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Thread: Tenon saw size?

  1. #1

    Tenon saw size?

    So I recently had a bit of an eye opening experience. I thought I'd been getting along fine with my ryoba and dozuki - until I picked it up a 26in 4.5ppi Disston handsaw (filed rip) at a junk store for $5, and wonder of wonders, it was actually still sharp. It ate through everything from 2x construction lumber to 5/4 hickory like nobody's business (I think it just laughed at the 4/4 white pine...), all with surprising accuracy (and a canyon of a kerf!). With that experience, I decided to try it out on some joinery, and it did surprising well cutting a few bridle joints on a recent project. I spent a little more time cleaning up with the chisel, but I certainly spent less time sawing. I even found it to take less effort to achieve reasonable accuracy with the handsaw than with my Ryoba, which was maybe a bigger surprise, so I don't think I've reached the full potential of this saw yet.

    It now seems to me that speed and accuracy are maybe more important than tooth count and kerf size in a lot of general applications. All that got me thinking that maybe I'm at that point in my woodworking hobby career where I should give Western joinery saws a shot. So, I'm looking at picking up a tenon saw to start out with, before getting a carcass saw. I'm not afraid to learn saw sharpening, so I'm considering a kit from Blackburn Tools, which has got me thinking about the 18in vs. 16in option for a tenon saw.

    16in seems to be typical for mass-produced tenon saws today (Lie-Nielsen, Veritas), but I've seen references that 18in was a more common choice for professionals back in the heyday of hand tools. After my experience with the big Disston rip saw, I can see how a bigger, faster (but still accurate), saw might make sense for rip cuts in joinery. Is an 18in tenon saw overkill? What size is really best?

    Future projects for me might include anything from interior doors, a chest of drawers, a kitchen table, or a set of bedside tables.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Small saws for small cuts, big saws for big cuts.

    If my tenon is on a 1X2, my dovetail saw works fine.

    If my tenon is on a 2X4 or bigger, then my 12" or 16" back saw may get the job.

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

  3. #3
    Laurent,

    Don't forget your experience with the Disston. A 10 ppi. panel saw makes a very good joinery saw when working on larger joints. Because of the size of workbench joints I use my panel saw much more than the tenon saws. It tends to be faster and just as accurate.

    ken

  4. #4
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    I agree with Jim and Ken, and I'll add one thing. You'd be surprised how the weight of the brass or steel back of a big tenon saw can affect your ability to saw perfectly straight and square. I find anything over 16 inches to be unwieldy. I suspect you may too, considering the majority of your experience is with lightweight Japanese saws. Unless you're going to build a Roubo workbench and need more than a 4" cut depth, I'd stick with 16" max. Even then, Ken's suggestion is better than a tenon saw longer than 16".

  5. #5
    First, thanks Stephen, Ken, and Jim for your replies! So that begs the question, what would be the benefit of a very large back saw filed rip, like one of these 16 or 18in tenon saws vs. an 18 or 20in panel saw with 10ppi rip teeth? The panel saw has unlimited depth of cut, and is perfectly capable of good accuracy. Does the equivalent back saw just give you a narrower kerf?

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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by lowell holmes View Post
    As a true woodworker, you need all of the saws you would like to have. You also should accumulate sharpening tools and a saw tooth setting tool.

    https://www.best-deal.com/search/lan...w%20set%20tool
    I'm all over it I live in New England so I've got a soft spot for anything Millers Falls, and ordered a Millers Falls 214 saw set the other day. I haven't decided on a saw vice yet, but will likely go either with a DIY set up to go in the face vise on my bench, or a vintage saw vise.

  8. #8
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    My go to backsaw is 14" long, 4" plate depth below the handle.

    My favorite starter saw is often sold with a Maple mitering block - brand name "Do-All", good steel for cheap.

    Saws longer than 16" can be heavy, and difficult to manage.

  9. #9
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    I have a big 16" LN thin plate tenon saw. I do not like it, it cuts slowly (probably needs more rake, LN may have relaxed it to reduce the chance of kinking the thin plate) and is liable to drift, and just generally kind of an awkward tool. As western backsaws go, I prefer the smaller old 12" Disston I have. The plate is narrower but still deep enough for most furniture tenons. That's the size I would go with, maybe 14" if you really think you'll be doing a lot of large scale joinery. 16" or 18" is ridiculous in my opinion, I'd rather just use a panel saw if I needed something that large. Looking at the Blackburn page, the 12" carcass saw with a 0.025 plate and 12 ppi rip would be my choice.

    I've actually gravitated towards the japanese saws for most of these tasks.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laurent Marshall View Post
    First, thanks Stephen, Ken, and Jim for your replies! So that begs the question, what would be the benefit of a very large back saw filed rip, like one of these 16 or 18in tenon saws vs. an 18 or 20in panel saw with 10ppi rip teeth? The panel saw has unlimited depth of cut, and is perfectly capable of good accuracy. Does the equivalent back saw just give you a narrower kerf?
    Laurent, really good question – easy answer is you want both of course!

    Seriously, for most furniture size joinery I prefer the 14 inch the 16 inch back saw (with steel/brass back) versus a panel saw. For me the weight of the back and the thinner kerf help with accuracy. For sawing tenon cheeks I have 9, 11 and 13 PPI rip saws (I've got a bad saw problem). For most case goods I use the 11 – 13 PPI most often. For most handsaw tasks, I think as your skill improves, you'll be able to use a coarser pitch saw and get faster results that are just as accurate as a finer pitch.

    Cheers, Mike

  11. #11
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    My favourite saw for furniture tenons is the 14" Gramercy Sash Saw. I believe that this is 13 tpi and a combination filing. It is perfect for medium-sized tenons and used most of the time. I love that it is light and nimble.



    My other tenon saw is a 16" Wenzloff, which is a beast, but cuts rapidly through medium-larger end grain.

    As a reminder, anyone looking for help with sawing tenons might explore the jig I designed here: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/ShopMad...enonGuide.html

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  12. #12
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    The one I have been using for a few years....Disston No. 4, 9ppi, filed rip....14" long. Back is blued steel.
    Poplar Box 2, saw set up.JPG
    Poplar Box 2, sawdust made.JPG
    Poplar Box Project, gang sawing.JPG
    Poplar Box Project, work station.JPG

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Allen1010 View Post
    Laurent, really good question easy answer is you want both of course!

    Seriously, for most furniture size joinery I prefer the 14 inch the 16 inch back saw (with steel/brass back) versus a panel saw. For me the weight of the back and the thinner kerf help with accuracy. For sawing tenon cheeks I have 9, 11 and 13 PPI rip saws (I've got a bad saw problem). For most case goods I use the 11 13 PPI most often. For most handsaw tasks, I think as your skill improves, you'll be able to use a coarser pitch saw and get faster results that are just as accurate as a finer pitch.

    Cheers, Mike
    Reading your reply and all the others has me leaning toward a 16in tenon saw, probably 11ppi, maybe a little bit finer. A panel saw should do for everything else, esp. based on my experience with the big Disston!

  14. #14
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    Laurent,

    16" is a pretty hefty saw and not that easy to control. I have been collecting backsaws for about 30 years, and I have found precious few 16" back saws. That suggests to me that 16" backsaws were not in demand when people used backsaws for serious day to day work. Most common size is 12" and then 14". I see more 10" backsaws than I do 16". If you need that sort of depth of plate for ripping tenons, then it is the tool for the job, but you should consider that a longer saw is more difficult to control and if you don't need that function, go to the smallest saw you can to get the job done.

    Hope this helps.

  15. #15
    Laurent, depending on where in the Northeast you are, you are welcome to come and check out the saws, vises and other stuff I have. I am in Albany, about 5 minutes from exit 2 of I-87. I used to sell here a lot.

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