Starting Joint Saw Cuts

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Forum topic by Oosik posted 11-18-2013 04:52 PM 1000 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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121 posts in 685 days

11-18-2013 04:52 PM

I attempted my first finger joints by hand and I had a hard time getting the saw started. The handsaw wanted to jump everywhere until the groove was set deep enough.

Once I had about an 1/16” – 1/8” or so it got a lot easier but I’m curious is there an easier way to get the hand saw started for cutting finger joints/dovetails?

Marking Knife or Chisel?


14 replies so far

View Arminius's profile


304 posts in 2805 days

#1 posted 11-18-2013 04:56 PM

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Kaleb the Swede

1483 posts in 971 days

#2 posted 11-18-2013 05:01 PM

Oosik, Is your piece clamped well enough on your bench, or however you are doing it? The only reason I ask because when I dovetail something I try to leave it so it is no more than 6-8 inches taller than the vise. I also put a clamp on the other side that crosses to the back of the bench so it holds the other side of the work piece.

If I have my work piece too far out of the vice than it shakes and rattles the whole piece. And if I don’t have it clamped on the other side it does the same.

Look up plans for a moxon vice, that will give you some ideas to better support it.

I don’t know if this helps, all I know is what happens to me. Also are you using a western style backsaw or a japanese pull saw?

-- Just trying to build something beautiful

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13021 posts in 2008 days

#3 posted 11-18-2013 05:04 PM

Ive got to constantly remind myself to have a very light hand when starting a cut with a handsaw. I also have a tendency to draw the saw backwards and then forward when starting a cut. It leads to tough starts. Try relaxing the grip a little bit on the saw.

-- "there aren’t many hand tools as awe-inspiring as the #8 jointer. I mean, it just reeks of cast iron heft and hubris" - Smitty

View Loren's profile


7967 posts in 2650 days

#4 posted 11-18-2013 05:05 PM

I pull the saw back. I use a bow saw.

The set of the teeth has to be right for a push saw to
start well and cut straight for ripping joints. Only
higher-end saws work well for it without modification.
Most basic back saws have too much set and
cross-cutting teeth. The teeth will rip slower
but they will work. The excessive set can be
a real problem though.

For some precise cuts like tenon shoulders (esp.
angled ones) I mark and go around making a shelf
with a sharp chisel. It makes it easier to cut the
shoulders and provides a reference for paring
the shoulder.


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121 posts in 685 days

#5 posted 11-18-2013 05:52 PM

I currently have a brass back saw for cutting the joints. Are these better for other cuts? I like the idea of starting a cut with the chisel.

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 1040 days

#6 posted 11-18-2013 05:55 PM

Is your backsaw filed for crosscut, or rip? Use a sharp ripsaw to rip, and your troubles will go away.

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View Tim's profile


2377 posts in 963 days

#7 posted 11-18-2013 06:32 PM

If you are using a rip saw, filing the front inch or two with a more relaxed rake can help. Look up Paul Sellers saw sharpening video on Youtube.

But yeah another way is to use your square and a marking knife to mark the cut, then use a chisel to take out the far corner to give your saw a place to start. Still need to use the other tips above. Oh of course, Loren basically already said that, but I think he means going all the way around with the chisel and knife creating what Sellers calls a knife wall. If it’s not a critical cut you can get away with just the corner to get your saw started.

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121 posts in 685 days

#8 posted 11-18-2013 07:40 PM

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2377 posts in 963 days

#9 posted 11-18-2013 07:58 PM

Well 17tpi and rip teeth you shouldn’t need to relax the rake. The chisel trick will help but you shouldn’t even need it. Just focus on not pressing the saw down into the wood and making a confident light push forward. With such fine teeth you should get used to it pretty quickly with some practice. Make sure your saw stance is good too.

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761 posts in 1954 days

#10 posted 11-18-2013 11:33 PM

I agree with Tim, 17tpi is very fine and you should have no trouble getting cuts started. I am not sure what your level of expertise is, so forgive me if my assumption of lower level is not accurate. But if it is correct, here are a couple of suggestions to help you out.

Before attempting to make finished cuts with your new saw, practice with it first. Get a piece of scrap, mark some lines on it and practice. This will give you a feel for how to get the saw started and help develop some muscle memory. Practice on pieces of soft and hard woods, the saw will cut differently on them. This will also help you to learn to control your saw throughout the entire cut.

Until you get comfortable with your saw, make some practice cuts on scraps of the same wood before you start making cuts on your project every time until you build your abilities and confidence.

Lastly, I am not familiar with Crown saws and the quality of their new ones. However, new (@$24.29) may not necessarily equal sharp. Make sure the saw is sharp. Quick way to determine that is by running your thumb down the teeth from toe to the handle. The teeth should want to grab your skin. If it is sharp, you’re good. If not, it will give you the problem you describe; hard to start. Sharpening is a whole other animal.

In the customer reviews on this saw, one person mentioned it was dull when it arrived. Another review commented that if a user knows how to sharpen and tune a saw, it would be a nice saw. Your saw may need a sharpening.

Good luck!

-- Mike

View JustJoe's profile


1554 posts in 1040 days

#11 posted 11-18-2013 11:39 PM

I had one of their very small gents saws a while back. They must not sell it anymore since I know it was less than 6” of blade. It acted just like yours. Here are the reviews on Rocklers site for your saw.

There looks to be a possibility that it is the saw, not the user.

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View Oosik's profile


121 posts in 685 days

#12 posted 11-19-2013 02:22 PM

Saw seems sharp so it’s possibly me and the fact I didn’t have a vice to hold the piece I was cutting. I had it clamped down on its side. I’ll try the suggestions above, thanks for the advice!

View firefighterontheside's profile


9451 posts in 859 days

#13 posted 11-19-2013 02:45 PM

Use your thumb of the opposite hand to stabilize the saw as you make your starting cuts by pulling the saw to you. As was stated earlier don’t use much more than the weight of the saw to get started. I don’t use handsaws much, but that’s from years of watching my dad before the days of a power tool for everything.

-- Bill M. I love my job as a firefighter, but nothing gives me the satisfaction of running my hand over a project that I have built and just finished sanding.

View JohnChung's profile


343 posts in 1076 days

#14 posted 11-19-2013 03:01 PM

Posture is very important during sawing. Some do use this:

But you can get away with this technique Just use quick clamp instead:

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