A good dovetail saw – where can I get one?

The Veritas dovetail saws

I have shared my feelings about smaller saws (or any saw for that matter) and how you must master the skills of sharpening or buy throwaways, and for me throwaway is bad, bad form. Saws are not tooth brushes or paper plates and solo cups. They should not go for recycling or in the landfill they simply need to be sharpenable.

My recommended saw

You are asking me for a good saw to cut dovetails with. There are some available on the market from various makers. I don’t generally recommend British makers any more because they have forsaken standards set by early makers to pump out saws less exacting than those made in the USA or Canada. Some excellent ones are very expensive and are indeed pristinely beautiful. They also cut to perfection. In many cases there are waiting lists for such saws sold almost as works of art, but in the day to day of woodworking they are overkill, over-priced and over exaggerated. You do need a good saw, you don’t need to pay through the nose for one. You need one that cuts effectively, smoothly and so on, but more than that you need a saw that can be sharpened. If you follow my book and DVD course they contain all that you need to develop and master the skills of sharpening saws, but in the interim you need a saw that gets you going straight away so here are the only saws I can recommend at this stage. They represent the best value for money in a real saw and all the Veritas range of saws are resharpenable. You should be able to get them for under $60 and they will serve you well. My recommended saw from the range for a first-time-buyer saw would be any with a tooth size of 14-16 and sharpened for a ripcut as they work well for crosscutting too.

My testing policy

I only really recommend tools that I have used in the shop for two years or more. My policy in testing maker’s tools is that after an initial test I tell them what I feel is right and wrong with their tool. I give them six months to correct any error and if they do make corrections I recommend the tool without the statement of concerns I had included in the assessment. if they don’t, then I tell my readers what I found to be good and bad in the tools I assess. I have used the Veritas 10″ ripcut tenon saw for 3 1/2 years and can recommend it for a daily use saws. It’s up to you which size of tooth you choose. I like the finer toothed saws and keep them just for very fine work because they are hard to sharpen. The 14-16 PPI are the best for sharpening and they cut very smoothly.


  1. After watching the DVD on sharpening, I looked on eBay for old saws and found a few that could be worthwhile. Prior to watching the DVD, I had planned on buying one of the Veritas saws but they weren’t actually selling them at the Baltimore show. I may reconsider buying new again now though.

    1. Veritas saws are well defined and excellent value. Get one to get you going and then look out for some bargain eBay ones to practice sharpening on.

  2. I noticed at the show you had a problem with one of the veritas saws when doing a cross cut and I assumed it was a rip saw. I could buy a rip and crosscut but I’d much rather have a single dual purpose saw so I’ll probably have a go at tweaking the teeth.

    Perhaps as you’ve given a review of one you could do a post on tweaking the teeth to cut both ways?

    1. Yes, I was struggling a little because that was a new and sharp saw. The saw was sharpened for ripping all the way up to the toe end rather than than the passive opening and progressive change in the first two inches. I will think about some things that will help but one thing is finding a way to practice.
      I have no hesitation in this saw being a great saw that will last.

      1. I’ll go ahead and order one from LV. Worst case scenario, I have to get it’s crosscut twin.

        Have you ever tried their larger versions?

        1. Yesterday I was using the #14 PPI and it always hung up at the start of the cut, which is because of the sharpness and not a fault in workmanship at all. I used my passive rake and filed the front first 1″ with the top of the file level, I mean one half stroke very lightly, and then rolled the top of the file forward slightly as described in the earlier blog last week. The difference was incredible. That saw cuts like butter with no snagging and I can rip and crosscut no bother and all with the same one saw.

  3. I am sorry for the confusion. They have a 10″ 14TPI rip saw and 10″ 16TPI Cross cut saw. Both of them will rip or crosscut interchangeably, but one will be slightly less effective than the other. For instance the 16TPI cross cut will rip just fine. The 14TPI cross cut will rip but just a little more slowly. Use the one yo pick and when it dulls just sharpen the teeth for a rip cut with a 1″ passive rake for the first inch (toe end) of the saw.

    1. Would the “carcass” saw would be any good for dovetails? I was thinking it might be a more versatile saw in the shop for $5 more.

      1. A carcass saw is really just a tenon saw. hey can be used fr dovetails but they are unwieldy and usually prove less accurate. ‘Fraid it’s not an either or saw, you will need both eventually.

  4. if you were to recommend a higher end dove tail saw, one with a classic look , which manufacturer if any would it be ? thanks

    1. That would depend on whether the question was for new or secondhand. New, my first choice would be a Wenzlof, secondhand; an R. Groves followed by a Henry Disston.

  5. Hi Paul

    Plenty of peolple recommend Thomas Flinn saws, they seem to do very well in independant reviews, even in the US (especially their back saws). The Veritas is a little less expensive so is good value but the Pax saws and not hugely more expensive. I think many users would argue that the Thomas Flinn saws are as good as those made in the US or Canada. This is quite a nice little review http://www.peterseftonfurnitureschool.com/wp-content/files_mf/peterseftondovetailsawreviewarticle57.pdf however, there are others reviews in US magazines also praising Pax saws. I really like my 1776 dovetail saw but have only had it a short time.

    1. Yes, their upper end dovetail saws work fine. I generally don’t recommend saws with more than 16tpi because they are so small and they are more tricky to sharpen, especially for those new to sharpening. Such small teeth can be filed completely out in a single stroke. Also, I did choose their dovetail saw to use in one of my videos on cutting dovetails and it compared well with the US makers. Hard to imagine at one time Sheffield would have had 50 saw makers instead of just one.

  6. Thanks Paul, good point about the TPI. My Pax 1776 is a 15 TPI so should be fine for sharpening. Yes, hard to imagine, lets hope the one remains into the future.

  7. I was having trouble starting a cut with the Veritas dovetail saw so I filed the first couple inches as you suggest, with the top of the file flat for the 1st inch, and then slightly rolling the file forward for the next inch. It really made a difference in being able to start a cut with this saw. When it comes time though, I’m wondering how to file the rest of the teeth. As it comes from the factory, it has a 14° rake to the teeth. Should I file it with the same rake angle? Or should I file it with the 0° rake, with the front of the teeth completely perpendicular to the baseline of the saw? I feel inclined to file it with the 0° rake. I’m not sure why Veritas decided to use the 14° rake angle. Does anybody know the reasons for their choice of this rake angle? Any help or suggestions would be appreciated.



    1. I told Veritas that this would really help their saws. They are hard to start.

  8. If you feel that the Veritas saws are difficult to start I don’t understand recommending them for a beginner. Starting the cut can be the most critical and frustrating aspect of cutting to a line.

    1. Any saw no matter the maker must be sharpened after a few hours of use and it’s really a question of lightening up on the opening strokes, suspending and feeding the saw to the cut rather than pressing the saw into the cut. The Veritas saws are good saws as are many others that are difficult to start. Difficult simply means they are sharp and bite straight off and many people are not used to saws being that sharp. It’s really nothing to do with beginner, by the way.

  9. Yesterday I sharpened my Veritas dovetail saw for the first time. In fact this was the first saw I ever sharpened. I’m surprised that this is easy to do. I used 30° rake in the first inch, than 15° in the second inch and 0° rake in the rest. A also touched the teeth with diamond file at an small angle so they last longer.

    It really transformed the saw. It is easier start and cuts faster. The kerf is also cleaner now. I’m really satisfied.

    1. Glad to hear that. All of the new saws and especially the premium high dollar ones will be bettered by what we teach in saw making. It’s something similar to hand-stitched rasps being better than machine stitched. The thing to watch for is consistency of stroke in length, weight and angle with subsequent sharpenings, to maintain tooth profile, angles and size. Always remember too that in thin plates and small tooth sizes that it is too easy to file out a tooth.

  10. I’m restoring an old Sandvik No. 271 rip saw (26″ long, 5 1/2 ppi) When i put in the vice to sharpen, i noticed that the teeth have a slightly convex curve from heel to toe, but it seems fairly uniform. Was this a specific design of the saw, or an error on the part of whomever had been sharpening it previously? Should I sharpen the teeth as-is, or joint the teeth straight from heel to toe first? I can’t find anything about this on the internet, so any insight you could provide would be golden! Thank you!

    1. The term you want is, “breasted” (careful how you search on that one).

    1. In these two statements are the con:

      1: Saw blade for cutting wood & plastic materials
      2: Universal toothing, hardpoint teeth for long lasting sharpness

      A1:The saw teeth are compromised because they are a hybrid tooth. A saw designed for plastic would be less suited to cutting wood. This is a bucket saw used for odd jobs around the house, under the sink, at the garden gate, that sort of thing. Useful but not fine woodworking.

      A2: Hard point always means non sharpenable. Long lasting means they stay sharp longer than a conventional single sharpening but also that they cannot be resharpened so must be destined for throwing out. A sharpenable saw on the other hand, costing around £20-25 will last a thousand sharpenings and for a century or so of daily use. On the same basis, the throwaway Bahco will last but a few weeks.
      All saw makers making throwaway saws are disingenuous and can rarely be trusted to actually know the truth re their product. They use invented terms that appear genuine but you must remember that most suited technical copywriters and sales staff will have little knowledge if any about end user use and only what they are told about the products they sell.

  11. Hello Paul,

    I have an old 8″ Tyzack saw which I think is about 18 / 20 tpi. I haven’t tried to sharpen it yet but we’ve had it a long time. Do you think it’s possible with a very fine file?

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