Sunday, 21 August 2016

Final Handle Design - Unless Told Otherwise...

You guys were a lot of help with this saw handle exercise. The consensus of opinion was that there needed to be more meat on the bone so I beefed up the parts that needed beefing. As a few of you said, I can always scrap away if needed, but I can’t add to it.

The one thing that wasn’t discussed by anyone was the “Hang Angle”, the angle of the grip relevant to the saw plate. These plates are roughly 3½” deep at both the toe and heel, so they aren’t really textbook dovetail saws. The original handles have a hang angle of 38°, which I found a little awkward when cutting dovetails on a hunk of wood held in my portable vise as it raises the work level by 6” or so above bench level. I think that dropping the angle to 30° will make the saws more comfortable to work with at the higher position. If any of you disagree with that, please let me know.

So here is the “beefier” final design - maybe...




  1. I will bite. Those are not dovetail saws. More like sash or tenon. You don't cut a dovetail much deeper than one inch, so the plate is rarely deeper than 2", and generally less than 12 inches in length. And the saw is always rip filed, because you are cutting with the grain.

    It may be why yours are not comfortable in use. Check the TFWW site for their "finish-your-own" dovetail saw (instructions). I think you can download the handle template. Their handle in my hand is a sensual experience, not demanding a death grip. You can cut with any saw, but do some research on the specific design you have and revert yours to that type of saw. It will be safer to order a new dovetail saw from Lie-Nielsen, or TFWW.

  2. Great stuff, Bruce. I did get on the TFWW site and went through all they had, along with about 15 other sites as well. There is a lot of info out there.

    From what I read you are right, these are not technically dovetail saws. A lot of so-called “dovetail saws” sold in the 19th century were, as you say, sash or tenon saws. As the article explained, saws weren’t cheap back then and money was tight, so it was rare that a cabinetmaker would buy a saw dedicated to one job, hence the reclassifications of all these larger saws. (I can’t remember where I found this article as I looked at so many - sorry)

    One of the many sites I remember looking at was the Two Lawyers Tools site, probably the best saw makers out there right now, and if not, at least the makers of the prettiest saws available. Their hang angles on their open handles for dovetail saws are about 42°, which I find very high, but their closed handle sash has a hang of 32°, which is more in the ballpark for me. I’m not the tallest walking stick in the umbrella holder, so high angles on anything can cause me some grief.

  3. If You are going to discard the original handle, you might try different angles by removing one of the bolts and modifying the kerf to allow the rotation. Maybe a small c-clamp could be used to pinch the blade in the handle during test. Never tried it myself though.