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How to use a tenon or dovetail saw?

How to use a tenon or dovetail saw

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Before you begin

Tired man

Should you push or pull?

Most tenon or dovetail saws will cut on the push stroke, but nowadays there are some that can cut on both the push and pull stroke. If the saw cuts on the push stroke alone, you should only apply pressure to the saw when pushing it through the material.

If you use a lot of force when pulling the saw as well, it won’t cut any quicker and you will simply tire yourself out.

Starting your cut

marked out area you want to saw Once your material is in place and you have marked out the area you want to saw, you can make your first cut.

Some people like to place their thumb along the line they want to cut, resting the blade against their thumbnail. This helps to guide the saw, but great care must be taken when doing so.

saw parallel to the work surface and blade resting lightly on it

Step 1 – Rest blade against material

Hold the saw parallel to the work surface and rest the blade lightly on the surface.

Pull the saw towards you

Step 2 – Pull saw towards you

Pull the saw towards you, applying very little downward pressure, in one long, slow stroke.

Wonkee Donkee says "Remember to keep your index finger extended along the handle when working"
Cutting the wood with a saw

Use the force… but not too much

As the cut starts to develop, the sawing process will become easier.

You should try to make slow, smooth strokes rather than random jerky movements.

Practise cuts If you’re not an experienced hand saw user, getting a feel for the amount of force needed can take a bit of practise, but don’t be put off.

If you’re not feeling very confident, test out your sawing technique on some scrap material.

man throwing a tantrum If you mess up a cut, don’t throw a tantrum – Try, try, try again!
small and accurate cuts

Slow and steady wins the race

Tenon and dovetail saws are designed for making small and accurate cuts, usually for applications such as joint-making. As a result, you may need to work slowly at first, making gentle strokes with the saw to ensure you stay on course.

Remember, if the saw cuts on the push stroke only, you should add pressure as you push forward and ease off as you pull the saw back.


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