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Thread: Need Some Help Purchasing a Tenon Saw

  1. #1
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    Need Some Help Purchasing a Tenon Saw

    I'm not a Neanderthal, I'm a power tool guy, but ...

    I'm not getting great results cutting tenons on my table saw, don't have the 12 hours to get up to speed on a Leight FMT jig, and my tenon in question is a through tenon, which is longer than any router bit I have. So, I have to old school on this. I've used my table saw and/or a Radial Arm Saw for these and get good results, but hit and miss with the shoulders and tenon thickness. I'd like to try a tenon saw. Most of the stuff I will use it for will be small 1" x 1" x 1/4" stuff but occasionally need that large 2 1/2" x 2" x 3/8" tenon.

    I'd rather not plop down the money for a Bad Axe saw, but I might be able to handle Lie Neilson or Highland tools. 16" long seems really long for me. 12tpt sounds like a good middle of the road style. I could deal with an old Disston and send it down to Mark at Bad Axe for sharpening and re-conditioning. I will probably need to build a jig either like Derek's or Jeff Millers, because I'm sure my cuts will wander. Are there other jig designs out there? I envision using this saw perhaps a dozen times a year.

    Generally, I'm all over the map on this one, and need some direction.
    Regards,

    Tom

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas McCurnin View Post
    I'm not a Neanderthal, I'm a power tool guy, but ...

    I'm not getting great results cutting tenons on my table saw, don't have the 12 hours to get up to speed on a Leight FMT jig, and my tenon in question is a through tenon, which is longer than any router bit I have. So, I have to old school on this. I've used my table saw and/or a Radial Arm Saw for these and get good results, but hit and miss with the shoulders and tenon thickness. I'd like to try a tenon saw. Most of the stuff I will use it for will be small 1" x 1" x 1/4" stuff but occasionally need that large 2 1/2" x 2" x 3/8" tenon.

    I'd rather not plop down the money for a Bad Axe saw, but I might be able to handle Lie Neilson or Highland tools. 16" long seems really long for me. 12tpt sounds like a good middle of the road style. I could deal with an old Disston and send it down to Mark at Bad Axe for sharpening and re-conditioning. I will probably need to build a jig either like Derek's or Jeff Millers, because I'm sure my cuts will wander. Are there other jig designs out there? I envision using this saw perhaps a dozen times a year.

    Generally, I'm all over the map on this one, and need some direction.
    You'll still be reading responses to this one a year from now.

    Just get a Lie-Nielsen 12" tenon saw and be done with it, crosscut or rip your choice. You don't need both. If you buy a rip filed saw you'll want to chisel the shoulder lines relatively deeply and somewhat wide to allow the rip saw a nice trench to run in. The knife is making the visible shoulder line regardless of what type saw you use so don't worry too much. A rip saw makes the tenon cheek cuts a little faster, but there's less a speed differential than the professional tool buying set will say there is. A crosscut saw is generally handier around the bench, but again it's your choice. You can't go wrong with either.

    I have an old Spear and Jackson, but were I buying new I'd go with Lie-Nielsen rather than some here today gone tomorrow brand.
    Last edited by Charles Guest; 01-23-2020 at 9:05 PM.

  3. #3
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    I mentioned that 16" seems long to me, and the only Lie Nielsen tenon saw is indeed 16" long. Do people find that too cumbersome? I honestly don't know.
    Regards,

    Tom

  4. #4
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    Hi Tom

    There are four ways you can create tenons. Lots of choices!

    1. Use a tenon saw, either with or without the fixture I designed (which you know about). Ideally, the tenon sW would be 14” long with 10 or 11 tpi in a rip pattern. I use a Gramercy, but these are pricy. The Lee Valley tenon saw is 16” and 9 tpi, which is okay as the teeth is a relaxed 14 degrees. This may be a little long for a beginner, but there is very little else out there to compete. An alternative is a 12” saw, and I would not recommend refurbishing one yourself as this is not a task for one starting out. I would also not recommend a Japanese saw, which would be cheapish, as they take some time to get up to speed on.

    2. Bandsaw. This is the easiest method of all for sawing tenons. You do not mention having a bandsaw. If you do, use it with a spacer ..



    3. Table saw. Now you write that your table saw is not doing it for you, but I suspect that your “hit-or-miss” shoulder results are due to technique. The simple technique is to use a stop block and cross cut.



    4. Router table. Do this the same way as the table saw. In the absence of a crosscut sled, run a square block of wood against the fence behind the work piece. Cut a shoulder, flip, cut ...

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  5. #5
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    What about the carcass saw it is 14 inch crosscut saw

  6. #6
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    Yes, I have an ancient, vintage pre-war Rockwell band saw. I have a 1950s radial arm saw (DeWalt) and a 10 year old Unisaw. All are 240v. I have a router table and Leigh tenon jig (used 3-4 times, way too complicated for me for ocasional use). Several problems are associated with doing tenons on band saws and table saws for me.

    First (and this may be my technique), one cuts the shoulders and cheeks not to a scribed line, but to a stop block. For me this often results in the cuts not matching up after spinning the work piece around three times. There is often a seam along the shoulders along the third spin, which would not be present if one cut the shoulders to a scribed line, which is more accurate. This is where my technique is hit and miss on the band saw, table saw, and radial arm saw.

    Second, assuming the tenon is too thick, one cannot shave a 16th or less off a tenon with a band saw, as it wants to follow the previous cut, e.g., the path of least resistance. At least with a table saw and radial arm saw, I can raise (or in the case of a radial arm saw, lower) the blade to shave off a 16th. I will point out, at least for my power equipment, trying to move a the blade up or down with fine precision is not possible. as the limit to precision in raising and lowering hovers at about a 16th for my gear. This is better accomplished with a shoulder plane, rasp, or chisel.

    Having a variety of ways to mill wood with a number of tools is in my judgment an advantage, as it gives me options. So, I am looking to try full cave man on tenons to see if I can improve results.
    Regards,

    Tom

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas McCurnin View Post
    Yes, I have an ancient, vintage pre-war Rockwell band saw. I have a 1950s radial arm saw (DeWalt) and a 10 year old Unisaw. All are 240v. I have a router table and Leigh tenon jig (used 3-4 times, way too complicated for me for ocasional use). Several problems are associated with doing tenons on band saws and table saws for me.

    First (and this may be my technique), one cuts the shoulders and cheeks not to a scribed line, but to a stop block. For me this often results in the cuts not matching up after spinning the work piece around three times. There is often a seam along the shoulders along the third spin, which would not be present if one cut the shoulders to a scribed line, which is more accurate. This is where my technique is hit and miss on the band saw, table saw, and radial arm saw.

    Second, assuming the tenon is too thick, one cannot shave a 16th or less off a tenon with a band saw, as it wants to follow the previous cut, e.g., the path of least resistance. At least with a table saw and radial arm saw, I can raise (or in the case of a radial arm saw, lower) the blade to shave off a 16th. I will point out, at least for my power equipment, trying to move a the blade up or down with fine precision is not possible. as the limit to precision in raising and lowering hovers at about a 16th for my gear. This is better accomplished with a shoulder plane, rasp, or chisel.

    Having a variety of ways to mill wood with a number of tools is in my judgment an advantage, as it gives me options. So, I am looking to try full cave man on tenons to see if I can improve results.
    Hi Tom

    At this stage, before purchasing a tenon saw, try the following ...

    1. Saw the shoulder line first using your table saw in the crosscut mode. The issue you are having at present (with the shoulders not meeting) sounds like your opposing sides are not parallel. You have to ensure that they are so. We are talking power tool technique at this stage, so the question is "how do you prepare your stock - planer/thicknesser or table saw?". If your opposing sides are parallel, a stop block and square-to-blade mitre gauge should create repeatable cuts.

    2. Cheeks on bandsaw ..











    2. If a tenon is too thick (which is better than one that is too thin), then a hand router plane is the ideal tool to shave off a smidgeon and get a good fit.



    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas McCurnin View Post
    Yes, I have an ancient, vintage pre-war Rockwell band saw. I have a 1950s radial arm saw (DeWalt) and a 10 year old Unisaw. All are 240v. I have a router table and Leigh tenon jig (used 3-4 times, way too complicated for me for ocasional use). Several problems are associated with doing tenons on band saws and table saws for me.

    First (and this may be my technique), one cuts the shoulders and cheeks not to a scribed line, but to a stop block. For me this often results in the cuts not matching up after spinning the work piece around three times. There is often a seam along the shoulders along the third spin, which would not be present if one cut the shoulders to a scribed line, which is more accurate. This is where my technique is hit and miss on the band saw, table saw, and radial arm saw.

    Second, assuming the tenon is too thick, one cannot shave a 16th or less off a tenon with a band saw, as it wants to follow the previous cut, e.g., the path of least resistance. At least with a table saw and radial arm saw, I can raise (or in the case of a radial arm saw, lower) the blade to shave off a 16th. I will point out, at least for my power equipment, trying to move a the blade up or down with fine precision is not possible. as the limit to precision in raising and lowering hovers at about a 16th for my gear. This is better accomplished with a shoulder plane, rasp, or chisel.

    Having a variety of ways to mill wood with a number of tools is in my judgment an advantage, as it gives me options. So, I am looking to try full cave man on tenons to see if I can improve results.
    Sounds like your miter gauge is not set square. A few minutes working on this would solve your problems. It will take lots and lots and lots of practice to do better by handsaw than tablesaw.

  9. #9
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    I just looked up the LV Veritas Carcass Saw specs. It has 11" blade length and 2-3/8" cut depth. The LN Carcass saw has 14" long blade and 2-1/4" cut depth. Both might be a touch too small for your largest tenons, but come close.

    No doubt the LN is an outstanding saw, but you might consider the LV as it seems a better value. The two complaints I commonly hear about the LV backsaws are (1) they don't look traditional, and (2) they have a relaxed rake suitable for "a beginner" that cuts slower. I don't care and that describes me exactly, maybe they'd work for you too (at only a little more than 1/2 the LN price.)

    I can say the smaller LV dovetail saw cuts fast enough I didn't feel disadvantaged in a class with folks with other saws. And that the even larger LV Tenon saw is miserably large to control for tenon's of the size you describe. I've got the carcass saw on my list, hoping it'll be a happy medium.

  10. #10
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    I have built a similar jig as designed by Jeff Miller.

    Unless every dimension is the same (such that the stock can just be flipped over) it's finicky.

    Better results are achieved with a properly sharp saw and judicious fitting with a sharp router plane.

    FYI - stock choice for grain makes a HUGE difference.

  11. #11
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    Jim, if you want a guide for a tenon saw for tenon shoulders, you can try this design of mine: http://www.inthewoodshop.com/ShopMad...enonGuide.html

    It can do any size/width tenon ...






    All the details for the build are in the article.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  12. #12
    The beauty of hand tools is that you saw to the line and then you are done. If you want to fool around with jigging and testing, you might as well stick with the power tools.

    In making a mortise and tenon joint, we set the mortise gauge to the width of the chisel, and use the gauge to mark both the stile and the rail. There is very little set up time so you would need to make quite a few joints by machine just to come up to hand tool speed.

  13. #13
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    One other way....if I may..

    Shoulder cuts for me are done on the Stanley #358 mitre box.....I can set a stop block, cuts are dead-on 90 degrees ( or any angle I happen to chose, angled tenons)and I can set the depth stops exactly where I want them. 28" saw doesn't take too many strokes to do a cut.

    The OP can walk into any BORG (Orange, Blue, Green) and buy a 14" miter box saw. The plastic thing they sell with can be tossed on the way home, and..you can always change the handle to better fit you hands. Just check the saw for straightness. Plus, when it gets dull, the $10-15 for a new one isn't all that much. Make sure all the teeth are there, too...

    I can then either split off the waste with a wide chisel....or ( the way I was taught in Junior High Shop Class)use my 14" No. 4 Disston to saw the cheeks...back saw is 9ppi, filed rip.

    IF I need a little shaved off for a better fit...a chin-powered, sharp chisel works just find. I can "sight" right along the length of the chisel, and shave off a see-through shaving as needed.


    Power tool? maybe set up a dado blade on that Radial Arm Saw, ala Norm Abram. 1 or 2 passes should do each side of the tenon....just a knife wall to mark the shoulder, and stop any fuzz at the cut's wall.....
    Last edited by steven c newman; 01-24-2020 at 10:11 AM.

  14. #14
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    In reading this thread, one question comes to mind, how difficult is it to cut an old 28" miter box saw down to a shorter saw?

    Some of my rust hunts have ended up with miter boxes and saws coming home with me. A couple of 5" tall saws have also made the journey in to my shop without a miter box to fit them. Cutting one of them down would allow cutting long tenons even on a 2X6.

    Just a thought.

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

  15. #15
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    Here is an example of the lippage I see. This photo is taken from a Fine Woodworking article discussing doing tenons using the table saw and band saw. First, the author Tim Coleman draws up full size drawings, running test pieces, then for the final tenon using the table saw, then the band saw, then back to the table saw, then using a chisel. Coleman, has better luck than I do with cutting shoulders on the table saw, but you'll see his cuts do not match up either. Perhaps I'm not alone in noting that this multi-tool process seems overly complicated to me. I watched Paul Sellers cut a tenon in a real time video that lasted only a few minutes. Granted, he is a super-star of joinery. I'd like to try a good tenon saw. So I came here for suggestions as to tenon saw brands and sizes. Is getting a vintage Disston and having Bad Axe recondition it a good option?

    Lippage.jpg
    Regards,

    Tom

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