Using the Dovetail Saw

The dovetail saw is a little pull-saw, which means it cuts when the blade is pulled “back” towards you. This saw is used, just as the name suggests, to cut dovetails – a type of wood-connection, where the “fingers” intertwine with each other like a 3D puzzle. This saw is known to be capable of very fine cuts.

Although most dovetail saws are cross-cut (to cut across the grain), some are designed with a rip-saw pattern (to cut along the grain) as well.

These saws typically have a large number of teeth per inch. These saws are often reinforced at the very top of the blade with a rigid metal band to offer increased rigidity and control.

Instructions

1. First, you need to become accustomed to a correct hand placement while cutting. Unlike the natural way you would hold a regular handsaw, you want to use only three fingers to hold the handle and your index finger to hold the blade. The thumb should be on one side of the grip, the finger along the top of the blade, with the remaining three fingers on the opposite side on the grip of the thumb.

Hold it as if you were simulating your hand like a pistol, with index finger extended. This will give you better control and a better fit.

2. Keep the saw blade (teeth) flush with the surface of the wood. Do not angle your saw the same way you’re used to with a regular hand saw. When using the dovetail saw, the best result will be attained by a sawing completely parallel and flush with the material being cut. You don’t have to be hard and fast at this point. Slow, steady strokes provide a more precise and clean cut. Patience is the key.

3. Exercise continually to hone your dovetail cutting skills. This will make the difference between a high-quality professional job to a regular one. Always keep pieces of wood around to practice upon.

Perform various cuts on these pieces to get a feel for how much pressure you need to apply given your strength and the material you are using. Less pressure is better. Allow the saw to do the job. Too much force on your downward stroke will cause the saw to flex.

4. Use a miter box (a woodworking device used to keep a saw blade aligned on the same spot as on the to-be-sawn lumber) when possible. Simple cuts using a miter box will produce superior results with patience and proper technique.

Cutting at a 45-degree angle into two small pieces of wood using slow, deliberate motions while keeping the blade moving ensures a true, almost flawless cut. These two pieces can then be joined together to produce a 90-degree corner connection.

Best Dovetail Saw Comparison Table

PRODUCT FEATURES LATEST PRICE
1. Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw
  • High-quality German steel
  • Reliable construction
  • Ideal for dovetail cutting
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2. Stanley Fatmax 15-252K 10-Inch Dovetail Saw with Reversible Handle
  • Reversible handle
  • Offset handle for flush cutting
  • Fine kerf
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3. SUIZAN Japanese Dozuki Dovetail Hand Saw 7 Inch, Japanese Dovetail Hand Saw for Cross-cut, Rip-cut, Slant Cutting
  • Ultra-thin blades and narrow kerf
  • Superior sharpness
  • Precise and clean cut
  • Replaceable blades
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4. Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw
  • Beautiful, high-quality components
  • Hooked-in, interchangeable blades
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5. SUIZAN Japanese Pull Saw Hand Saw 9.5 Inch Ryoba Double Edge for Woodworking
  • Sharp
  • Precise
  • Double-edged
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6. IRWIN Dovetail Saw, 10-Inch (2014450)
  • Spring-loaded reversible blade
  • ProTouch handle
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7. Zona 35-550 Fine Razor Saw, 42 TPI.010-Inch Kerf, Blade Length 6-1/2-Inch, Cut Depth 1-3/16-Inch
  • Multi-purpose
  • Multi-material
  • Fine Kerf
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8. Gyokucho Razorsaw Ryoba Saw 180mm No. 291
  • Superior quality
  • Replaceable handle
  • Option to tilt the handle
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9. IRWIN Dovetail Saw, 7-1/4-Inch (213104)
  • Polymer handle
  • Flexes predictably for cutting flush with ease
  • Fine kerf
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10. Shark 10-2204 Dowel/Dovetail/Detail Saw
  • Narrow, flexing blade for flush cuts
  • Very narrow kerf
  • 24 teeth per inch
  • 1-year warranty
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11. Life Saw S-145 Flush Cutting Japanese Handsaw
  • Multi-purpose
  • Flush blade for flush jobs
  • Pivoting handle
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Attaining professional dovetails will take a lot of practice, so don’t get frustrated if it takes longer than anticipated to master.

  • Sharpen your blade when it gets dull to maximize the saw’s cutting performance.
  • Use this saw solely to cut specific corners and fasteners and never to rip fresh wood. Since you want this saw to stay in your toolbox for many years to come, use it for its intended purpose. The dovetail saw is specifically designed for precision hand-cut dovetail cuts and other fine joints. Nothing else.
  • Lubricate the saw blade with a sparring application of light, lubricating oil before storing the saw after use.

Our Best Dovetail Saw Reviews and Comparisons

1. SUIZAN Japanese Dozuki Dovetail Hand Saw 7 Inch, Japanese Dovetail Hand Saw for Cross-cut, Rip-cut, Slant Cutting

Product Highlights

A high-quality pull-saw from the renowned Japanese manufacturer, SUIZAN. They make saws out of top quality Japanese steel for over 100 years. Their saws are famous for their long-lasting sharpness.

Known for their ultra-thin blades and narrow kerf. They aren’t only sharper, but lighter too. This results in cleaner, more precise cuts while applying minimum pressure. This saw is made out of a quality handle with replaceable blades. All products are made and reviewed before being sold, locally by their master crafters in Sanjō in Niigata, Japan.

Features

  • Ultra-thin blades and narrow kerf
  • Superior sharpness
  • Precise and clean cut
  • Replaceable blades

What We Like About SUIZAN Japanese Dozuki Dovetail Hand Saw 7 Inch, Japanese Dovetail Hand Saw for Cross-cut, Rip-cut, Slant Cutting

We were surprised to find out how rigid this blade is, considering its extreme thinness. We love the handle with its replaceable blades. The kerf is very narrow, resulting in a very easily attained clean and precise cut.

What We Don’t Like About SUIZAN Japanese Dozuki Dovetail Hand Saw 7 Inch, Japanese Dovetail Hand Saw for Cross-cut, Rip-cut, Slant Cutting

The only con we could find was when cutting bigger pieces of material. The thicker frame, which keeps this thin blade rigid, proved to be an obstruction.

PROS

  • Rigid
  • Thin
  • Sharp, narrow Kerf
  • Overall very precise performance

CONS

  • Blade frame is an obstruction on thicker pieces

2. Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw

Product Highlights

A beautiful, high-quality dovetail saw that is made out of carbon steel and a walnut handle.

The blade is interchangeable and hooks into place securely. The blade measures 0.3 mm thin and 5.9” in length with a total length of 14.6”.

Features

  • Beautiful, high-quality components
  • Hooked-in, interchangeable blades

What We Like About Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw

We found this saw to perform very precisely with minimal effort over and over again. Superior thin blade offers sharpness while staying rigid enough.

What We Don’t Like About Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw

The kerf is really narrow, so build up is evident. The teeth are hardened, so be careful about plywood. Also, the frame limits the deepness you can cut into.

PROS

  • Very sharp
  • Rigid
  • Precise

CONS

  • Obvious build-up caused by narrow kerf
  • Frame limiting deepness of cut
  • Hardened teeth could break

3. SUIZAN Japanese Pull Saw Hand Saw 9.5 Inch Ryoba Double Edge for Woodworking

Product Highlights

Another high-quality pull-saw from renowned Japanese manufacturer, SUIZAN. They make saws out of top quality Japanese steel for over 100 years, famous for their long-lasting sharpness. Known for their ultra thin blades and narrow kerf.

They aren’t only sharper, but lighter too. This results in cleaner, more precise cuts while minimum pressure is applied. This saw has a two-edged blade that incorporates two different widths of the kerf. All products are made and reviewed before being sold, locally by their master crafters in Sanjō in Niigata, Japan.

What We Like About SUIZAN Japanese Pull Saw Hand Saw 9.5 Inch Ryoba Double Edge for Woodworking

Using these super sharp blades from SUIZAN really puts a smile on our face every time we use them. Especially if you’re used to power-tools, you’ll be surprised what these can accomplish with minimal effort and maximum precision.

What We Don’t Like About SUIZAN Japanese Pull Saw Hand Saw 9.5 Inch Ryoba Double Edge for Woodworking

Well, the blade is extremely thin and together with no reinforcing frame, it’s easy to get bent. If it gets bent, you can practically throw it away. So it’s a shame it didn’t come with a better protector than a piece of thin cardboard. Also, the handle felt like it was made out of some cheap plastic.

PROS

  • Sharp
  • Precise
  • Double-edged

CONS

  • Bends quickly
  • No proper protector included
  • Cheap handle

4. IRWIN Dovetail Saw, 10-Inch (2014450)

Product Highlights

This dovetail saw can be used for left or right cutting through a spring-loaded reversible blade. Also, the ProTouch handle provides a secure and comfortable grip while sawing.

Features

  • Spring-loaded reversible blade
  • ProTouch handle

What We Like About IRWIN Dovetail Saw, 10-Inch (2014450)

We loved this tool for trimming off, instead of using a power tool. The hinged reversible blade made it even more practical in narrow spaces, enabling you to use it on both sides. The handle proved to be comfortable too.

What We Don’t Like About IRWIN Dovetail Saw, 10-Inch (2014450)

The teeth on those are pretty wide for a dovetail saw. We didn’t get the clean, fine cut we’re looking after. Also, the hinged, flip-over design made working with precision more challenging.

PROS

  • Reversible blades
  • Sturdy, comfortable handle

CONS

  • Cuts too rough for a dovetail saw
  • Flip-over design not implemented well

5. Zona 35-550 Fine Razor Saw, 42 TPI.010-Inch Kerf, Blade Length 6-1/2-Inch, Cut Depth 1-3/16-Inch

Product Highlights

This saw is great for all-purpose use where more precision is needed. When for example working on modeling or other fine woodwork. It’s equipped with a fine kerf that can cut plastic and wood to even copper and brass.

Features

  • Multi-purpose
  • Multi-material
  • Fine Kerf

What We Like About Zona 35-550 Fine Razor Saw, 42 TPI.010-Inch Kerf, Blade Length 6-1/2-Inch, Cut Depth 1-3/16-Inch

Given the price, the feel of this saw, and the comfort of the handle is excellent. It really is a very decent dovetail saw that has a fine kerf that doesn’t leave any marks after cutting. Lubricating the blade improves on the smoothness even more.

What We Don’t Like About Zona 35-550 Fine Razor Saw, 42 TPI.010-Inch Kerf, Blade Length 6-1/2-Inch, Cut Depth 1-3/16-Inch

The way the blade has been attached to the handle could have been implemented better. The handle, unfortunately, detaches after just some use. This can be easily resolved by putting a wooden splint in place, but shouldn’t have left the factory like this.

PROS

  • Price
  • Fine kerf
  • Clean, smooth cut

CONS

  • Poor handle manufacturing

6. Gyokucho Razorsaw Ryoba Saw 180mm No. 291

Product Highlights

Gyokucho is one of the leaders when it comes to Japanese saws today. The company was one of the first to harden one tooth at the time (called impulse hardening). Through continuously inspecting their products they ensure a consistent premium product.

This model has a replaceable blade and the handle has been equipped with a hinge to enable tilted sawing in difficult places.

Features

  • Superior quality
  • Replaceable handle
  • Option to tilt the handle

What We Like About Gyokucho Razorsaw Ryoba Saw 180mm No. 291

This simply is an excellent Japanese pull-saw. It cuts smoothly and precisely. Resulting in professional clean cuts. What more can you ask for in a saw? Well, they did include a feature not found in any of its competitors: a tilting handle that should help with particularly tough angles.

What We Don’t Like About Gyokucho Razorsaw Ryoba Saw 180mm No. 291

The blade has unfortunately too much flex to our taste. This might result in less than perfectly straight cuts when too much pressure is applied. When using this saw gently it performs fine though.

PROS

  • Perfect cut
  • Long-lasting sharpness

CONS

  • Too much flex in the blade

7. IRWIN Dovetail Saw, 7-1/4-Inch (213104)

Product Highlights

This dovetail saw is specially made for precise working around window frames.

The comfortable and durable polymer handle combined with a flexible blade makes it great for cutting flush window frames and the like.

Its blade is 7-1/4’’ in length and has a very fine kerf of 22 pt. teeth for perfect cuts.

Features

  • Polymer handle
  • Flexes predictably for cutting flush with ease
  • Fine kerf

What We Like About IRWIN Dovetail Saw, 7-1/4-Inch (213104)

We liked this pull-saw a lot. It has a very sharp blade combined with a comfortable handle. Also, the narrow blade proved to be effective, without compressive tension while sawing.

What We Don’t Like About IRWIN Dovetail Saw, 7-1/4-Inch (213104)

The teeth are very sharp, but fragile too. So be very careful not to make it meet any metal surface, otherwise, you will dull it instantly.

PROS

  • Very sharp
  • Clean cut
  • Comfortable handle
  • Effective blade

CONS

  • The blade is very fragile when encountered with metal
  • Non-replaceable blade

8. Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw

Product Highlights

This finely sharpened 10” blade is made from high-quality German steel. It’s made to be reliable and precise for the finest of woodworking, like dovetail cutting.

Features

  • High-quality German steel
  • Reliable construction
  • Ideal for dovetail cutting

What We Like About Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw

It’s a very well built “old-school” saw that could last you for many years. The blade incorporates a sturdy frame for excellent overall rigidity. The same goes for the material chosen for the blade. The blade is made with superior quality and longevity in mind.

They choose high-quality German steel that’s very easy to resharpen to a razor-sharp finish for many years to come.

What We Don’t Like About Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw

It says it was pre-sharpened in the description, but truth be told it came to us in a pretty dull shape. This was easily remedied through a quick sharpening job.

PROS

  • Well built
  • Durable materials
  • Easy to sharpen

CONS

  • Arrived with somewhat dull teeth

9. Stanley Fatmax 15-252K 10-Inch Dovetail Saw with Reversible Handle

Product Highlights

This dovetail saw was made in cooperation with Stanley and Black&Decker, two world-leading tool makers. The handle is reversible through a hinge and a spring-loaded pin. This enables you to alter quickly between a right or left sawing and work in the most challenging spaces.

The handle has furthermore been made slightly offset, to facilitate flush sawing.

The fine kerf guarantees smooth, clean cuts.

Made in Taiwan.

Features

  • Reversible handle
  • Offset handle for flush cutting
  • Fine kerf

What We Like About Stanley Fatmax 15-252K 10-Inch Dovetail Saw with Reversible Handle

We were very impressed with the blade. It simply stays razor-sharp time after time, no sharpening needed. It’s the kind of know-how Stanley is known for.

Also, the mechanism used to make the handle reversible was implemented perfectly. It really enables you to cut precisely with any hand, even in the most difficult spaces.

What We Don’t Like About Stanley Fatmax 15-252K 10-Inch Dovetail Saw with Reversible Handle

As other Stanley blades are known for, these teeth stay sharp for a very long time but not indefinitely. And once dull, they’re practically disposable.

PROS

  • Razor-sharp teeth
  • No sharpening needed
  • The reversible handle is well implemented

CONS

  • Practically impossible to be properly resharpened

10. Shark 10-2204 Dowel/Dovetail/Detail Saw

Product Highlights

This is a dovetail saw featuring a relatively narrow blade. This enables the blade to flex properly without warping for flush cuts.

It has 24 teeth per inch for an extremely fine cut. Also, a limited 1-year warranty is included.

Features

  • Narrow, flexing blade for flush cuts
  • Very narrow kerf
  • 24 teeth per inch
  • 1-year warranty

What We Like About Shark 10-2204 Dowel/Dovetail/Detail Saw

We found it to be a very practical dovetail saw, that’s sharp and still very easy to start with. Notwithstanding it was designed to incorporate some flex for flush cutting jobs, we were surprised by the rigidity of the blade when used in other sawing tasks. Probably these qualities are thanks to the narrow(er) blade, compared to a more classic dovetail saw.

What We Don’t Like About Shark 10-2204 Dowel/Dovetail/Detail Saw

This modern kind of hybrid dovetail saws with a narrow blade tries to be a Jack of all trades. But, in fact, it is a master of none. True, the rip-style teeth rip through wood fast. And is also easy to start cutting with. But it doesn’t give you the looked after clean-cut a dovetail saw is renowned to give you.

The same goes for the flush jobs it’s supposed to give you. True, the blade flexes properly without warping. But the same rip-style teeth aren’t flush with the rest of the blade. This results in scratches and marks all over the material you’re working on. Again this results in a messy job, that you’ll need to sand down and finish properly. In short, this saw is a no-go.

Additionally to all the above, the blade is also too short to be used on a standard miter box. On the smaller aluminum mini-miter box, it worked just fine though.

PROS

  • Sharp
  • Easy to start with
  • Rigid blade

CONS

  • Rough cut
  • Scratches the surface when working on flush cuts

11. Life Saw S-145 Flush Cutting Japanese Handsaw

Product Highlights

This is a multi-purpose saw that can cut through a wide array of materials. For example: through tenons, pegs, and towels. Easily trims of excess trim. The teeth are flush with the blade, to prevent marring the surrounding surface. The flexibility of the blade enables flush cutting and the moveable handle makes sawing accessible even in the toughest to get spots. It has an overall length of 11.8” and a pitch of 1.2 mm. The kerf is 0.4 mm.

Features

  • Multi-purpose
  • Flush blade for flush jobs
  • Pivoting handle

What We Like About Life Saw S-145 Flush Cutting Japanese Handsaw

This saw really performs great with cutting jobs needing a flush finish. The blade flexes perfectly without warping. Also, the teeth are aligned properly, thus not scratching the surface working upon. The end result is clean and flush, exactly how we wanted it. All this is achieved at a very low price.

What We Don’t Like About Life Saw S-145 Flush Cutting Japanese Handsaw

The handle is cheaply constructed out of some hollow plastic. This certainly doesn’t give us much confidence it will last. So this is evidently not a professional tool.

PROS

  • The blade flexes nicely for flush jobs
  • Clean cuts
  • Cheap

CONS

  • Cheap feeling, plastic handle
  • Non-durable overall construction

Final Verdict

If you’re looking for the ultimate dovetail saw that features uncompromised craftsmanship that will last you many years we want to advise you to get the Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw.

We chose it not just for its premium finish that’s built to last, but also for its superior blade. The German steel proved to be easily resharpened, keeping these razor-sharp teeth functional for many years to come. The cuts this saw offered stayed unraveled by its competitors: superiorly clean, smooth, and efficient.

Also, the frame gives all the rigidity needed for the most daunting precision-demanding jobs.

On the other hand, if you’re the kind of woodworker who prefers not to sharpen their saws at all, we would recommend getting the Stanley Fatmax 15-252K 10-Inch Dovetail Saw with Reversible Handle. Stanley made themselves a name providing durable ultra-sharp teeth while staying sharp for a very long time. Some users even said theirs stayed sharp for multiple years! But at the end of the day, it’s still going to be a disposable saw, especially for a professional woodworker who puts lots of use in them, day after day.

Professionals should invest in the best tools available that are reliable for the long term. Nothing can be more annoying and time-robbing than being stuck with an unusable tool when most needed. We, therefore, advise you to learn the basics of saw-sharpening and get the Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw.