How’s it hangin’? (Your dovetail noticed, I imply)

Clockwise from high proper: Lie-Nielsen non-tapered dovetail noticed. Lie-Nielsen tapered dovetail noticed; Eccentric Toolworks dovetail noticed (not made); Lie-Nielsen non-tapered progressive-pitch dovetail noticed (not made); Unhealthy Axe 10″ tapered dovetail noticed; Unhealthy Axe 12″ non-tapered dovetail noticed.

Asking “what premium dovetail noticed ought to I purchase?” is quite like asking “what fancy bra ought to I purchase?” There are such a lot of issues to think about in both occasion that there’s no straightforward reply. One of the best determinant – although not at all times straightforward to attain – is to strive all of them that attraction earlier than making a remaining selection and plunking down your cash. It comes right down to which one suits you greatest  – and one which’s a very good match for you is unlikely to be my first selection (except you even have very small fingers … I’m speaking in regards to the saws right here, in fact).

a dovetail saw with an extra small handle
With a three-fingered grip (the correct grip), my hand is comfortably cradled between the horns of my “additional small” deal with.

Get hands-on

Fingers down, the “greatest” business dovetail noticed that I’ve tried – FOR ME – is the Unhealthy Axe, however solely as a result of one has a selection of deal with sizes (I’m the hand mannequin for the extra-small, so in fact it suits me effectively). Another makers, Skelton Saws to call one, provide customized handles, however so far as I do know solely Unhealthy Axe gives totally different deal with sizes as a regular possibility. And since I exploit my noticed quite a bit (and generally should appear to be I do know what I’m doing whereas utilizing it), I need a deal with that matches my hand completely, so I don’t slide round on it, or should grip too arduous to maintain the blade pointed the place I need it.

Most handles are sized to the “common” woodworker’s fingers. And which means males (although I do suppose that’s altering, and I hope extra toolmakers begin to take that into consideration for instruments the place the dimensions makes a substantive distinction). And a few even provide “common” and “massive” (each are, once more, primarily based off a typical XY hand).

a dovetail saw fit for the average sized woodworker's hand
This deal with has an excessive amount of wiggle room for my hand consolation – but it surely’s a very good dimension for the common woodworker (it should be, as a result of Thomas Lie-Nielsen isn’t any dummy!).

Let it dangle

However what else goes into selecting a dovetail noticed, and the way a lot does it matter?

Deal with dimension apart, the very first thing I’d contemplate is the dangle. “Grasp” refers to how the deal with sits in relation to the blade – and within the footage simply above, you’ll be able to see that my thumb is pointing at extra of a downward angle; that noticed has a better dangle than the walnut-handled one. The distinction is much more apparent from the opposite facet, the place you’ll be able to see how my index finger is pointed. Many individuals swear by a dangle that finally ends up pointing your index finger towards the center of the noticed plate.

The decrease dangle on my noticed means in idea that I’ve to push tougher to make the reduce. However one other issue, the noticed’s weight, additionally impacts the reduce – and additional weight on my Unhealthy Axe vs. the Lie-Nielsen that Christopher Schwarz makes use of most frequently is 14.7 oz. vs. 12.5 oz. That extra weight counterbalances the low dangle for an easy-to-make-cut.

index finger extended on low hanging bad axe saw
The dangle on my Unhealthy Axe noticed is low – gripping the deal with correctly, my prolonged finger factors past the midpoint of the 10-in. blade.

Weight distribution

A part of that weight is within the folded brass again, however the BA noticed plate can be thicker than the LN – .018 in. vs. .015. If I had been the one one utilizing the noticed, I’d favor a thinner plate (much less metal, so just a little simpler to push). However the thinner the plate, the simpler it’s to bend – and I hand mine out to college students to strive, which is simply asking for hassle. That .003 in. may very well be the distinction between a kink and never.

Talking of backs (aka the backbone), some are folded over and pinch the sawplate; different backs have a groove into which the plate is inserted and glued. The folded ones are simpler to repair, however in my expertise  they do require fixing. Even so, I like a folded again – I suppose as a result of it’s conventional. (I’ve to generally smack the backbone down arduous on my bench to reseat the plate on my 15-year-old noticed. It’s enjoyable to do in entrance of individuals; it at all times elicits gasps and winces.)

regular hang index finger extended eccentric toolworks dovetail saw
The dangle on this (beautiful) Eccentric Toolworks deal with has my finger pointed to in regards to the midpoint of the ten in. blade. (Observe that the deal with dimension is fairly good for me too. Want this one was mine!)

Additionally with reference to weight: I like just a little little bit of heft in a noticed, however there’s one which, at 20 oz., simply makes me need to take a nap. (The additional weight comes from a heavier again, deal with, and thicker sawplate). To that maker, the extra weight is a profit. And he has reduce extra dovetails than most likely anybody, so I’m not saying he’s unsuitable. It’s simply unsuitable for me.

Grasp and the place the middle of gravity is on the noticed may also play into whether or not you like a tapered or non-tapered sawplate. A tapered plate is a conventional 18th-century look, but it surely additionally takes just a little weight off the toe. And I’ve heard people argue that the marginally much less weighty toe means it’s simpler to hit the baseline on either side of the work concurrently.

handle hang on lie-nielsen dovetail saw
The deal with dangle on the Lie-Nielsen noticed, just like the Eccentric Toolworks noticed simply above, extends my finger towards in regards to the plate midpoint – probably just a little behind it, which means the dangle is barely larger (which is also a results of the place my hand falls contained in the – for me – massive deal with).

Don’t overlook the tooth

You may also contemplate the tooth, which might be measured in both ppi (factors per inch, or the sharp bit on the high of the tooth) or tpi (tooth per inch, or the variety of full tooth per inch); 16 ppi is about the identical as 15 tpi. When you’re utilizing your noticed for each casework and drawers (that’s, each thicker inventory and thinner inventory), I’d go for one thing in about that vary (I reduce much more casework than drawers). But when all I reduce was skinny inventory, I’d most likely go for 18 to twenty ppi/tpi. The extra tooth the slower the reduce, however it is going to be cleaner and simpler to begin. (And I’d go for a thinner plate together with extra tooth.)

I used to have a Gramercy dovetail noticed that was excellent (aside from the massive deal with) for skinny inventory: 19 tpi, skinny plate. However I so hardly ever used it as a result of most of my work is in 3/4-in. or 7/8-in.-thick inventory – so I bought it. (In hindsight, I ought to have stored it; it will have turn out to be useful for the extra delicate dovetails I reduce on software chest tills.) Just a few makers, Veritas amongst them, provide a tpi selection (and on the worth there, each are inexpensive!).

What holds all of it collectively

And now I’m stepping into what some would possibly contemplate the weeds, however take a second to take a look at the little bit of brass or metal that typically holds the deal with on to the sawplate: You’ll word that almost all are cut up nuts, which not solely require a particular driver, however are quite a bit simpler to strip (when, say, tightening them within the case of a free deal with) than intercourse nuts that use a straight driver. So why doesn’t everybody use intercourse nuts? Nicely they’re not conventional. However I’m not a sawmaker, so perhaps there’s a greater cause. (However I doubt it).

sex nut and split nut
At high is a intercourse nut – word how the shaft of the slotted piece suits contained in the mating piece and is restrained by a shoulder on the high of the threads. On the underside is a conventional cut up nut. The cut up facet threads immediately onto the shaft of the mating piece. Overtighten barely, and the threads can simply strip.

Ultimately, it actually comes right down to what feels greatest in your hand, or, barring that, what seems to be good to you and meets the specs you’ve determined are necessary to you. Or what somebody has satisfied you is necessary. However it additionally comes right down to familiarity: No matter you get used to is an effective noticed for you. Sawing dovetails with another person’s noticed seems like sporting another person’s bra. It’d do its job, but it surely feels all unsuitable.

black cat in the wood shop
I drained to get Wally to carry a noticed, however…

Extra by Megan Fitzpatrick

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