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Thread: Dovetail Saw Recommendations

  1. #1

    Dovetail Saw Recommendations

    I know this is a preference thing, but which dovetail saw do you all recommend? Lie Nielsen? Gramercy? Bad Axe? I know these will be expensive, but I want to buy a good saw that will last, and that I won't want to upgrade in a year or two. I don't want to spend money just to spend it, but if there are appreciable differences between the brands, I would love to hear form those of you that can comment on them.

    I was currently thinking of Lie Nielsen just because I have had good luck with their other tools - including a tenon saw. Having said that, I have never been fortunate enough to put my hands on a Bad Axe or Gramercy. I would love to hear thoughts from those that have experience from multiple makers.

  2. #2
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    The thing about Bad Axe is that they will get you just the geometry that you want for the work, wood, etc that you do and a handle that will fit your hand. As mentioned in a thread recently, they’ll all work well when they are sharp.

  3. #3
    In my opinion, the Lie Nielsen is the best for the price. But saws are personal. Different saws fit different people.

    Also, if you decide that you want a different saw later, the LNs hold their value. You won't lose much, if anything, when you sell.

    Mike
    Last edited by Mike Henderson; 02-12-2018 at 10:38 PM.
    Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.

  4. #4
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    I've never tried a Grammercy, but did try a few LN saws at one of their hand tool events. I wasn't overwhelmed with the feel or the cut, which surprised me because I have many of their tools (planes, chisels, etc.) and love them. So I bought a Bad Axe Stiletto and have no regrets. A bit more expensive than LN or Grammercy, but as Tony notes, you can get it configured exactly as you want. I also have an Adria dovetail saw (no longer available and got a deal when the Japan Woodworker retail store in Alameda, CA went out of business) on the rare occasions when I need more depth of cut or want a shorter stroke.

  5. #5
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    I think that the first thing to be aware of is that for current top end backsaws everybody is using basically the same materials: Constant thickness 1095 or similar HCS, hardened to Rc50 or so. There isn't any real differentiation in terms of total life or life between sharpenings, so any of the saws you (and others in this thread) have listed will "last". The same goes for classic saws, with the exception of some of "super-hard" Disstons like the D-12 and the tapered-blade backsaw models (which are arguably better than anything made today).

    If you're looking at new saws you should therefore be choosing based on some combination of:
    1. Price
    2. Ergonomics, i.e. how does it fit your hand and your working style. Note that this is highly individual.
    3. Initial tune, but only if you don't sharpen for yourself. Note that this is also highly individual, since different users have different preferences for rake/fleam/etc.
    4. Appearance

    Reviews, whether in magazines of here on SMC, mostly appear to measure some combination of ergonomics and initial tune, both of which are individual. IMO the inevitable result is that such reviews are mostly relevant to their own authors, and nobody else. Instead of looking for others' "good/bad" opinions of brands, you should be seeking to understand both your own preferences and the differences between the makers' approaches.

    I've ended up with a full collection of LV/Veritas backsaws, for 3 reasons: Their ergonomics (balance, angle, handle size) work for me, I don't care too much about their "unusual" aesthetics, and I do most of my own sharpening. Given that combination of circumstances I was free to choose on cost, and LV was by far the cheapest of the "top tier" makers. If you want traditional aesthetics then you might look at LN instead. Their initial tune and ergonomics are remarkably close to LV IMO (they appear to be chasing the same "ideal customer" in that regard), but they have a much more traditional appearance and construction.

    The beauty of BadAxe and similar makers is that they make custom saws to order, so if you have unusual ergonomic or tune requirements, or want to customize the aesthetics then they will accommodate you. I have a BadAxe sash saw and love it, but if we're being honest the business end doesn't perform any differently than the $120 LV equivalent once both are filed the same. Of course it took me a couple years to learn to tune the Veritas to that standard :-).
    Last edited by Patrick Chase; 02-13-2018 at 10:17 AM.

  6. #6
    Not sure if this is exactly an endorsement, but I recently walked into the shop to see my 14 year old just finish cutting through a 1/4 inch carriage bolt with my $24 Crown gent's saw from Woodcraft that I use for dovetailing. It was filled into a rip pattern. And it will need to be again. Although I have to say it cut better after the carriage bolt than I thought it would.

  7. #7
    What Patrick says.

    While I love my Bad Axe saws. it isn't because they perform any better, it is for the bling. With Bad Axe I have my cross cut saws with one back and rip with another so all I have to do is look at the back to pick a saw. Is that worth the cost difference with LV saws?

    It is hard to beat LV saws for price or performance.

    ken

  8. #8
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    You might go to a purveyor of tools like Woodcraft and check the saws out there. I bet you will come home with one.
    I will say that I am partial to Lee Valley, visit their web site.

  9. #9
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    I asked the same question a month ago and consensus seemed to be LN was a good mix of cost and value.

    That said I bought the LV instead and really like it a lot. I am less than happy with the LV rip carcas saw which seems catchy to me, but that is more likely operator error. Worse case I can relax the rake on front inch or tow of teeth but im not messing with it for now. A saw catching seems to frequently be a sign of a good saw and unskilled sawyer.

    Anyway I got off track there a bit, I love the LV dovetail saw so far.

  10. #10
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    If you live anywhere near a Lie-Nielsen Tool Event, you can learn a lot by going and giving their saw a test drive. There may also be other saw makers at the event to try.

    You also may live near other members who are willing to let you test drive their saws. In my case there are is only one modern maker represented in my saw till, Ron Bontz. My choice was to purchase a kit and make my own handle. To me the fit in the hand is as important as any other feature of a great saw.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

  11. #11
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    I have had a LN dovetail saw for years and I really like it.

  12. #12
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    I can recommend the LN and the Gyokucho rip-tooth dozuki (I think it is the #372). The Gyokucho is excellent value for money, if you like the action of Japanese saws.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Hazelwood View Post
    The Gyokucho is excellent value for money, if you like the action of Japanese saws.
    It's a nice saw. It's a pity that it cuts the wrong way, though :-).

  14. #14
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    "I recently walked into the shop to see my 14 year old just finish cutting through a 1/4 inch carriage bolt with my $24 Crown gent's saw"

    The next generation will forge their own path.

  15. To Mark I say OUCH! and probably time to get junior some of his own tools. Santa started bringing my sons tools as soon as they were showing an interest and I continued once the old geezer stopped coming down our chimney. By the time they were ready to leave the house they had a pretty good start and it minimized the prospects of my tools leaving when they did. The fact that they had their own also helped me avoid your unhappy surprise. On the plus side, you have now accumulated both some guilt to hand down when unpleasant chores arise AND you've got a good reason to do some tool shopping. Both are pretty good things in my book.

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