View Full Version : Hand Saw Techniques

Robert Goodwin
02-20-2003, 11:56 AM
I am new to the hand tool world, but I seem to be hooked already. LOML got me a LN dovetail saw for Christmas because I had it circled in a catalog I leave laying around ;) .

Anyway my question is what is the proper technique used for sawing. I have been having problems getting a clean start, and have been having the saw stop on my during the cuts. I am not applying any downward pressure ( atleast I think I am not )

So far my dovetails are not the most beutiful thing to see, but I am having a blast trying.

Rob Goodwin( Former Pond Lurker )

Tom Scott
02-20-2003, 2:04 PM
A couple of hints from my limited experience:
1. For starting a cut (on dovetails) - I find it easiest to attack the wood at an angle. In other words, don't have the saw flat on the top of the wood, but rather on the front edge only. I take about a half stroke (or less) back to start a groove before starting the forward cutting stroke. If it is stopping at this point you are probably applying too much pressure. At the most, all you need is the weight of the saw. If it is still stopping, try lifting just a tad to take some pressure off.
2. If it is stopping in the middle of a cut, you are most likely twisting the saw. The L-N has a very small kerf and any little twist will cause the saw to bind. However, after a little more experience you'll discover this is a good thing since this is also the reason the saw tracks so well (in a straight line). Once you start a cut don't try to change the saw's direction. Either go with it and make adjustments to the next cut, or back it out and start a ner saw kerf in the correct location.

I have the L-N and it is a nice saw. With a little practice, you'll be cutting respectable dovetails in no time.

Good Luck,
Tom (who just started dovetailing 8 drawers for my bench cabinet)

Chris Knight
02-21-2003, 3:49 AM
It is helpful when cutting end grain as in a dovetail, to lightly chisel along the layout line to make a shallow vee groove for the saw. It only takes an instant and makes starting the saw much easier.

As always, you need a sharp chisel!


Tom Scott
02-21-2003, 9:31 AM

I don't know if this groove really helps in starting the cut, but I agree that it helps to create a shoulder for the saw to rest against and thus guide the saw. However, this obviously adds additional steps and time to the process. I think the goal should be making your cuts without the help of these grooves.

Whether it is OK to do this while learning is a matter of opinion. If it helps to build your confidence and to learn the proper motions, then I suppose it is a good thing. However, if it delays your learning of being able to cut to the line un-aided, then it's not such a good thing. At some point I think everyone will want to learn to do it without this crutch.

BTW, I still use this technique of creating a groove/shoulder for making cuts cross grain such as for dados, and sometimes for the shoulder cut on the tail board while making dovetails...


Dennis McDonaugh
02-21-2003, 1:41 PM
Robert, I find waxing the blade helps stop binding. Have you clamped the wood vertically in a vice? You can tilt the board a little so you are always cutting straight up and down and not at an angle.

Robert Goodwin
02-21-2003, 5:05 PM
Thanks for all of your suggestions, I will try waxing the blade to see if that helps. I practived some more last night and had alot better luck.


Steve Schoene
03-07-2003, 2:21 PM
Light pressure, as others have mentioned is important. An old mentor Maurice Fraser suggested a way of determining the right grip. He suggested imagining that the handle was coated with the results of cleaning up after your dog. That way you won't grip too firmly.

Robert Goodwin
03-07-2003, 3:07 PM
In that case, maybe I'll just pull out the Router :p