Tools I use: My fine hand saws

One of the most popular ‘family’ of shows on TV is the CSI franchise.  For some reason, people love to watch police crime scene investigators show up at some location, sift through the evidence and arrive at a conclusion of what happened.

There is no doubt in my mind that if they came to my house and investigated my choice of hand saws over the years, they would wonder what I was up to.  It’s a baffling collection of tools, but – I fear – it’s how many woodworkers have evolved their collection over years.

Let’s check the evidence we have on hand, shall we?

Here are the ‘fine cutting’ hand saws I have, in order of when I purchased them, with a brief analysis  about them.  Those with weak constitutions may want to turn away.

My uber cheap plastic Big Box back saw.  I would ask for a Mulligan on this one, except for the fact that the $12 I spent on it 13 years ago makes it not worth the effort.  This ‘saw’ came with a plastic miter box that cut ’45 degree’ angles and ‘square’ cuts on the end of boards.  I did use it for several years, but soon discovered that no, this was just not going to work.  I keep it with my fine cutting saws, but I’m not sure why.

My plastic big box ryoba.  This saw proved to be a step in the right direction, showing that at least my mind was moving up from where I had started.  Rip saw on one side and crosscut on the other, the blade is not supported by a back spine.  This means that technique is essential in order to get an accurate cut.  The only problem is that I’m really not set up in a traditional Japanese style shop where the proper technique is easy to learn and apply.  It gives me better cuts, and I will use it to roughly crosscut boards.  Interestingly enough, I had a saw similar to this one before I bought my table saw, and I used to do most of my rip cuts with it.  Fascinating….

The folding dozuki.  This saw is considerably better than the big box ones I have purchased over the years.  I bought it from Lee Valley tools and it does cut rapidly and accurately.  The steel spine runs along 3/4 of the back of the blade, giving me straighter cuts.  It’s not quite dovetail cutting quality, but I have cut some tenon cheeks and shoulders with it.  All in all, a great saw to put in the tool box, but not for precise joinery.

My ‘professional’ dozuki.  After wasting a ton of money on some older, nasty fine cutting hand saws, I finally wised up and dropped some ‘serious’ money ($75) on a high-quality dozuki.  Everyone I had asked about the saw raved about its accuracy and ability to make fine cuts.  And, this one FINALLY got me into the category of real fine cutting saws.  It cuts beautifully, but the problem I have is that with the ‘stick’ handle, I must not be gripping the saw the same way for every cut.  The blade will often wander, and I’m left shaking my head in frustration.  Practice does make perfect, and I really do need a ton more.

My Veritas dovetail saw.  Now, we’re talking.  I picked this baby up earlier this year, and wow.  It’s a western-style push saw AND it has a handle that pretty much guarantees I’ll be gripping it the right way every time.  I love the cuts it makes and the accuracy.  The only knock on it is that the blade depth is just too small for all of the cuts I want to make with it.  I’m hoping the folks at Veritas will make a larger tenon saw in this pattern for folks who need a little more depth of cut.

What does the future hold?  Well, I do like these saws, and I wouldn’t mind getting my hands on a premium tenon saw.  Right now, however, these guys are the ones I turn to in order to get the job done right.

Case closed.

5 thoughts on “Tools I use: My fine hand saws”

  1. Tom – thanks for the breakdown. I hope to skip the first four and move straight to the Veritas Dovetail saw. Heard great things (including the price!).

    Of course, if I’m being truthful, I have my own “saw drawer” that is already full – but we won’t think about that.

  2. Tom,
    Nice post. I’ve been happy with a Dozuki I picked up from Lee Valley about 6 or 7 years ago. It’s fantastic and as accurate as anything. I’d suggest you invest a little bit more time in your pull saw technique, because from the looks of it you should be able to get great results from the saws you already own. I use my Dozuki with a traditional western bench (even with saw horses) and it works great. I picked up the technique from a Fine Woodworking article. I’d recommend you look it up and check it out. It’s very easy once you get the hang of it.

  3. Dyami – I think I’m gonna go that route before I sink any more dough into a larger more expensive saw… I’ve been getting lots of encouragement from the Dozuki boosters out there!

  4. Another great article!!

    Interesting how we all have some tools that we grudgingly admit we bought at one time.

    However, articles like this help folks like me from wasting money on useless tools!!


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