I'm confused...So many saws!

  • Advertise with us

« back to Woodworking Skill Share forum

Forum topic by McPateod posted 06-02-2020 07:37 PM 424 views 1 time favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View McPateod's profile


6 posts in 44 days

06-02-2020 07:37 PM

Let me apologize up front. I’m a noob to hand tools. The topic has probably already been covered somewhere in the thousands of posts here. I tried to search thru some and found really interesting stuff but nothing to answer my questions.
Can someone point me toward a resource to describe the different types of hand saws and their application?
I know this topic is way too broad to expect a simple answer, but I have questions like: What is the difference between a dovetail saw and tenon saw? Is it just the depth of cut? Or is there more? When should I use a gents saw or a carcass saw? Are all of them back saws? What is the recommended tpi/ppi for each? I’ve looked for some books, but it’s hard to tell online if they are actually helpful or not.

The only thing I know for sure is that when I look at all your posts of beautiful saws, I want them. I want ‘em all. I just want to know what I’d do with them if I had them.

I’ll worry about Japanese saws down the road…


8 replies so far

View HokieKen's profile


14079 posts in 1916 days

#1 posted 06-02-2020 08:04 PM

Pandora’s box is open! ;-)

Sorry, I can’t really direct you to a resource to answer all those. But the library over at vintage saws has a lot of good information.

A tenon saw and dovetail saw are both filed rip. Tenon saw usually has a deeper plate below the spine and has a more aggressive tooth.

A gents saw is (my humble explaination) a dovetail saw with a turned handle. Gents saws can often be found with crosscut teeth though where a dovetail saw will have a rip configuration.

A carcass saw, as I understand it, is basically the same as a tenon saw but is filed crosscut.

Any saw with a thick brass or steel piece folded over the spine to add rigidity to the plate is considered a back saw.

And now you know as much as I do ;-)

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View McPateod's profile


6 posts in 44 days

#2 posted 06-02-2020 09:27 PM

Thanks HokieKen! And from a fellow Virginian no less! That’s quite a helpful start. I’ll go check out the website

View Holbs's profile


2346 posts in 2806 days

#3 posted 06-03-2020 12:17 AM

When I first started to get into hand saws, all the vocabulary confused me. But after a time, it just grew on me :)
My take on the difference & purpose of saws are …. logical. Wider teeth (TPI/PPI) means more aggressive, more rough of a cut. Finer teeth for nice smooth cuts like dovetails or tenons.
Then you get into sets, fleam, rake….. oh boy! I want to go saw right now!
Your basic 4 handsaws will be:
crosscut saw
tenon saw
dovetail saw

-- The Carpenter Bee is derived from the Ancient Greek word wood-cutter "xylokopos/ξυλοκὀπος"

View SMP's profile


2132 posts in 683 days

#4 posted 06-03-2020 12:52 AM

As mentioned pandoras box for sure. You. Could get a “back saw” and use it for pretty much everything. If its rip it will rip faster, but crosscut less cleanly. If its files crosscut, it will crosscut more cleanly but rip slower. If its combination then it will do a mediocre job at both. I think it was the English Woodworker who said if you had to go with 1 saw for whatever reason go with a back saw filed rip. Because it will crosscut ok and if you are going for precision you will probably use knifewalls and a shooting board anyways. The tricky part with using a “tenon saw” for dovetails is the leverage works against you, and slight angle is magnified vs a smaller blade. Also some dovetail saws have very thin plates since there is less metal to flex and buckle.

View Aj2's profile


3091 posts in 2575 days

#5 posted 06-03-2020 01:06 AM

I see now I’m going to have to put a big honking lock on my handsaw Cabinet. :)

Good Luck

-- Aj

View McPateod's profile


6 posts in 44 days

#6 posted 06-03-2020 01:04 PM

Hey thanks everyone! Really appreciate the info. Gotta do plenty of reading, but probly start with a couple of Florip saws when I’m ready to move out.
Not to worry Aj; your saws are safe!

View HokieKen's profile


14079 posts in 1916 days

#7 posted 06-03-2020 01:12 PM

Erik’s saws are top-notch. Don’t do too much reading before you jump in. It all makes a lot more sense with some experience behind it ;-)

-- Kenny, SW VA, Go Hokies!!!

View metolius's profile


162 posts in 1508 days

#8 posted 06-03-2020 09:11 PM

On youtube, Paul Sellers has some nice campfire talks about types of handsaws and how to maintain them.

For wit, StumpyNubs old-timey saw banter is more entertaining than me.

-- derek / oregon

Have your say...

You must be signed in to reply.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics