Best dovetail saw for small hands?

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Forum topic by Shannan posted 10-30-2013 03:09 AM 2149 views 0 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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28 posts in 3680 days

10-30-2013 03:09 AM

I’m taking a class on hand-cut dovetails in a few weeks, and I’d like to use my own saw—which means I have to buy one.

I’ve read that the Gramercy 9” from Tools for Working Wood might be a good pick, but $190 feels like a lot to spend unless I’m sure it’s the best saw for me. I’ve also read that the Lie Nielsen is a wonderful tool, and at $125, it seems more reasonable (on the I’m-willing-to-spend-a-boatload-of-money-on-a-saw-that’ll-last-a-lifetime scale of reasonable). I have read less about the Veritas dovetail saw, but I know the line is generally respectable. At this point, I’m just weighing the options and trying to identify the best saw for my small hands. I’m also willing to pay extra for a quality tool that is ready to use when I get it and doesn’t need extra tweaking right off the bat.

Any tips from people who’ve used any of the ones I’ve listed or who have their own recommended saw? The grip is particularly important because my hands are, as I mentioned, rather on the small end.


14 replies so far

View Paul Mayer's profile

Paul Mayer

1149 posts in 4076 days

#1 posted 10-30-2013 03:38 AM

Hi Shannan,

For an English style saw, I like the Lie Nielsen, and I think it is a good value. I have a professional woodworker friend who owns the Veritas DT saw and he is crazy about it. I prefer Japanese style saws, however. And for $50 or so, you can find a nice Dozuki saw that will cut some sweet dovetails. The handles would also work well with small hands I would think. It would be worth giving both a try if you are able to, before making the investment.

Good luck with your dovetails. Still one of my favorite aspects of woodworking.

-- Paul Mayer,

View 489tad's profile


3981 posts in 4022 days

#2 posted 10-30-2013 03:55 AM

Shannan, you might want to contact ErikF I’m pretty sure he’s the one selling a dove tail saw with a carbon fiber back on ebay. If I didn’t already have a LN saw I would have made an offer. His are pretty cool. The LN saw is pretty nice too.

-- Dan, Naperville IL, I.G.N.

View Manitario's profile


2818 posts in 3894 days

#3 posted 10-30-2013 04:35 AM

the lee valley saw:,42884,68511&ap=1
has a reasonably small handle and it isn’t ridiculously expensive

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View Greg In Maryland's profile

Greg In Maryland

554 posts in 4009 days

#4 posted 10-30-2013 09:38 PM

Shanon, if there is a LN handtool event in your neck of the woods there are lots of goodies for your handling pleasure, including saws.


View jamesicus's profile


132 posts in 3703 days

#5 posted 10-30-2013 09:48 PM

Garlick (Flynn Bros.) Gent’s saws are light weight, inexpensive (about $30 or so) , very good for making dovetail joints and readily available from outlets such as Woodcrafters. Check use at


View cdarney's profile


104 posts in 4042 days

#6 posted 10-31-2013 01:11 PM

You might take a look at Blackburn Tools. They’re a little pricey but they make the handles based on your hand size. They’re pretty saws.

View jordanp's profile


1086 posts in 2951 days

#7 posted 10-31-2013 02:23 PM

This will be the highest priced suggestion probably..

But this is a saw of extreme quality and engineering.
Bad Axe toolworks you can completely customize the saw and pick the size handle you want.

This is a saw that you could pass down for generations.

-- J. Palmer Woodworks - Rockwall TX -I woke up this morning thinking “man, I really hope someone posted some soul scarring sh*t on LJs today.” -- - Billy

View WayneC's profile


14359 posts in 5108 days

#8 posted 10-31-2013 02:26 PM

I love it. There is no buy it now button on the Bad Axe site, just a make a down payment button. :)

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View HarveyDunn's profile


417 posts in 2742 days

#9 posted 10-31-2013 02:50 PM

Forgive my ignorance, but what are the characteristics that make a saw a “dovetail saw”? And is that kind of saw the right kind for doing other kinds of joinery cuts, like box joints, tall miters, etc?

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

6839 posts in 3504 days

#10 posted 10-31-2013 03:07 PM

I have that Veritas that Manitario linked and really like it, besides it’s a little more affordable than a lot of the others. . I have smallish hands and find it maybe a trifle small even for me, but it’s still a nice saw.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View jordanp's profile


1086 posts in 2951 days

#11 posted 10-31-2013 03:13 PM

Correct me if i’m wrong people.
A Dovetail saw is typically a smaller 8-10” Saw set to a rip cut with very little set in the teeth it is also generally a high TPI (Tooth per inch) than you typical Rip saw. Most Dovetail saws are 12-16 TPI . They are also considered a “Back saw” which has a stiffening back plate to keep the blade straight and rigid.

All this combined makes the saw cut accurate straight lines down the grain of the wood on smaller stock 1/4 – 1” typically.

Some People may also use a Gent’s Saw to do Dovetail work or a smaller Tenon saw.

I personally use an old Blue Grass Gent’s saw that i purchased on the cheap, But i’m still learning/working on my dovetails.

And yes you can do finger joints with them as well, any small ripping cut on thinner stock wood can benefit from a good dovetail saw.

-- J. Palmer Woodworks - Rockwall TX -I woke up this morning thinking “man, I really hope someone posted some soul scarring sh*t on LJs today.” -- - Billy

View bondogaposis's profile


5953 posts in 3362 days

#12 posted 10-31-2013 03:19 PM

Bad Axe Tools makes dovetail saws with handles in several sizes. They tell you how to measure your hand so you can order a saw that fits.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Shannan's profile


28 posts in 3680 days

#13 posted 10-31-2013 03:50 PM

Thank you so much, everyone! I’m in the middle of a crazy work sprint and haven’t had a chance to read through all the replies in detail yet and continue my research, but I’m hoping to do that tonight. You all rock! :-) I’ll let you know what I decide to go with!

View Richforever's profile


757 posts in 4731 days

#14 posted 10-31-2013 05:33 PM

The Lie-Neilsen progressive pitch dovetail saw is MAGIC in your hands! (Oh yeah, it makes great dovetails too!)

-- Rich, Seattle, WA

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