Help me choose a new saw

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Forum topic by Willeh posted 03-15-2012 02:15 AM 3899 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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228 posts in 2306 days

03-15-2012 02:15 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

Right… I’ve got $200 set aside to buy a new Saw(s). I’m primarily interested in a Tenon saw (I figure most of my use will be cutting tenons), however, I would like to be able to use it for cutting the odd dovetail or so. I’ve been a predominantly power tools guy up until about 6 months ago and have been moving towards hand tools and am enjoying the move quite a bit. My current saw collection includes a Gents saw that i picked up a long time ago at lee valley for $22.

Since I live in Canada, we have very limited options (Home depot etc and Lee Valley).

#1 on my list is the Lie-Nielsen 12 inch tenon saw, which at around $160 + shipping will max out my budget.

Comparable to that is the Wenzloff Small Tenon Saw at $178.00 from lee valley… I dont know what to look for between the two to decide.

Other options include the Pax 12 inch tenon which at $89, i could also afford to buy a separate Pax Rip Pattern Dovetail Saw (also $89) and have a few coins left to boot.

The other option i see is the Veritas saws. I dont love the look of the molded back saws.. i think they’re a bit fugly, but its hard to argue with the price of 3 saws for $159 (14 tpi dovetail, 20 tpi dovetail and 16 tpi crosscut). I wasnt too impressed with the cutting speed of the ones on display at lee valley, but they could have just been dulled from years of customers playing with them

Really looking for any opinion here.. I want a saw or saws capable of cutting tenons and the occasional dovetail, prefer quality over quantity (Unless both can be had? in my dreams i bet…) Not 100% sure on how fine of a saw to get (TPI) or crosscut vs rip.. Also.. where do “Carcass saws’ fit into this? They seem like kind of an in-between thing?

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

8 replies so far

View DocBailey's profile


584 posts in 2327 days

#1 posted 03-15-2012 06:01 AM

you owe it to yourself to visit adriatools (dot com). That’s where I’m going to get my small tenon saw from.

View KMT's profile


603 posts in 2629 days

#2 posted 03-15-2012 07:01 AM

Personally speaking, I’m a big time Lee Valley supporter and I think Veritas is a pretty good quality tool. I’m sure you’ll get some very good advice here from others.

-- - Martin

View Kenny 's profile


260 posts in 2415 days

#3 posted 03-15-2012 08:27 AM

If you truly want to buy a saw that splits wood with excellence, talk to Mark Harrell at Bad Axe Tool Works.

His saws are the best of the best, as well is his sharpening and saw restoration. Christopher Schwarz speaks very highly of both his saws and his restoration service, as well he should. Chris sent Mr. Harrell a total piece of junk Groves 12” backsaw to be sharpened, and the story is described by Mark on his site, link here. I recommend reading it, if nothing more than for the humor.

Mark makes a saw that I think may be of great interest to you, especially if you would consider a single “do-it-all” saw. The saw I speak of is Mark’s “12 Dovetail and Small Tenon Saw, filed with Mark’s 14ppi Hybrid pattern to make both rip and cross-cuts effectively.
If you want a more purpose built saw, he offers it with a 14ppi rip cut profile, and this will excel at cutting both dovetails and tenons.

I won’t lie, Mark’s saws cost a little more than what you have listed. But if you want quality over quantity as you say, this is where you want to go.

I will also admit I do not own one, but have used one a few times. I have an older fellow whom I befriended after moving to Maine who has an incredible shop full of incredible tools, and he let’s me “play” in his shop from time to time. My friend happens to have a couple Bad Axe saws, one being a hybrid filed 12” “Dovetail and Small Tenon Saw”.
I will tell you flat out, his Bad Axe saws blow away anything I have ever tried, and are some of the most beautiful saws ever made. And that 12” hybrid saw is just sweet. If I could own but one saw, that would be it, hands down, no questions asked.

I have used the Veritas dovetail and cross-cut carcase saws, as well I tried several Lie-Nielsen saws at one of their recent open-houses (or “Hand-tool Events” or whatever they’re called).
Neither came close to a Bad Axe Saw. The L-N was very nice, but it just didn’t cut quite like the Bad Axe. And this was very early on the first day of their open house, and the saws had only had a few others cut before I tried them.

I’ve tried several other saws too. None have matched the Bad Axe. When I can finally afford a truly nice saw, it will be a Bad Axe. Nothing else will even be considered.

Good Luck

-- Kenny

View Brit's profile


7369 posts in 2809 days

#4 posted 03-15-2012 09:38 AM

Bad Axe are lovely saws, but if your budget is $200, they’re out of the picture. You also have to consider the fact that the saw will need re-sharpening at some point and Mark is really struggling to meet demand at the moment. We’re talking weeks, if not months. Do you really want to be without your saw for that long?

Veritas saws are excellent value for money, but if you don’t like the design, they’re out too.

The Wenzloff saws sold through Lee Valley are nice, but since they are off the shelf items, they might not be sharpened optimally for your needs. Personally, I’d steer clear.

The Gramercy saws are nice too. I have the two carcass saws and their dovetail saws. However, if you are only going to own one or two saws, these are not for you in my opinion. They are more specialized. They work great for the right tasks, but they are not good all-rounders.

Don’t buy a Pax. They are nowhere near the quality of the other saws mentioned here.

I think the best saw you can get for your budget is Adria. These are excellent value for money, well-made and well-sharpened. You won’t be disappointed with any saw made by Adria. I don’t know what the turnaround time is for re-sharpening though.

One last thing. You won’t find one saw that cuts good tenons and good dovetails. The requirements are too different. Pick which of these tasks is more important to you right now and get a dedicated saw for that task. Put your spare change in a jar each night and before you know it you’ll have the other saw as well. :-)

-- - Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Willeh's profile


228 posts in 2306 days

#5 posted 03-15-2012 03:35 PM

Thanks for the responses anyone… Glad to know that the pax saws are substandard. I will avoid those. I really like the bad axe hybrid dovetail tenon saw… Never heard of them before but it looks like exactly what I’m looking for. Might have to save a few more pennies and go that route.

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

View bandit571's profile


19741 posts in 2650 days

#6 posted 03-15-2012 09:53 PM

Or…. go out Rust Hunting? I just spent about $6 and got three saws. One will be a nice little (10”) backsaw, the second one will be a nice BIG D8 rip saw, size of teeth? 5 1/2 . The third one? Parts saw right now, cleaning the saw plate, and looking for some wood for a new handle. Teeth on it ? marked as an 8. seeing a little etch on it as well. Total cost, so far, $5.21. There would be plenty left in YOUR budget to 1) get the blades sharpened up ( I have to do my own, thank you), and still have enough to buy a wood blank for a handle for the 8 point crosscut. All of mine seem to be older Disstons…....

PS: I WALKED around town to the stores that sold these saws. 7-8 blocks one way. Whew!!!!

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Willeh's profile


228 posts in 2306 days

#7 posted 03-16-2012 03:56 AM

Bandit: I’m always a fan of rust hunting, but unfortunately, anywhere i’ve ever been has been well picked-over.. i’ve never really found much worth taking home, but I’m always on the look-out!

-- Will, Ontario Canada. "I can do fast, cheap and good, but you can only pick two... "

View Farkled's profile


28 posts in 2282 days

#8 posted 03-17-2012 07:42 AM

I have 4 of the LB saws. Love the saws and love the looks. The single most important factor, IMO, is how the saw fits your hand. If the fit is not good & comfortable, you will saw poorly. I find that the TFWW and LN saws work well for smaller hands, Veritas for a wide range. The Glen-Drake saws (being basically a gents style) will fit pretty much any size hand – and come in two thicknesses. Bad Axe backs a number of different sizes and should be able to fit anyone.

If you want the “best”, get a Two Lawyers saw.

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