Should I buy tenon saws?

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Forum topic by toddbeaulieu posted 12-02-2015 12:13 PM 1536 views 2 times favorited 16 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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814 posts in 2969 days

12-02-2015 12:13 PM


This is another question that I suspect might be dumb, but I’ll give it a shot anyway cuz I’m used to looking dumb.

I have a “dovetail” saw that I bought from Woodcraft a few years back. It’s a fine TPI (not sure #) and marked Garlick & Sons. Frankly I’ve never been a huge fan of it, but then I’m no expert in hand saws. I’m working on a coffee table project and decided to do all the stretchers’ tenons by hand to get the practice.

I’m considering getting the Veritas rip and cross-cut tenon saw set for $200. Mid-range, seems to be a good price point for me.

Their website shows the cross cut being used in the miter box. For those who hand cut tenons, do you use two saws, or just one? I guess my complaint is that my saw seems to take forever for long rip cuts. It’s just fine for cross grain, but having never used a fancier saw set, I think I have this vision of amazingly clean cuts with little effort. Am I over-estimating the value of such a set, or should I jump on it?


16 replies so far

View rwe2156's profile


2881 posts in 1446 days

#1 posted 12-02-2015 12:32 PM

I don’t cut tenons by hand anymore, I just know if you’re tuning up with shoulder planes, its not that critical you can use one saw for everything.

As for your DT saw, you can probably make that saw perform better with a few alterations.

First, measure the plate thickness and the tooth set. The total tooth set should be around .003 on each side or .006 more than the plate. Most saws will be way over this, like .020. You can reset the teeth by simply hammering with a block of very hard wood or hammer flat and reset with a setting tool.

The second thing is check the rake and profile on the teeth. You want a rip cut (teeth perpendicular to plate).
Third thing is resharpen. Most cheaper saws like this are not really sharpened well.

I saw a video of Frank Klausz doing this with a cheap saw (the gent saw with the deer head WC sells) and I went and got one and tried it myself. What a difference. No, not the greatest DT saw in the world, but doing this made is an quite acceptable saw for a budget conscious person.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View toddbeaulieu's profile


814 posts in 2969 days

#2 posted 12-02-2015 12:53 PM

Every time I see a write up of a saw tuning/re-cutting/re-raking.etc. I say to myself “someday, but not now”. I tend to take on new things a little at a time and right now I have way more project work than free time.

Is the only difference between a DT saw and a tenon saw the size? That was another thing I wasn’t sure on. The tenon saws look to be much larger and I wasn’t sure if I needed it that large, or what.

View chrisstef's profile


17307 posts in 2971 days

#3 posted 12-02-2015 01:02 PM

Youre dovetail saw is probably in the market of 16-20 ppi which is a pretty fine pitched saw which makes it very slow on longer rip cuts, they just don’t clear the waste fast enough. I feel like the hot dog handled saws are little harder to control than others, but that’s my opinion. If it were me, and I was going to cut a lot of tenons by hand, I would want something in the 10-12ppi range and 12-14” long. When I cut tenons by hand I do use both a rip and a crosscut saw. My tenon rip saw is 11 ppi and my xcut is a 12.

The other opportunity those tenon saws, well just the xcut one, will give you is the ability to use them in a small miter box like a Stanley 150 and you can use them with a bench hook for cross cutting smaller pieces. I rarely use my powered miter saw any more and I cant really say I miss it. I wouldn’t suggest putting down hardwood floors or trimming out a house without a powered miter saw all though.

I will go ahead an vouch for their saws. Ive got their carcass saw set and I like them just as much as I like my vintage saws. They cut smooth and easy with little blow out. The molded spine makes them a bit lighter than other backsaws which requires a bit more effort on the users part but you don’t wanna ham fist them.

In the end its your call. If youd like to hand cut more joinery in the future id say go for it. If your table saw is all set up with sleds and jigs and whatnot they may be a waste of money for you.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View chrisstef's profile


17307 posts in 2971 days

#4 posted 12-02-2015 01:13 PM

The difference between a tenon saw and a DT saw is both the length and the pitch (how many ppi). Reading their site Veritas tenon saws are long at 16” but they don’t weigh as much as traditional steel backed saws. Id have a tough time controlling a steel backed 16” saw free hand but I really like it paired with a small miter box.

They tooth geometry is a little odd IMO as well. A 14 degree rake on a rip saw is going to be a bit slow. Their 12” carcass saws have a rake angle of 10 degrees. Id suggest taking a look at those carcass saws instead of the tenon saws. I feel like they’d be able to cut tenons, small joinery, as well as dovetails. And youd save $40 clams. The 16” saws would be great for thick stock and tenons but I wouldn’t use it for a dovetail, that’s just too much saw for me.

If you cut long, wide tenons the extra plate depth of the 16” saw might help. The 12” carcass saws have 2 3/8” depth and the 16” tenon saws have 4”. Aside from my workbench ive never cut a tenon bigger than 2”.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View WoodNSawdust's profile


1417 posts in 1141 days

#5 posted 12-02-2015 01:25 PM

I am by no means a hand tool guru. I have the Veritas carcass crosscut saw and it does everything I ask it to. It may not be the fastest cutting saw (I really can’t say since it is the only high quality saw I have owned) but it cuts fast enough for me. A slow cutting saw with someone new to had sawing is not a bad thing.

-- "I love it when a plan comes together" John "Hannibal" Smith

View bearkatwood's profile


1541 posts in 977 days

#6 posted 12-02-2015 01:40 PM

I have the veritas set as well, they work fine. A good carcass saw is all you will really ever need. The saw I use for most of my joinery is a carcass saw I made myself. I have a few dovetail saws and I reach for my carcass saw even though it is twice the size of a dovetail saw. It has kind of a funky hybrid geometry with a touch of fleam. The tenon saw from vertias is good, but I don’t use it as I rarely ever make tenons large enough to warrant it, but that will change here in a few weeks when I stick my bench together.
I would saw go with a crosscut carcass saw or sash saw for your basic all around saw. The biggest thing I could say is just practice with them on some scrap until you find what you like.

-- Brian Noel

View toddbeaulieu's profile


814 posts in 2969 days

#7 posted 12-02-2015 02:27 PM

Here’s my saw:

So the carcass saws seem to be plenty big enough to me. They are 12 tpi and 14 tpi and only $150 for the pair.

I think I’ll order these unless someone speaks up against them/for something else.

As usual, thanks for the help!

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2112 posts in 1028 days

#8 posted 12-02-2015 09:31 PM

Todd. Save your money. That saw’s just fine for the crosscuts. Do you have a Duzuki or Ryuki saw. I very seldom do any case work. But when I hand cut a tenon, I go to the only Veritas tool I have. That’s a saw very much like yours. It’s a little coarser of tooth, but its stiffness makes for very good control. As to these Japanese saws: I have a Ryuki, which has crosscut teeth on one edge, rip on the other. It tends to drift in long cuts because it’s very flexible. For cutting tenon shoulders, however, it’s a wonderful thing, once one gets used to it. The Dozuki saw has one edge, with a back (stiffener) on the other. I know that the Ryuki saw can be had at Lowe’s, for around $20. (I bought mine at Rockler for considerably more – not necessary.) Lowe’s might also have something like a Dozuki. Look at eBay. $200 for a saw, or even a pair of saws? No. That’s falling into the Veritas/Festool/etc. trap. If it has that name on it, it must be the best. Please.

-- Mark

View Mosquito's profile


9278 posts in 2257 days

#9 posted 12-02-2015 09:47 PM

The finer the rip teeth the better they do at crosscut. I use my dovetail saw (rip) to crosscut the waste on my tail boards with no problems. When it comes to larger tenon saws, I use both a rip and a crosscut.

I’ve never used any of the Veritas saws, only restored/sharpened vintage saws, however. I think for the money the Veritas saws are a pretty good value, much cheaper than Lie-Nielsen, and still cheaper than many refurbished vintage saws on eBay. I almost bought the Veritas carcass set, but the allure of vintage was too much for me :-)

There are a few people around LJ that will either make custom saws, or refurb vintage ones as well.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View daddywoofdawg's profile


1028 posts in 1540 days

#10 posted 12-02-2015 11:50 PM

Dovetail saws have a rip tooth,a tenon saw most likely crosscut. A carcass saw has a deeper blade and can be either.

View Ripthorn's profile


1454 posts in 2950 days

#11 posted 12-03-2015 12:08 AM

I have the dovetail and small cross cut version of the veritas saws. I love them, they are a joy to use. Sharp, well made, and not too expensive.

-- Brian T. - Exact science is not an exact science

View jacww's profile


13 posts in 973 days

#12 posted 12-03-2015 02:04 AM


I attended “Make Yr Dovetail Saw w/ Tom Calisto” at the Woodwright’s School in October. We each made a dovetail and tenon saw. We cut the teeth then shaped and sharpened them for RIP cutting. Sharpening a saw takes patience, a very light touch on the file, patience, good lighting, patience and a very likely a good head mounted magnifier.

I am not claiming to be an expert, but saw sharpening is not intimidating to me like it used to be…at least for rip cutting.

You can sharpen your saw!!!

If it’s not very good now, what have you got to lose? I bet one or two VERY LIGHT passes with the appropriate file will make a huge difference.

Did I mention that saw sharpening takes patience? ;-)

Go for it Todd.


View Gerbah_from_Boston's profile


13 posts in 873 days

#13 posted 12-03-2015 02:42 AM

Get it. More tools are awesome no matter what my wife says. Treat yourself, you deserve it and you won’t regret it…and if you do, that’s why the internet gave birth to craigslist.

View toddbeaulieu's profile


814 posts in 2969 days

#14 posted 12-03-2015 10:49 AM

Thanks, everyone, for offering up your opinions.

I picked up the Veritas carcass saw set last night on the way home. Let me tell you … I am VERY happy with them so far! Wherein I only got two tenons cut the first night, I did 6 last night. I can’t believe how much lighter they are than the Garlick (Lynx) saw is. They force my grip into the “finger forward” position, which is probably a good thing. Funny enough, it takes a quick inspection to tell which is which while in use, which is annoying. I can get away with using either for cross cuts, but there is definitely a slight advantage with the rip saw for ripping. The difference may be more pronounced with different material. I’m cutting soft 2” thick pine.

I don’t think my DT saw is THAT dull because, frankly, I’ve never really liked the thing and therefore haven’t used it much. I just think the pitch is too high for general use. Maybe for thinner material and … oh heck, what do I know?

I’m definitely putting saw tuneups on my medium term radar.

Lower stretchers … here I come … THANKS AGAIN ALL!!!

View toddbeaulieu's profile


814 posts in 2969 days

#15 posted 12-03-2015 11:18 AM

PS: Gerbah from Boston (I’m in North Reading, BTW) ...

Your answer made me laugh.

There’s a reason why so much of my attention lately is focused on my measly $250 budget per pay period for tools.


I find it intriguing how some of the best craftsmen on this board are minimalists, often times shunning newer (typically dedicated?) tools, while a hack like myself enjoys the tools as much as the process or the final product. To me, there’s no question that I derive pleasure from looking at, holding, using and even knowing that I have a quality tool. Of course, the definition of quality is subjective.

When I unroll my Veritas PM-V11 spokeshave set … Forgettaboutit!

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