The Travelling Anarchists Tool Chest : Contents No 11. Dovetail Saws

Dovetail Saws

These little dovetail saws get quite a bit of use . They are finer than any machine saw, drawer making and carcase joinery get done quite a lot with one of these two saws. TWO?  Yep two. Really the dovetail saw should be set up and kept for drawers and small stuff . A slightly longer but similar saw, often called a half tenon saw is set up with a slightly heavier kerf for carcase work .   This saw will in many tool boxes replace the full tenon saw. Though I have a full tenon and still use it a lot. ( in truth it depends a lot on which saw is sharpest at the time. I get lazy and don’t do as my old boss did. He always sharpened at least one saw on Friday night before going to the pub)

The contenders for admission to the Chris Schwarz Travelling Anarchist Tool Chest are these:  HEY there are only three weeks to find that young maker to apply to win A HAND MADE TOOL CHEST BY CHRIS SCHWARZ FULL OF THESE DAMN TOOLS send her here


This is one from my own tool box its really lovely little dovetail saw from Lie Nielsen . Its a 15points per inch Rip.

First a word on new, small, rip saws.  We see no need for a small cross cut at Rowden as most work is done in dry hardwood . When we sharpen and its a must to learn to sharpen, we file straight across and aim to change a new Rip  with a high vertical back tooth to what I believe is called “fleam cut” ( some saw pedant will tell me different here).  This is where the back of the tooth leans back a bit it makes the saw run easier. Sometimes with a new saw we will CAREFULLY stone off a small amount of set. Usually to just line up the teeth and get it running true. Setting up a new saw, in unskilled hands, without a skilled maker behind you spotting this or that saw is pulling left is a problem .


The Lie Nielsen dovetail saw is a gem. I believe that it sells at £96.36 at Axeminster Power Tools which is a great price  Its pushed out a really good old saw I have cherished for forty years so its going to be a gem . The handle is beautifully shaped and fitted to the blade with accuracy. The brass back has just enough weight to do its job. The angle of the the handle to the blade is low which I like. With a blade length of 10 inches it functions for me as a carcase saw . The 15 point tooth line is courser than my other saw but no worry as it cuts quick and straight.


The second saw is an old Henry Disston  warranteed cast steel 12 inch half tenon made in Philadelphia. This lovely saw sent in by Bob (Thank you Bob).   This is an example of how good saws always were made . Handle fitting the blade like a hand in a glove sweet and clean probably after fifty years of use no wear is visible here. The tooth line is also 15 point. The back is steel and none the worse for that. The handle is full and not the open handle of the other three seen here. Its hold is slightly more upright but the shaping is much better than either of the modern saws here. The Lie Nielsen and the Pax are rounded a little to avoid discomfort. The Disston is much more shaped to the hand, much more fully formed as if expecting its owner to be holding it all damn day. Not just now and again. The blade is a full plate and deeper than either of the two new saws which suggests that it has not seen a lot of work.


The third saw is the only British saw in contention for inclusion from Thomas Flinn . The Pax 1776 at £120 including VAT. This is with a full 10 inch blade and a fine 20 tpi toothlike  ( that is if my poor old eyes can count that many ) I like this little saw though its not perfect . The fit of the quite pretty maple handle is not as good as either the Lie Nielsen or the the Disston . On closer examination the handle also lacks the distinct shape and curve to the two horns on the handle that are so important to the fit of the saw in the hand. Having said that she cuts like a good un. All three of them do.


There is a fourth saw the SKELTON dovetail saw that I would have included if I could have laid my hands upon one. These are genuinely hand made in Scarborough by a wonderful husband and wife team . Scarborough is a great seaside town on the Yorkshire coast near where I grew up in Bridlington so I have a very soft spot for this product.  Looks lovely….. thats all I can say till I can play with one . NOOOO I have a huge VAT bill and a Corporation Tax, and Personal Tax bill and Christmas. Maybe Christmas…

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I think the two that go in the box are the Henry Disston and the PAX 1776 . I am not giving away my Lie Nielsen

Toodle oooo



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