View Full Version : Please help me choose my next saw(s)

Matt Woodworth
09-10-2003, 11:08 AM

I've been deliberating over handsaw purchases for a couple of months now. My next project (http://www.rockler.com/ecom7/findprod.cfm?&DID=6&sku=5800) is going to involve a *lot* of tenons and I've decided to dive even deeper toward the neanderthal world.

I have made one decision so far, I want a western saw. It wasn't easy for me to decide so please don't say anything that would cause me to revisit the decision. I can always buy more saws in the future. :)

Based mostly on the feedback from Dave Anderson, I'm leaning towards the Adria saws. Here are some of my open questions:

1) I think I want/need saws filed for rip and crosscut. Would you get a pair of either large (http://www.adriatools.com/handsaw/large_tenon_saw.html) or small (http://www.adriatools.com/handsaw/small_tenon_saw.html) saws? Would you mix and match? I'm assuming that in addition to be cheaper that smaller saws offer more control at the cost of capacity. 2 1/2" if depth seems like more than I'll need but I want to tap into the wisdom of the forum here.

2) I'm considering asking him to make my saws in curly maple. Is the wood in the handle critical for performance or is it *just* for beauty? Which wood would you choose?

3) Would you go with Adria too?

4) Adria seems to have the angle of his handles match on both his dovetail and carcass saws. However, Phil Lowe seems to think that dovetail saws and carcass saws should have different handles. Can you look at this video (http://www.taunton.com/finewoodworking/pages/wvt044.asp) and tell me what you think?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts. This board may not have a ton of traffic but I'm posting here because you guys are top notch.

Tom Scott
09-10-2003, 1:25 PM
OK, here is what I would suggest, so take it for what it's worth...

(1) The back saw I use most often is my small dovetail saw (filed rip, of course). I have the L-N, and bought it as a pair with the small carcass saw (filed crosscut). The dovetail is my main saw I will usually reach for for joinery...dovetails, small tenons, and short or shallow cross-cuts. This would be my recommendation as a first (back) saw. My next choice would be the small carcass (crosscut) saw. For the type of work I do, these 2 saws can handle the majority of it.
Now, since you already have a specific project in mind you should take a look at the joints that will be required. All of those small spindles in the mission style would be more easily done with a smaller saw. I have larger tenon saws (older Disstons) filed both rip and crosscut, but those usually only get pulled out when I absolutely can't do it with the smaller ones. It is possible you may need a deeper cut than 2" for the bed frame. If this is the case (and you are limited to only 2 saws), my recommendation would be to go with the small dovetail saw (rip), and a large tenon saw (rip). The 15 tpi of the dovetail saw will do a decent job of cutting shoulders and such until the point when you can get a specific crosscut.

(2) I have saws with handles made of maple (a handmade saw), rosewood, and apple. No performance differences, just aesthetics. So go with whatever floats your boat. You're going to have these saws for a long time, so get whatever is most pleasing to you.

(3) I don't have an Adria, but I've heard nothing but good things about them. I wouldn't hesitate to go with them.

(4) No real comment on handle angle, except to say that I think you would adapt to whatever you have.

I hope this helped, and not confused the matter more.
Let us know what you decide, and have fun with your new toys.


Dave Anderson NH
09-10-2003, 2:59 PM
Tom covered it nicely and his first two choices would also be mine- a small dovetail filed rip and a carcass saw filed crosscut. I would later add a larger closed handle tenon saw 12"-14" with a 3"-4" depth of cut for larger tenons and filed with a rip pattern. To add versatility at the small end a really tiny one of the jewelers or other types of 20-30 tooth per inch saws is helpful for doing things like small jewelry boxes. I'm not convinced a large 12" to 14" closed handle saw with a crosscut set is need as most tenon shoulders aren't very deep and the carcass saw will do the job.

As for the handle wood choice, I still echo Tom, it's cosmetic and what you want to spend. I have curly maple, but if I did it over again, I'd go with rosewood or cocobolo, or bubinga. For larger saws like a tenon saw, I think a closed handle with its lower angle of attack has better ergonomics and is more comfortable. The open higher angle handles on the dovetail and carcass saws are better for the smaller saws.

Marc Burt
09-10-2003, 4:01 PM
I wouldn't want to try to add to what has been said above as both posters are undoubtedly more experienced than I. If it were me I would go with the Adria dovetail and crosscut carcass saw. The bubinga handle on my Adria saw is quite beautiful, IMO of course, personally I don't care for curly maple so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

Dan McLaughlin
09-10-2003, 4:27 PM
You mean there are saws without pigtails? ;) Just kidding. I need to take a walk on the "dark side" soon. I'll follow this thread. Good luck Mark. Of course with Dave and Tom giving you advice, you can't go wrong.

Doug Littlejohn
09-10-2003, 4:42 PM
While I am not expert (heck not really even a novice) here are my .02 worth.

Awhile ago when I had some $$ and knew I would be getting into the Neander side much more, I picked up the LN set that came in Cocobolo. Saved a few bucks and got pretty handles.

That being said, have you looked into the saws that Vlad makes? While back on Badger Pond, he was beginning to sell his stuff to wide raves in the Neander crowd. Check out the discussion in this forum, 'Spehar Dovetail Saw'.

While I love my LNs, I have heard nothing but good things about either Vlads' stuff or the Adria. Whatever way you go, I'm sure you will be pleased.

Once you decide, post pictures!! We all like to see. And especially on your project as it goes along.

Matt Woodworth
09-10-2003, 5:07 PM
That being said, have you looked into the saws that Vlad makes? While back on Badger Pond, he was beginning to sell his stuff to wide raves in the Neander crowd. Check out the discussion in this forum, 'Spehar Dovetail Saw'.

Thank you everybody for the responses. Keep them coming.

Doug, I have read the Spehar Dovetail Saw thread. I'm sure he makes great stuff but for me, the Adria is "just off the beaten path" but not so far that people haven't heard of his work. I'll probably stick to LN or Adria. As I mentioned before, I'm leaning towards the Adria.

Matt Woodworth
09-10-2003, 5:15 PM
I forgot to ask. What makes the dovetail saw a better choice than a small carcass saw filed rip?

Matt Woodworth
09-10-2003, 7:20 PM
I sent my questions to Eddie himself and I asked him if I could post his response in public. He answered promptly and gave me permission to share his response with the forum. Here it is, enjoy:

1. My small tenon saws will cover most of the joinery tasks. They are also far more popular than the large tenon saws, which means that people recognize their value. I would recommend getting the matched pair of small tenon saws if you're doing normal size joinery. The other option would be taking the large tenon rip saw instead of the small one. This is just in case you're making some really big tenons.

Once you get started with the small tenon saws, you will get a feeling for how useful they are and whether you need the large saws as well.

2. Curly or quilted maple is not a standard option. I sometimes make a saw or two with a quilted maple handle, but I'm trying to stay away from this wood. On the manufacturing side, quilted maple is hard to work with because it tears out a lot. On the user side, quilted maple is soft and gets dinged easily. If you bump the front of the handle into the board you're sawing, you'll get very visible indentation in a quilted maple handle. Bubinga will not get indented because it is very hard. It is also beautiful, so these two characteristics make it my wood of choice for saw handles.

3. I would take Adria too! (couldn't resist this one)

4. The handles that I use for dovetail and small tenon saws are identical. I didn't see the video (due to my computer setup), but to me the carcass saw feels just fine in use. This is my second most popular saw model (just after the dovetail saw) and people really love it. The fact that nobody ever asked me about the handle angle on this saw probably means that this is not an issue.

Feel free to post this in public. If you have any additional questions, please let me know.

Eddie Sirotich

So now I'm really torn between getting a tenon saw filed rip and a dovetail saw to go with a crosscut tenon saw. Can you guys help me understand why you choose a dovetail saw over the tenon saw?

Matt Woodworth

PS I spent less time choosing my house than I do agonizing over my woodworking tools. Thanks for your input.

Dave Anderson NH
09-10-2003, 9:40 PM
Eddie is right on his choices when he's talking about folks having only two saws. I went into buying good saws knowing I'd want more than two. My feeling was that the dovetail saw is smaller and easier to handle for almost any size dovetail except really humungous ones. Smaller means more accuracy for someone like me with small hands and short fingers. The carcass saw as a companion was a no brainer for me since it is filed crosscut, I simply needed it for crosscuts like tenon shoulders. My tenon saws are large 14" ones with a full 4" depth of cut both are filed rip though one is 12tpi while the other is finer at 14 tpi. These two saws are both old ones and cost me a total of $60 plus the cost of having Tom Law joint, sharpen, and set them.

Remember one thing, what you are proposing to buy is only a start, you can (and probably will) go back later and fill in the gaps. Essentially then you really can't make a bad choice. This is particularly true when you are talking L-N vs Adria. Take your best shot and let us know your choice so we can second guess you. :D

Matt Woodworth
09-11-2003, 3:34 PM

I've been writing with Eddie from Adria a bit more and I've placed my order. If you're interested, this is from his latest email.

I agree that the dovetail saw and the small tenon saw filed crosscut (carcass saw) is the best combination to start with.

Keep in mind that you can use the dovetail saw for all kinds of cuts, not just dovetails. I'm not sure how big are the tenons on that Mission style bed, but I'm pretty sure they can be done with the dovetail saw.

So there it is, my top of the line starter kit. I'm looking forward to their arrival. His website, while terrific in many ways, does not actually accept the order. It just collects them and a person will call me back for my credit card information. During that time I plan to ask how long it will take to deliver my saws. Hopefully, they have some in stock and can simply send them to me.

Here's a copy paste from the confirmation email:

(A001.1) Adria dovetail saw with Bubinga handle ($115.00) X 1 = $115.00
(A002.1) Adria small tenon saw (carcass saw), filed crosscut, with Bubinga handle ($125.00) X 1 = $125.00
Total = $240.00
Shipping = $12.00
Grand Total = $252.00

Even though I did the math many times I still had sticker shock when I saw the total amount. Oh well, let's hope these tools last a lifetime. :)

Dave Anderson NH
09-11-2003, 3:51 PM
I've no doubt you'll be very happy with your choice. With any kind of care they WILL last a lifetime and more than likely several since you're a hobbyist like most of us. I've had my Dovetail and carcass from L-N over 3 years now and they still don't need sharpening. Some folks use a bit of oil on the blades, some use paste wax, and I use Top Cote. All will work to prevent rust which is the biggest potential problem.

Doug Littlejohn
09-11-2003, 4:03 PM
As with almost everyting else in life, you get what you pay for. Certainly true for hand tools. Your final price was very close to my LN set cost which was about $280 delivered.

I am very sure you will enjoy your purchase. Please let us know how they work for you after you get them.

Oh yeah, pictures would be nice too!!

Tom Scott
09-11-2003, 4:39 PM
Now the part that's even harder than the decision...waiting for them to arrive.
You will love them, and you also won't believe what a difference it makes to have nice saws. I still get a giddy feeling when I get to use mine. (There's nothing wrong with that is there?) Sometimes when I don't have a project going, I will clamp a board in the vice, mark a bunch of dovetail lines on it, and practice my technique.
And, don't fret over the price too much. Amortized over the life of the saw, it should work out to be less than $1/year. At least that is what I tell the wife.


Marc Hills
09-12-2003, 8:02 AM
"Keep in mind that you can use the dovetail saw for all kinds of cuts, not just dovetails. I'm not sure how big are the tenons on that Mission style bed, but I'm pretty sure they can be done with the dovetail saw."

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Eddie's comment has certainly been borne out in my limited experience. The large tenon cheeks on my recently completed workbench were all cut using my Disston dovetail saw filed with a rip tooth pattern. Well, at least until the spine bottomed out after about 3 inches. I finished with a full size cross cut saw, which was much slower. I tried every saw in my limited arsenal, but the little rip tooth dovetail did much better (and was certainly more accurate) than any of the others.

So a cross cut carcass saw really does make a lot more sense as a second saw than a rip tooth tenon saw. The dovetail saw is very effective on small and medium tenons.

Of course, that isn't to say that Matt won't be wanting a tenon saw in short order........

John A Walker
04-19-2008, 10:15 AM
Don't forget... You can use a panel saw for wide, deep tenons.

Tenons mostly involve rip-cuts so a dovetail saw will do the job. I use a dovetail saw for sawing dovetails. Nothing else, but that's personal. A deeper tenon needs a normal tenon saw.


John A Walker
04-19-2008, 10:17 AM
I just noticed. The original post is five years old! :o


Doug Littlejohn
04-22-2008, 4:25 PM
Yep, and I was one of those posters!! How things have changed. I traded in my LNs and am now the proud owner of apair of Wenzloff & Sons saws.

And just to depart from thinking at the time, one of them is an 18" backed tennon saw 4" deep !! Chris Schwartz gave that size a great review in his blog on WW.

The large size actually is easier to make consistent cuts and the weight helps the saw cut without downward pressure.

Hope you like whatever you got !!