Making a (Very) Small Dovetail Saw

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Blog entry by summerfi posted 12-17-2017 09:15 PM 3940 reads 0 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Making a (Very) Small Dovetail Saw

I recently restored this 1840-ish British 10” dovetail saw made by Richard Groves & Sons. I like the saw so much that I decided to make a copy of it.

I’ve made quite a few saws, but I’ve never made one like this before. My newly made saw is a 0.60 scale copy of the Groves saw, with only minor differences.

Why, you may ask, would I spend the time to make a saw like this? With a blade that is a mere 6” long and a handle you can only fit one finger in, the thing isn’t even useable, you might think. Well, my reasons for making this saw are simple. First, I thought it would be a fun project, and now that it’s finished, I can say that it definitely was enjoyable. Second, I made this saw to challenge my skills. It is generally a lot harder to make a miniature version of an item than it is to make the item itself. That was true in this case, particularly the cutting and sharpening of such small teeth. Overall, though, the saw was not tremendously more difficult to make than a full-sized saw. It took about the same about of time, but it certainly took less materials!

The brass spine for my little saw is made from a piece of ½” brass angle. The legs of the angle were bent together in my bench vise and then shaped on a large belt sander and with files. Finally, it was polished with sandpaper down to 600 grit and then buffed with 0000 steel wool.

The plate is 0.015” thick 1095 alloy spring steel, the same thickness I use for making 8” gent’s saws. It also is polished to 600 grit. Cutting the 20 ppi teeth was probably the hardest part of making this saw. I’ve sharpened teeth that fine before, and that alone is a challenge, but cutting new teeth this small takes the challenge to another level. With the aid of magnification and a needle file, though, I’m happy with the results achieved.

The handle shape is an exact copy of the English beech handled Groves, but Brazilian rosewood was used instead. This wood is no longer available in the U.S. due to import restrictions. I have a small pre-ban stash rescued from my Dad’s musical instrument shop after his passing.

The split-nut style screws are re-made from antique screws salvaged from an old non-repairable saw. The 1/2” heads were turned down to 3/8” and thinned. The screw shafts were cut down from 7/8” long to fit the ½” thick handle, and re-threaded to 8-32. I made new 3/8” diameter split nuts to secure the screws.

I’ve seen miniature saws before. In fact, I have a little backsaw that is under 3” in total length. But these saws are novelties, not intended for actual use. My new little backsaw is a real saw in every sense of the word, it’s just small. Is it too small to use, though? I’ll admit that grasping the tiny handle is a bit awkward, but if you can manage it, the saw cuts every bit as well as a larger one. Tiny dovetails anyone?

This saw won’t be among my primary users. Rather, it will be displayed as a conversation piece. Whatever its fate, I’m glad that saws come in all sizes.


-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

19 comments so far

View TheTurtleCarpenter's profile


1053 posts in 2275 days

#1 posted 12-17-2017 09:47 PM

If we didn’t challenge ourselves we would grow weary. Always love seeing your workmanship Bob, Top notch. !!

-- "Tying shoelaces was way harder than learning to Whistle"

View duckmilk's profile


4810 posts in 2534 days

#2 posted 12-17-2017 10:13 PM

Wow, that’s tiny Bob. You did a wonderful job on it!

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View bearkatwood's profile


1835 posts in 2221 days

#3 posted 12-17-2017 11:45 PM

What a fun project, amazing work Bob.

-- Brian Noel

View Don W's profile

Don W

20152 posts in 3777 days

#4 posted 12-18-2017 12:08 AM


-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View Dwain's profile


623 posts in 5068 days

#5 posted 12-18-2017 12:24 AM

Wow, that’s really nice work. Thanks for sharing.

-- When you earnestly believe you can compensate for a lack of skill by doubling your efforts, there is no end to what you CAN'T do

View woodcox's profile


2386 posts in 3221 days

#6 posted 12-18-2017 01:30 AM

Impressive work as always, Bob. How did you set such tiny teeth? Great that you chose to use some of your pop’s material for this.

-- "My god has more wood than your god" ... G. Carlin.

View summerfi's profile


4385 posts in 2896 days

#7 posted 12-18-2017 02:29 AM

I used my blue Somax with the narrow anvil, WC. If the teeth were any smaller I wouldn’t have been able to do it though.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View Dave Polaschek's profile (online now)

Dave Polaschek

8272 posts in 1791 days

#8 posted 12-18-2017 02:35 AM

Nicely done. Beautiful saw.

-- Dave - Santa Fe

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8577 posts in 3191 days

#9 posted 12-18-2017 03:30 AM

Bob, you are Wonderful work.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View onoitsmatt's profile


451 posts in 2385 days

#10 posted 12-18-2017 04:55 AM

Nice looking saw as always, Bob! Great blog post too.

-- Matt - Phoenix, AZ

View putty's profile


1302 posts in 2816 days

#11 posted 12-18-2017 01:18 PM

Great work Bob, now a miniature saw till?

-- Putty

View TheFridge's profile


10863 posts in 2695 days

#12 posted 12-18-2017 02:00 PM

Awesome stuff. Time to do a 4” :)

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View luv2learn's profile


3137 posts in 3512 days

#13 posted 12-18-2017 04:05 PM

Amazing craftsmanship Bob.

-- Lee - Northern idaho~"If the women don't find you handsome, at least they ought to find you handy"~ Red Green

View Brit's profile


8375 posts in 4052 days

#14 posted 12-18-2017 04:17 PM

That looks beautiful Bob. Love the Indian Rosewood.

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


17499 posts in 3828 days

#15 posted 12-18-2017 04:26 PM

Incredibly cool!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. - OldTools Archive -

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