Which dovetail saw should I buy?

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Forum topic by Anthony Finelli posted 10-20-2010 11:03 PM 8854 views 0 times favorited 17 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Anthony Finelli

52 posts in 2804 days

10-20-2010 11:03 PM

I currently build Adirondack Rustic Furniture but I would like to start building smaller items such as jewelry boxes, toy boxes etc.. using dovetail joints. I try to do everything by hand so when i began looking at dovetail saws I found that they range in price from $20-$250 per saw and I was lost. Can anyone point me in the right direction regarding what to buy, I am just learning how to create these handmade dovetails but I don’t want to have to upgrade to a better saw in a couple months either! I guess I’m looking for the best all around saw for middle of the road money, can anyone help?

-- Salem, New York "Find something you love to do and you will never have to work another day of your life"

17 replies so far

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3098 days

#1 posted 10-21-2010 01:14 AM

I don’t think you can go wrong with Lie-Nielson. Here is an attractive e-bay opportunity.

I also encourage you to go to the Lie-Nielsen website to read more about this saw.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View TheDane's profile


5441 posts in 3687 days

#2 posted 10-21-2010 01:50 AM

I have the Veritas Dovetail Saw from Lee Valley (,42884 ) ... it is a fine tool.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View hokieman's profile


185 posts in 3778 days

#3 posted 10-21-2010 03:49 AM

I have the Lie-Nielsen and I think all their tools are superb. But I will have to say their dovetail saw takes a little while to get used to. Once you get used to it, it is pretty good. Cuts well and tracks very well. What takes a little getting used to is getting the saw started. They say think of holding a bird in your hand while getting it started and that is right. Just that I don’t hold too many birds in my hand! I have seen a lot of reviews on the japanese saws that cut on the pull stroke and those have been positive.

View 8iowa's profile


1580 posts in 3785 days

#4 posted 10-21-2010 04:23 AM

A couple of weeks ago at the WIA conference both Lee Valley and Lie-Nielsen were set up in the trade hall with benches and saws that you could “try your hand” at cutting test blocks with their dovetail and tennon saws. It was one of the more popular “attractions” in the hall. There were even some small custom saw makers there with $500 saws who were understandably drawing a smaller crowd.

After cutting up a lot of wood my son and I couldn’t tell much difference between the makes, so my son decided to purchase the Lee Valley saw set as they were about 1/2 the cost of Lie Nielsen. The drawback, if you want to call it that, is that the Lee Valley saws are not as “traditional” in appearance, having a powdered steel back instead of brass. I have a more modest priced Gaarlick & Son “Lynx Brand” dovetail saw that I purchased from Woodcraft a few years ago and it does a fine job.

It was amazing to watch Frank Klause cut dovetails without any measuring except marking the depth of his cuts.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


18286 posts in 3700 days

#5 posted 10-21-2010 05:33 AM

hokieman, Now that you have learned to cut with the saw, how does one hold a bird? or start the saw?

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View acanthuscarver's profile


268 posts in 3736 days

#6 posted 10-21-2010 10:15 AM

I use a Lie-Nielsen saw every day in the shop and love it. If I was just starting out, however, I’d probably jump all over the Lee Valley Veritas dovetail saw. The Lee Valley folks lent me one of each configuration to use in my dovetailing demos back in April at The Woodworking Show in Chantilly, VA. For the money, I was extremely impressed. It is, by far, the best bargain on the market.

If you have the opportunity to test drive a few different saws, I tell beginners to look for the one that feels most comfortable in their hands. Not sure how you make the comparison to holding a bird in your hands but you want to grip the saw very lightly. Let the saw to the work. If you grip it lightly and put only a minimal amount of pressure downward on the saw, it should start easily. Most folks have a problem when they raise the grip above level and then “push” the saw. This digs the teeth into the end grain and causes the saw to become hard to start. Light grip, little downward pressure and pivot your arm back and forth letting the saw do the work is the key trick to cutting quickly and smoothly.

-- Chuck Bender, period furniture maker, woodworking instructor

View FatScratch's profile


189 posts in 3327 days

#7 posted 10-21-2010 02:33 PM

I have the Veritas dovetail saw and love it. It is a big step up from the Crown gent’s saw that I started with. I don’t think you can go wrong with Veritas or Lie-Nielsen. One saw that I have not used but looks really nice is Zona. They are cheap and according to every review I have read, including recommendations from Chris Schwarz, are outstanding. Take a look in the review section. There are some recent reviews on these saws. They might be an excellent starting point.

View woodgu's profile


63 posts in 2798 days

#8 posted 10-21-2010 07:38 PM

I own a Lie-Nielsen saw like the one referred to by richgreer above on eBay. I bought it new and paid $125 for it. I love it. The weight, balance, and accurancy are worth bragging about. Now with that said, I purchased an old Disston dovetail saw on eBay which is a bit heavier than my LN saw, but it does a pretty decent job, as well. I only paid $26 (including shipping).

I have a friend with a Veritas. He claims his is the best.

Summed up, you have a tough decision. It may warrant going to some stores carrying the saws and ask if you can ‘test drive’ them to see which one is most comfortable to you.

-- Phil G

View Anthony Finelli's profile

Anthony Finelli

52 posts in 2804 days

#9 posted 10-21-2010 08:44 PM

Thank you ALL for the great advice, i have been kicking the lee valley saw around in my head for a month or so but after reading your replies i think im going to look into some of the others you all suggested as well !! great wealth of information, thank you for taking the time to help!!

-- Salem, New York "Find something you love to do and you will never have to work another day of your life"

View Millo's profile


543 posts in 3074 days

#10 posted 10-21-2010 09:25 PM

I will most likely buy a western-style dovetail saw before the end of the year. I think I’ve narrowed it down to either the Veritas or Lie-Niesen.

For those of you have used both: not regarding their price (it seems obvious by now the Veritas is a GREAT value), which one works better in your opinion/experience?


View acanthuscarver's profile


268 posts in 3736 days

#11 posted 10-22-2010 03:09 PM


You’ve asked a loaded question. Realistically, everyone who has tried both could have their own opinion based on their cutting style and the configuration of the saw. For instance, I’m not a progressive pitch fan but someone who is might say the LN progressive pitch saw is the best they’ve ever tried. Lee Valley doesn’t make a progressive pitch saw.

If we compare the standard “dovetail” saw from both LN and LV/Veritas, leaving price out of the equation, my vote goes to the Lie Nielsen. I’ve been using one for nearly 10 years. Given my style of cut, I prefer a heavier back on my saw. The LN is a good bit heavier than the Veritas which allows me to grip the saw very lightly and just let the saw do the work. The Veritas, on the otherhand, with it’s lighter back, means I have to push a little harder (and I mean a “little” harder not much at all) to get the same speed out of the cut. Don’t get me wrong, both saws cut. This means you can’t go wrong with either one. It’s really a matter of personal taste in how the saw “fits” your hand and whether you tend to let the saw float or you push. Good luck choosing. You’ll win no matter which you choose.

-- Chuck Bender, period furniture maker, woodworking instructor

View ars's profile


30 posts in 2929 days

#12 posted 10-22-2010 03:29 PM

I’d go for the LN dovetail all the way. I got a chance to play around with the Veritas saw and it’s nice, but I like the weight of the LN, IMO it helps me keep my cuts straight. I’ve never tried the LN progressive pitch, but if it’s worth anything the regular dovetail saw is really easy to start.

View rance's profile


4258 posts in 3184 days

#13 posted 10-22-2010 04:05 PM

Anthony, I like to know WHY one is better than another. I don’t buy for the name, I buy for function. I recommend a saw with 14-16 tpi, little to no set, teeth filed in a rip configuration, and NO ROUND HANDLES (pistol grip preferred). A thinner, rather than thicker blade CAN have some advantages too. Regardless of brand or price, you find a saw that fits all that and you’ll have you a saw you can learn to cut good dovetails.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View timberframedave's profile


20 posts in 2834 days

#14 posted 10-22-2010 04:08 PM

I have tried the Lie-Nielson saw & prefer to hand cut dovetails with a Japanese pull saw. I picked one up at the local home center with a replacement blade for less than $40. I find it much easier to cut a vertical line while pulling backwards. No matter how hard I try – I find that a push blade will wobble in the cut.

View Millo's profile


543 posts in 3074 days

#15 posted 10-25-2010 03:32 PM

Hey Chuck, thanks for your answer. If weight is a concern, then I’ll go LN. If budget is MORE of a concern (and it IS a big concern) then I think I would buy the Veritas and get the crosscut saw as well.

If I only get one dovetail saw, do I really want to own the 14 tpi before the 20 tpi? 14tpi means a faster cut, which would also mean a straighter cut, right? Thanks everyone and sorry for my noobie questions.

showing 1 through 15 of 17 replies

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