Anyway the two that showed up as closest to you were in Tetsworth (looks 'uge from the Google Maps aerial view!) and the other in Aylesbury, which seems to be on hard standing so would be more immune to weather-related cancellation.

bp122":2few6boj said:
I'm pretty sure my wife has been on fbm long enough to be approved, so I will pester her - perhaps less now as she is 7.5 months pregnant :D but very understanding and supporting (I know she can't see this or hear me say :D :D :D )
:lol:

bp122":2few6boj said:
And I agree about gumtree / preloved bargains. I got my Record 52 1/2 in excellent condition, two stanley one handed clamps, a small pine workbench, a wet and dry vac and other bits and bobs - all for £30 from a guy who was moving to a different county.
Now that should meet any definition of stonking bargain. Ya lucky so-and-so :p
 

deema

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There were some saws that were made to have the toe end of the blade narrower than the end where the handle is. To spot these you look at the blade to see if it’s at 90 degrees to the line of the teeth, if it isn’t it was designed to be this way. Most saws have been dropped a few times and the steel or brass back has moved down fully into the blade at the toe giving the illusion of the blade being narrower at this end.

I would highly recommend buying one saw that’s 12 to 14” long initially for two reasons. Firstly it’s easier to learn with it the muscle memory needed to cut straight and true. Secondly sharpen it as Ive suggested, the higher the tooth count the harder it is to learn to sharpen a saw. The tooth count I give in the thread in sharpening a saw is I’ve found the easiest for people to learn with. It doesn’t take too long to do, it’s fairly easy to see, and more importantly gives you sufficient files of each tooth to correct the inevitable errors. This saw will be excellent for a variety of tasks. You may find after trying the saw and mastering sharpening and cutting straight and true that you would prefer a smaller 10” long 16tpi bladed saw for the type of Dovetails you want to cut as has been suggested. I personally don’t have such a small saw, probably because I’m over 6’ and have large(ish) hands. I only use a 12” saw for all dovetails. However, we are all different, and it’s very much down to what works well for you.
 

Jacob

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deema":30d47s0t said:
There were some saws that were made to have the toe end of the blade narrower than the end where the handle is. To spot these you look at the blade to see if it’s at 90 degrees to the line of the teeth, if it isn’t it was designed to be this way. Most saws have been dropped a few times and the steel or brass back has moved down fully into the blade at the toe giving the illusion of the blade being narrower at this end.......
I think it's more to do with sharpening - they start straight but wear is heavier in the middle and towards the toe so more gets removed with topping and sharpening - deliberately when it gets obvious that topping will take you too close to the handle.
 
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