advice on a starter set of hand saws?

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Forum topic by startingfromscratch posted 09-08-2009 09:00 PM 1970 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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69 posts in 3396 days

09-08-2009 09:00 PM

Humming along with gearing up my beginner woodshop and am wondering about what saws I ought to have hanging in it, that will actually get used and won’t break the bank. I’m looking for as specific info as possible. I’m thinking about general use but really I’d like to get set up (eventually) to do dovetails and mortise/tenon joinery by hand. I think having a decent set of equipment will make that easier to learn.

I currently have an old general use cross cut saw, an old gent saw, an old 16 or 20” backsaw that one may consider a tenon saw but I think probably not. I don’t think I’m going to shell out the money for a hand rip saw…I can’t remember the last time I used the cross cut one I have. I was going to add to the existing tools a flushcut saw, a dozuki with 24-27 tpi for the dovetails, and a traditional 8” tenon backsaw with 10-12 tpi.

I’ll add to that a set of 4 marples blue chip, a couple of mortise chisels, a beech mallet, some way of sharpening them (oh man am I confused by all that), and a low angle block plan…and when I rob a bank a bull nose shoulder plan.


6 replies so far

View Sam Yerardi's profile

Sam Yerardi

244 posts in 4099 days

#1 posted 09-08-2009 09:40 PM

Sounds like you’re heading in the right direction. If you continue to work with handsaws, you may change your mind about the crosscut and the rip saw. I have two of each and I do use them. Some other saws you might want to look at are a bow saw, a frame saw, a fret saw, and a coping saw. Most of these are personal preference tools and aren’t mandatory. One thing about tools is everyone has their own opinions and favorites.

-- Sam

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 3789 days

#2 posted 09-08-2009 09:43 PM

Buy some japanese pull cut saws you will never regret it I love mine.Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3877 days

#3 posted 09-09-2009 03:37 AM

Tenons you want a saw pair. 12” preferably. 8” blade is just too short IMO. Crosscut and Rip – you need to cut the shoulders and the cheeks.

For dovetails I like an open handle western saw with a blade taper (toe to heal). 10” 20ish TPI for 1/2” wood or 16TPI for 3/4” I’ve also used a gents style dovetail saw, the one I have is 16TPI and just not fine enough for drawer sides. Thinner wood demands more teeth to keep smooth cutting.

DT’s also really beg for a thin plate and a super fine set. just a hair over the plate thickness. You want to remove the least amount of wood possible to minimize effort. A heavy brass back is good, but a steel back is fine. Just let the weight of the saw do the work. You just push it back and forth with a little downwards pressure.

View startingfromscratch's profile


69 posts in 3396 days

#4 posted 09-09-2009 05:09 PM

Thanks for the info. Marcb, any chance you could recommend a tenon saw pair? At least just so I know what they look like. Similarly, you don’t have a pic of your dovetail saws do you (or a link to a catalog pic)?

View marcb's profile


768 posts in 3877 days

#5 posted 09-09-2009 06:36 PM

All my saws are 90ish years old. The Gents saw is an Atikins. I think its a little younger from the mid 20’s Its the No 25 Silver Steel.

Pax brand are supposed to be OK. Still made in Sheffield England where the backsaw craze started. Some need a little touching up when received, but in general good quality.

However good handsaws are not cheap if purchased new. Pax runs about 90 per saw. That’s on the low end for a saw.

That’s why I buy mine old and beat up. I learned how to sharpen and tune handsaws by abusing some old panel saws i picked up for a buck. Now my saws eat wood and leave a very smooth finish (for a hand saw)

View Julian's profile


880 posts in 3729 days

#6 posted 09-09-2009 10:46 PM

I use an old 1917 Disston steel backed backsaw that I files and recut the teeth to 16ppi rip. It works like a dream and only set me back $25 plus $4 for the file to cut the new teeth. I don’t cut tenons by hand, so I can’t offer any sound advice on which saw to get, but I would suggest an oldie but a goodie versus a new one due to the high cost of quality tools these days.

I made the handle out of a choice cutoff of curly bubinga

-- Julian, Park Forest, IL

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