Clockwise from high proper: Lie-Nielsen non-tapered dovetail noticed. Lie-Nielsen tapered dovetail noticed; Eccentric Toolworks dovetail noticed (not made); Lie-Nielsen non-tapered progressive-pitch dovetail noticed (not made); Bad Axe 10″ tapered dovetail saw; Bad Axe 12″ non-tapered dovetail noticed.

Asking “what premium dovetail saw should I buy?” is fairly like asking “what fancy bra should I buy?” There are so many issues to contemplate in both occasion that there’s no simple reply. The greatest determinant – although not all the time simple to attain – is to attempt all of them that attraction earlier than making a remaining alternative and plunking down your cash. It comes all the way down to which one suits you greatest  – and one which’s an excellent match for you is unlikely to be my first alternative (except you even have very small arms … I’m speaking in regards to the saws right here, after all).

a dovetail saw with an extra small handle
With a three-fingered grip (the right grip), my hand is comfortably cradled between the horns of my “extra small” deal with.

Get hands-on

Hands down, the “best” industrial dovetail noticed that I’ve tried – FOR ME – is the Bad Axe, however solely as a result of one has a alternative of deal with sizes (I am the hand mannequin for the extra-small, so after all it suits me properly). Some different makers, Skelton Saws to call one, supply customized handles, however so far as I know solely Bad Axe affords totally different deal with sizes as a typical choice. And as a result of I use my noticed so much (and generally need to appear to be I know what I’m doing whereas utilizing it), I need a deal with that matches my hand completely, so I don’t slide round on it, or need to grip too onerous to maintain the blade pointed the place I need it.

Most handles are sized to the “average” woodworker’s arms. And which means males (although I do assume that’s altering, and I hope extra toolmakers begin to take that into consideration for instruments the place the dimensions makes a substantive distinction). And some even supply “regular” and “large” (each are, once more, primarily based off a typical XY hand).

a dovetail saw fit for the average sized woodworker's hand
This deal with has an excessive amount of wiggle room for my hand consolation – however it’s an excellent measurement for the typical woodworker (it should be, as a result of Thomas Lie-Nielsen is not any dummy!).

Let it grasp

But what else goes into selecting a dovetail noticed, and the way a lot does it matter?

Handle measurement apart, the very first thing I’d contemplate is the grasp. “Hang” refers to how the deal with sits in relation to the blade – and within the photos simply above, you’ll be able to see that my thumb is pointing at extra of a downward angle; that noticed has the next grasp than the walnut-handled one. The distinction is much more apparent from the opposite facet, the place you’ll be able to see how my index finger is pointed. Many folks swear by a grasp that finally ends up pointing your index finger towards the center of the noticed plate.

The decrease grasp on my noticed means in concept that I need to push more durable to make the minimize. But one other issue, the noticed’s weight, additionally impacts the minimize – and additional weight on my Bad Axe vs. the Lie-Nielsen that Christopher Schwarz makes use of most frequently is 14.7 oz. vs. 12.5 oz. That extra weight counterbalances the low grasp for an easy-to-make-cut.

index finger extended on low hanging bad axe saw
The grasp on my Bad Axe noticed is low – gripping the deal with correctly, my prolonged finger factors past the midpoint of the 10-in. blade.

Weight distribution

Part of that weight is within the folded brass again, however the BA noticed plate can be thicker than the LN – .018 in. vs. .015. If I have been the one one utilizing the noticed, I’d desire a thinner plate (much less metal, so somewhat simpler to push). But the thinner the plate, the better it is to bend – and I hand mine out to college students to attempt, which is simply asking for hassle. That .003 in. might be the distinction between a kink and never.

Speaking of backs (aka the backbone), some are folded over and pinch the sawplate; different backs have a groove into which the plate is inserted and glued. The folded ones are simpler to repair, however in my expertise  they do require fixing. Even so, I like a folded again – I guess as a result of it’s conventional. (I need to generally smack the backbone down onerous on my bench to reseat the plate on my 15-year-old noticed. It’s enjoyable to do in entrance of individuals; it all the time elicits gasps and winces.)

regular hang index finger extended eccentric toolworks dovetail saw
The grasp on this (beautiful) Eccentric Toolworks deal with has my finger pointed to in regards to the midpoint of the 10 in. blade. (Note that the deal with measurement is fairly good for me too. Wish this one was mine!)

Also with reference to weight: I like somewhat little bit of heft in a noticed, however there’s one which, at 20 oz., simply makes me wish to take a nap. (The further weight comes from a heavier again, deal with, and thicker sawplate). To that maker, the extra weight is a profit. And he has minimize extra dovetails than in all probability anybody, so I’m not saying he’s incorrect. It’s simply incorrect for me.

Hang and the place the middle of gravity is on the noticed may also play into whether or not you like a tapered or non-tapered sawplate. A tapered plate is a standard 18th-century look, however it additionally takes somewhat weight off the toe. And I’ve heard people argue that the marginally much less weighty toe means it’s simpler to hit the baseline on either side of the work concurrently.

handle hang on lie-nielsen dovetail saw
The deal with grasp on the Lie-Nielsen noticed, just like the Eccentric Toolworks noticed simply above, extends my finger towards in regards to the plate midpoint – presumably somewhat behind it, that means the grasp is barely increased (which is also a results of the place my hand falls contained in the – for me – giant deal with).

Don’t neglect the enamel

You may also contemplate the enamel, which can be measured in both ppi (factors per inch, or the sharp bit on the high of the enamel) or tpi (enamel per inch, or the variety of full enamel per inch); 16 ppi is about the identical as 15 tpi. If you’re utilizing your noticed for each casework and drawers (that’s, each thicker inventory and thinner inventory), I’d go for one thing in about that vary (I minimize much more casework than drawers). But if all I minimize was skinny inventory, I’d in all probability go for 18 to 20 ppi/tpi. The extra enamel the slower the minimize, however it can be cleaner and simpler to start out. (And I’d go for a thinner plate together with extra enamel.)

I used to have a Gramercy dovetail noticed that was good (aside from the big deal with) for skinny inventory: 19 tpi, skinny plate. But I so hardly ever used it as a result of most of my work is in 3/4-in. or 7/8-in.-thick inventory – so I offered it. (In hindsight, I ought to have stored it; it would have turn out to be useful for the extra delicate dovetails I minimize on software chest tills.) Just a few makers, Veritas amongst them, supply a tpi alternative (and on the worth there, each are reasonably priced!).

What holds it all collectively

And now I’m moving into what some would possibly contemplate the weeds, however take a second to take a look at the little bit of brass or metal that most often holds the deal with on to the sawplate: You’ll be aware that almost all are cut up nuts, which not solely require a particular driver, however are so much simpler to strip (when, say, tightening them within the case of a free deal with) than intercourse nuts that use a straight driver. So why doesn’t everybody use intercourse nuts? Well they’re not conventional. But I’m not a sawmaker, so perhaps there’s a greater cause. (But I doubt it).

sex nut and split nut
At high is a intercourse nut – be aware how the shaft of the slotted piece suits contained in the mating piece and is restrained by a shoulder on the high of the threads. On the underside is a standard cut up nut. The cut up facet threads immediately onto the shaft of the mating piece. Overtighten barely, and the threads can simply strip.

In the top, it actually comes all the way down to what feels greatest in your hand, or, barring that, what appears good to you and meets the specs you’ve determined are essential to you. Or what somebody has satisfied you is essential. But it additionally comes all the way down to familiarity: Whatever you get used to is an effective noticed for you. Sawing dovetails with another person’s noticed seems like carrying another person’s bra. It would possibly do its job, however it feels all incorrect.

black cat in the wood shop
I drained to get Wally to carry a noticed, however…

More by Megan Fitzpatrick

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