Gent Saw vs Pistol Grip

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Forum topic by Benvolio posted 07-21-2013 11:38 PM 2607 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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148 posts in 2080 days

07-21-2013 11:38 PM

It seems like the lions share of the cost difference between these two types of saw is the handle. I guess turning the handle for a gent saw is a fraction of the machining and finishing required for a pistol grip…

I’ve used gent saws in the past and it was a horrific experience – absolutely no control over the angle of the cut, and the forward/backward movement was rather contorting to the wrist… but they wouldn’t make them if there wasn’t a way to make them work, right?

Seeing as the prettier saws come at a price so I was wondering whether anyone just bites the bullet on the gent saws and trains their technique for the sake of the money saving?? Is it possible to achieve good and repeatable results using a gent? Or is a gent only ever sold as a stop gap until the customer can fork out for a better saw?


-- Ben, England.

9 replies so far

View MrFid's profile


884 posts in 2053 days

#1 posted 07-22-2013 04:34 AM

I do know that there are those who prefer a gent’s saw to a pistol grip, and I’m sure you’ll hear their reasons as relies to this thread. I, however, am not one of those. I agree with you that pistol grips offer me more purchase on keeping the cut angle correct. Are you talking about dovetails or some other application of backsaws?
I have the Veritas pistol grip dovetail saw (14 tpi rip sharpened) and it’s just fine for what I do at a fraction of the cost of the heavy hitting pistol grippers. So it appears we are in the same camp on this one.

-- Bailey F - Eastern Mass.

View JADobson's profile


1208 posts in 2260 days

#2 posted 07-22-2013 04:38 AM

Check out this one by Airframer:
Click for details

-- No craft is very far from the line beyond which is magic. -- Lord Dunsany — Instagram @grailwoodworks

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3120 days

#3 posted 07-22-2013 05:07 PM

I went for the Veritas “pistol grip” saws and I love them.
But I also have a Japanese Dozuki, pull saw, which is essentially like a gents saw except for a much better blade, and it works well also.
I think, for me anyway, the inline handle is better when used on a saw that cuts on the pull stroke.

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 2187 days

#4 posted 07-22-2013 05:21 PM

Apples and Oranges for me.
I have a LN dovetail from when they first started out. It’s nice, it’s filed for rip. It looks cool. If I wasn’t blind as a bat it would be nice for cutting dovetails.

I’ve also got this gent’s saw – a Disston #68. It does feel a bit different in the hand, but it’s filed for crosscut and is used to cut trim. It was my grandfathers, along with the little miter-box it’s sitting on. It rides along the edge of, or in a slot on, the miter box so maintaining position isn’t an issue. And it’s still very sharp so no pressure is needed, just set it in place and let the weight of the saw drop it down through the cut. There’s a slot for it in his toolchest. I think this style saw stores easier and is less likely to get broken when someone has to take their tools with them to work every day like he did.

There’s also of course the 3rd type – the regular handle. Most of my backsaws are like that.

-- This Ad Space For Sale! Your Ad Here! Reach a targeted audience! Affordable Rates, easy financing! Contact an ad represenative today at JustJoe's Advertising Consortium.

View Mosquito's profile


9460 posts in 2441 days

#5 posted 07-22-2013 05:27 PM

I was going to make mention of Airframers project, but I see JADobson already has.

I have a crown gents saw … somewhere. Couldn’t tell you exactly where, so I think that answer the question lol I much prefer a western style handle myself. More comfortable, more control, at least perceived.

-- Mos - Twin Cities, MN - -

View Tim's profile


3812 posts in 2111 days

#6 posted 07-22-2013 07:28 PM

There’s a Rob Cosman youtube video on turning a cheaper gent saw into a better working version. Involves cutting the handle at an angle to fit your palm to give you a better feel for the angle you’re cutting. I would think you could also flatten the sides like good vintage screwdrivers.

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile (online now)


15584 posts in 2768 days

#7 posted 07-22-2013 07:42 PM

I have one of the #68 Disston saws Joe pictures above, and I’ve used it for making dovetail cuts in very thin stock before without issue (my 10” dovetail saw has a rather agressive filing to it). Either is what you get used to, I think.

That said, Airframer did a great job on that mod. Also, there are pistol grip and handled dovetail saws on the used (boot sale, I think is the expression?) market to be had if you keep an eye out.

Good luck!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View RGtools's profile


3372 posts in 2804 days

#8 posted 07-22-2013 07:46 PM

I love my gent’s saw. I have a Craftsman that I tuned to work well. This required me to file the teeth, reset them and make a few modifications to the handle (removed the finish). I don’t have the angle control issues, but I learned with this saw, it’s different. I have a carcass saw that is a bit longer filed for crosscut work with a traditional “D” handle, the difference is there, but you can learn both saws. For me I feel the gent saw does a good job of allowing you to control your angles while a heavier saw will help you cut straight based on a higher inertia point.

Here’s the important part though. I spent $10 on the saw, $6 for a file, and $30 for a saw set, $20 for a saw vise, and another $5 for a mill file. So we are up to $51 at that point, and we have not talked time, sandpaper, etc. Long story short, get a SHARP saw, in what ever configuration you want. You will want the sharpening gear at some point, but that can be after you have put some miles on the saw.

-- Make furniture that lasts as long as the tree - Ryan

View TerryDowning's profile


1100 posts in 2267 days

#9 posted 07-22-2013 09:44 PM

Sometimes, you just have to use the “gents” handle.
Such is the case for this reversible flush cut trim saw.
The side opposite the logo has NO set. This allows for flush cutting of trim pieces right up to the work with minimal marring of the surface.

Can’t think how a normal handle would work in this application. This makes a fine dovetail saw as well BTW.

-- - Terry

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