Eastern or Western

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Forum topic by woodworker59 posted 06-12-2012 03:14 AM 2286 views 0 times favorited 13 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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560 posts in 2435 days

06-12-2012 03:14 AM

Topic tags/keywords: dovetails saws western eastern tenon backpins tails question trick tip

Had so much fun with my last question about dovetails, thought I would throw this one at ya all.
which do you prefer when cutting your dovetails a western saw? I.E. back saw, tenon saw, dovetail saw
or do you like the Japaneses saws, the Dozuki or the dozuki joiners saw with the depth adjustment?
just which way do you roll?

and while we are at it.. pins or tails which came first and why?

Cant wait to see what this one brings.. Don’t forget not just what but why lets see what we can learn from one another when it comes to how and why we do what we do.. thanks… will put my selections up after a few replies have come in..
a little hint for ya…
Domo ati gato..

-- Papa...

13 replies so far

View Don W's profile

Don W

19034 posts in 2801 days

#1 posted 06-12-2012 10:34 AM

my favorite

I never had the chance to try the japanese saws. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks kind of thing.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Dan Krager's profile

Dan Krager

4222 posts in 2467 days

#2 posted 06-12-2012 11:01 AM

When hand cutting dovetails, I use a center line gauge that can lay out pins or tails from center lines of the matched pair, i.e. the center lines are laid out on one piece and transferred to all the pieces, pins and tails. I usually end up cutting the tails first because it seems easier to lay out the pins from them. I have tried Japanese Ryobi but it tends to be too coarse. I have two small back saws with a very delicate cut, 14tpi, one sharpened for rip and the other cross cut. I use a home made guide block to help steady the start of the cut. Sometimes I get lazy and use the band saw or scroll saw to remove the bulk of the waste.

For chopping I stack my bench inserts for comfortable elevation and clamp pieces on top of them. The clamp caul holding the piece becomes a chisel guide. A backer caul absorbs the thrust of the end cuts.

I have been low level researching various TS jigs for completing the task. For speed and accuracy combined, the TS seems hard to beat. FWW 59 had an interesting one, and I’ve bookmarked a couple here on LJ. Not specially interested in jigs that just assist part way. Nor router jigs because the setup seems tedious and finicky by comparison. And the good ones are REALLY expensive.

I also have a Sears router jig, probably one of the first to come out. Fixed spacing, blind or through…not very interesting and pretty limiting.
A good eye and lots of practice are better than all the jigs in the world.

-- Dan Krager, Olney IL Now there's a face that would stop a clock! And seriously mess with small watches.

View Oldtool's profile


2747 posts in 2424 days

#3 posted 06-12-2012 11:46 AM

Saws: traditional back saws, have two, DT saw & a larger sash saw. Never tried a Japanese saw, but did install a coping saw blade to cut on the pull, didn’t like the action so it’s cut on the push for me even with a coping saw.
Ts or Ps first: Tails. My hand cutting isn’t the most accurate, so I cut the tails first at their 8 deg. angles, doesn’t matter that they don’t stay on the lines because the pins are marked to follow these, and pins are cut with the blade in a vertical position, which I seem to be better at, and the final product is a tight fit.
Also, I find it easier to mark the pins from the open view between the tail spaces, and the alignment of the two boards is easier -not having to stand the pin board up on the bench, but rather I clamp both boards on the front bench corner at one end, to ensure correct alignment in two planes simultaneously. ( did I explain the OK?)
I saw an article in Pop Woodworking about using a talcum bag to mark pins from tails, which is useful fill when pins are cut extremely thin, so ease of marking isn’t a problem.
I think that about sums it up Mr. woodworker59.
Have a great day all …...

-- "I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The point is to bring them the real facts." - Abraham Lincoln

View helluvawreck's profile


32086 posts in 3100 days

#4 posted 06-12-2012 11:47 AM

I use a western saw, the Varitas dovetail saw because I like it and it is comfortable to use. I cut my tails first for the simple reason that it is so easy to place the part with pins into a vise with the end up and level with the bench top. You the simply lay the part with the tails on the bench top and line it up with fingers and mark the pins with a knife or sharp pencil. It is so easy to mark this way because the vise and bench top are working with you and are giving you a lot of help.

When you cut the pins first most people are trying to awkwardly hold the pin part straight up while trying to mark the tails and at the same time hold everything still.

Now this is just the way that I do it and I ain’t going to do it differently. Everybody else can do it their own way.


-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Brett's profile


665 posts in 2916 days

#5 posted 06-13-2012 09:24 PM

I’ve not cut dovetails, but in my limited experience with Japanese vs. Western hand saws, I’ve found the Japanese saws harder to “steer” because the handle is on the wrong end.

Here’s what I mean. When I’m using a Western saw, if I see that my cut is drifting off course, I can correct it easily because my hand is on the same side of the wood as the place where the saw teeth begin cutting the wood. It only takes tiny adjustments to my hand position to make sure the teeth are cutting right on the line.

With a Japanese saw, my hand feels like it’s on the wrong end. Because the teeth of the saw enter the wood on the opposite side from where my handle is, I can’t make those subtle adjustments to alter where the teeth begin cutting the wood. The saw is confined by the kerf and there’s not much I can do to keep the saw from drifting, except start a new kerf.

Maybe this is not a big deal when cutting dovetails because dovetails are typically cut in boards that are no more than an inch or so thick, but when I have to cut a wide board or thick piece of luimber, the Japanese saw is harder for me to keep on track.

Of course, it could be my own limited handsaw experience is the determining factor here, not any inherit problems with pull saws.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View Brett's profile


665 posts in 2916 days

#6 posted 06-13-2012 09:27 PM

Sometimes it seems like the “pins or tails first” controversy is like the controversy over whether toilet paper should be unrolled from the front or the back; either way, the job gets done.

-- More tools, fewer machines.

View AKSteve's profile


475 posts in 2537 days

#7 posted 06-13-2012 09:46 PM

I like them both, but I do love the Japanese saws especially, it’s easier for me to cut straight with a Japanese saw, I am still practicing on my dove tails and I am not really sure which I need to cut first.

-- Steve - Wasilla, Alaska

View DS's profile


3043 posts in 2654 days

#8 posted 06-13-2012 09:57 PM

I’m confused… is this Eastern or Western?

-- "Hard work is not defined by the difficulty of the task as much as a person's desire to perform it.", DS251

View bent's profile


311 posts in 3902 days

#9 posted 06-13-2012 11:31 PM

my work bench sits east-west, so when i cut dovetails, they’re north-south.

sorry, i couldn’t resist. i like to use a gent saw(western). pins first.

View tyskkvinna's profile


1310 posts in 3219 days

#10 posted 06-14-2012 12:48 AM

I was introduced to a Japanese saw a few years ago and I will admit that I love it so much I now have a little collection of them.. And I use them all the time.

The only time I ever use a “western” saw is when I take my hacksaw to … other things … like plastic pipe.

I will even use my Japanese saws sometimes instead of bringing it over to one of my many power saws! This is a lot coming from somebody who uses CNC for 85% of my woodworking.

-- Lis - Michigan - -

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4560 days

#11 posted 06-14-2012 12:58 AM

I tend to use a pull saw for all sorts of things. (even when there is a plugged in option available.) sometimes with a guide block or just freehand. I find them much easier, accurate and require less effort. I did get a gents saw for Christmas one year, but found it awkward (though it is a nice saw), and keep on reaching for the pull saw every time.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View woodworker59's profile


560 posts in 2435 days

#12 posted 06-14-2012 02:20 AM

I really appreciate the responses so far, I am a avid eastern saw user, I got my first one about three years ago, and have been hooked ever since.. I bought the one that’s sold by Japan woodworker that has the depth guide on it, It is by far the best saw for dovetailing that I have ever used.. once you set the depth, every tail and every pin is exactly the same depth.. the kerf is so fine and smooth its scary.. they also cut really fast. I think I’m up to six now all different lengths and tooth patterns.. I just picked up my first really high end dozuki this past winter.. I have never really considered spending $100.00 dollars on a saw thats only 11” long as something I would do without a gun to my head. I have to say though I have never seen anything that cuts like this thing does.. hand made in Japan, hand tempered, hand cut teeth, the whole nine yards.. As much as I hate to say this, worth every penny..

Brett as far as steering the eastern saw, do you use one hand or two.. with the Japanese saws
you pull the saw toward your center with both hands at the same time.. If you practice this a little, you will find that you will cut a straight line every time.. no need to adjust the kerf, as it will be right on the line all the way.. If you get a chance watch some of the videos that are on line showing Japanese craftsman doing their work and you will see what I mean. you can use them with one hand, but if your having trouble following your mark give it a try..

DS251 seeing as that was probably built in the Orient somewhere, its eastern.. As far as pins or tails, I am a pins first kinda guy.. I like to cut them with the pull saw then dress them as needed with a nice 2nd cut file until they are straight and smooth and dead on the lines. then I transfer the marks and do the same with the tails.. I have found that since I started using the file to dress them, they go together smoothly and I can make them dead on tight…
keep the comments coming, I love to read them.. have fun, keep em sharp and stay safe… Papa

-- Papa...

View bob lindh's profile

bob lindh

5 posts in 3581 days

#13 posted 06-14-2012 03:53 AM

Saw this and thought I would respond…..........Tails first..use Cosman lay out method…..use both western and eastern saws,which ever I feel like at the time…....the saw I like best..Cosmans dovetail saws think their great.

-- bob,

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