Open up a set of drawers on any type
of cabinet, and if you see dovetail construction, it is a good sign that
the item was made with at least a fair level of attention to detail and
not just slapped together as a mass-produced item of furniture.
It is true that just about anyone
these days can craft pretty much perfect dovetail joints with a router and
a decent dovetailing jig, but hand-cutting dovetails is still an art form,
requiring planning, careful layout and good sawing and chisel skills.
At the heart of a good hand-crafted
dovetail joint is a quality hand saw, and today we take a look at one of
the latest items in the Veritas line of fine woodworking tools, their new
The Veritas Dovetail Saw
It is true that you can make through dovetail joints with just about
any saw. Even a coarse framing saw could be used, but its going to take a
lot of careful work and may only be useful on timbers that are not prone
to chipping due to the coarse tooth pattern on these saws. So, generally,
a good dovetail saw will have a larger number of teeth per inch (TPI) to
produce a finer cut in all materials and aid in greater user control of
the cut. And because dovetail joints predominantly involve ripping type
cuts along the grain, a tooth pattern and geometry that suits rip type
cuts is preferred.
The Veritas Dovetail Saw offers 14
ripping teeth per inch along its 9 1/2" blade length with a set of 0.003"
per side. The blade itself is crafted from 0.020" thick high carbon steel.
The teeth have a rake angle of 14 degrees with an included angle of 60
degrees. The teeth are not hardened, which means
they can be sharpened by a saw sharpening professional if when they become
dull. This is the type of saw you want to keep for a long time. The
cheaper saws with heat hardened teeth cannot be easily sharpened and must
be thrown away when they dull.
a dovetail saw, it is important that the blade is rigid and remains
straight when cutting. Any blade flex would affect the end result of the
joint with unsightly gaps showing up due to bowed cuts. The saw spine is
what holds the blade rigid during a cut. Often these are made of brass or
other hard metals but the Veritas saw offers a different type of spine,
one that wraps up and over the top of the saw handle, and one that is made
of a new material mix. Stainless steel powder (for weight) and glass
fibers (for stiffness) are bonded together with a polymer resin and then
shaped via injection moulding to produce the spine shape. While the handle
can be easily separated from the saw, the spine, blade and handle
virtually act as one solid, stiff unit, allowing the user to make accurate
cuts with confidence. I like the feel of the saw during its sawing action.
There is never a time where you feel you are battling to control the saw,
rather than focusing on controlling the actual cut.
speaking of handles, it is crafted from Bubinga and its shape comes from
traditional Lee Valley antique saws. It is a very nice fit in the hand,
well, my hand at least and I see no need to change it. If you preferred
another handle design however, you can retrofit your own handle to the
saw. Connection is via a single brass screw. Instructions and measurement
diagrams for making substitute handles to fit the saw spine are provided
in the box. But as mentioned, I saw no need to change what is already
The saw on the whole is very well
balanced, and most of all, comfortable to use. Making controlled and
precise cuts seems very easy once you have a start on the cut. But the
critical factor is making the initial saw cut accurately and at the right
angle. Doing so provides a great reference point and saw setup as you make
the rest of the cut. Consider the saw as an extension of your arm. Make
smooth and consistent strokes for the best cutting results.
personally found the saw to be better on hardwoods than on softwoods.
Softwoods tend to require a very sharp blade to make clean cuts with no
splintering and while the Veritas dovetail saw is indeed quite sharp, it
doesn't beat a good Japanese pull saw in terms of sharpness and
cleanliness of cuts on very soft timber. However, finding a Japanese
dovetail saw as solid as the Veritas saw will be hard! Also, on the flip
side, the Veritas saw does seem to work better on hardwoods than my
Japanese pull saws, at least in my experience.
A good dovetail saw is as important to
hand-making a dovetail joint as is the initial joint layout and marking.
The Veritas dovetail saw has all the features you need to create a clean
dovetail shoulder cut. It is solid, has weight (but no too much to be
heavy and tiresome to use), remains rigid and straight during a cut, but
most of all, is very comfortable. Cuts produced quite smooth edges
when good sawing technique was employed, resulting in clean fitting
dovetail joints. Overall another nice product from the Veritas line!
The Dovetail saw retails for US$65,
which is quite good considering the cost of some comparable saws on the
market. I expected it to sell for close to twice that much. A good
investment if you want to try some hand cut dovetail joinery.
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