What saw leaves the best finish - hand or power?


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1 Nov 2020
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I recently posted another thread on the best way to cut small game counters from hardwood dowels. Thanks for the great ideas - I think I’ll be testing out a bandsaw jig.

The discussion made me think of a separate (general) question. At the moment my Nobex hand mitre saw leaves lots of saw marks on the dowel end grain. In general use, what kind of saw leaves the best finish on hardwood? Hand? Band? Table? Mitre?

Lots of variables I’m sure but I wondered if there was a general consensus.
A Japanese pull-saw would be my goto, and/or make a jig same dia as the dowels and trim the ends with a block plane - shooting-board style if you want an almost polished finish.
Any of the shearing action mitre cutters will produce a similar finish on end-grain albeit a bit pricey to purchase
The quality of the sawn finish probably depends on:
  • stable/consistent alignment and speed of the saw blade - I would expect a machine to outperform all but the most capable of craftsmen
  • number of teeth per inch - the finer the blade the finer the finish I would expect
For a final finish, in the absence of a mitre cutter or very sharp plane, a jig to hold the counter against a disc sander with fine abrasive would be my choice.
I was trying to photograph an example a few weeks ago because it always surprises me.
A quality 80T blade, recently resharpened on top quality CNC machinery in my mitre saw leaves almost the best end grain finish I've ever seen. Not a saw mark to be seen, almost polished. You could finish your pieces straight off the saw.
I've had good results with a japanese pullsaw but not as big or consistently as the SCMS.
The only thing comparable is a fresh cut off a Morso guillotine.

It's a good saw and a good blade.
I think a power saw, such as a table saw with a good blade will win every time. If you are taking the minutest piece of the end or side, then you will, in effect be planing with the saw blade.

When I used to do a lot of work with Maple the finish from the saw could often be a lot better, even than that from the planer. So the routine would often be to saw, and then scrape or sand.
I think a table saw with a good blade is best for a smooth finish. Definitely not a band saw(not mine, anyway). I have a red Trend blade that crosscuts silky smooth, and will rip to a degree, if the timber is fairly soft or thin.
Well the question was, what leaves the best finish and I think without doubt a sharp plane does, if you want to go to the trouble that is, simple jig, drop the counter in the round hole and plane it, smaller hole so you can push it out from underneath.
By far the cleanest I have is a small Japaneze dozuki "dovetail" saw. It is super sharp and has very fine teeth probably twice the tpi of a normal sized dozuki.
I would think what leaves a consistent square cut safely and a finish that leaves little sanding. Scms with a new blade for me. And with small pieces keep the saw down until stopped spinning
I would think what leaves a consistent square cut safely and a finish that leaves little sanding. Scms with a new blade for me. And with small pieces keep the saw down until stopped spinning
^^^^ +1 for that bit of advice (y) (y)
If I only cut these I would make a zero clearance fence as well albeit at the cost of decent dust collection.
Also just a pencil line as the length mark no permanent physical stops.(a stop you use then remove before the cut would be ok)
I would think what leaves a consistent square cut safely and a finish that leaves little sanding. Scms with a new blade for me. And with small pieces keep the saw down until stopped spinning
Absolutely agree with this advice - it is surprising how even my little used SCMS vibrates and wobbles a bit at start-up - less so at power down I think due to the electronic brake.
That said it was smooth enough to allow sub-tct width stick-out cuts where the timber is positioned to just touche the blade body at start-up and gives a superb and clean cut.
I'm no machinist however have performed some light milling using an end-mill on my metalwork lathe into soft copper bar it makes a huge difference to surface finish if after traversing a cut that the mill is retracted slightly before re-positioning for the next pass. By doing this you can achieve an almost mirror flat finish
Freud manufacture a ripping blade for a table saw that they claim leaves the cut surface smooth enough to be able to rub joint without planing.
For the job in the OP, I'd opt for power as opposed to hand cutting.

I have an old DeWalt folding radial arm saw which I bought used many years ago but it got rarely used and languishes on my home workshop wall as I speak as I found that a mitre saw with stand was more practical for taking out of my workshop when I built my double garden shed from scratch on site etc etc etc.

However I did set up the RAS absolutely precisely for such as cutting the shoulders of tenons and with a fine cut blade it would also leave the ends of timber almost looking as though they'd been trimmed up on a shooting board, the finish was so smooth. My Metabo mitre saw gives a good finish to end grain but not nearly as good as my old RAS but that could have been down to the blade used.
Providing there is no play/spindle wobble in the power tool, be it RAS or even mitre saw then the finish is mostly down to the quality of blade used.

I've made something similar in the past in. I first of all drilled out pieces of scrap sacrificial timber the exact diameter of the dowel I was cutting and inserted the dowel into the sacrificial timber and carefully cut through both the scrap and dowel in the same cut. The sacrificial timber prevented any breakaway of the dowel edges and it was surprising how thin the slices could be cut if one needed them.
It was all extra work but in the longer run it saved time and wasted cuts/spoiled finish as the finish was already very good.
If there is any risk of breakout when cutting import pieces on the mitre saw I always use a piece of waste wood placed at the rear to prevent grain damage even when I've scribed the piece with a square and marking knife..

That dowel inside scrap timber method of cutting off the discs could be transferred to using hand tools but I suspect it would be difficult the get the same quality of cut with hand tools as it would with an RAS or mitre saw without extra finishing work.