Sloppy chiseled dovetails... Looking for a coping saw approach...

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Forum topic by Bart Steed posted 01-21-2014 02:35 AM 4659 views 1 time favorited 21 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Bart Steed

24 posts in 2149 days

01-21-2014 02:35 AM

Topic tags/keywords: coping saw dovetail

I’ve been following Paul Sellers on YouTube as I continue to learn this magnificent new hobby/trade. One of his methods I found intriguing was his approach to sawing out the dovetail joinery with a backsaw and then chiseling out the waste from both sides using a knife wall as a guide. Now he is obviously an incredibly skilled craftsman but I cannot yet say the same for myself. I’m getting better but Id like to explore another method if even just to convince me to continue my persistence with the chisels.

I’ve been told that a coping saw can clear waste quite nicely. I do not yet own one of these and am looking into picking one up. With that being said, does anyone have experience with either the Robert Larson or the Olsen

I would love an LJ opinion here. Thanks in advance!

-- Bart Steed, Apprentice, Ohio USA

21 replies so far

View ksSlim's profile


1302 posts in 3403 days

#1 posted 01-21-2014 03:05 AM

I favor a “new Concept” brand fret saw.
Works like a coping saw but with a thinner blade.
Blade is like a skip tooth scrollsaw blade. checkout the highland ww website.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View Marc5's profile


304 posts in 3855 days

#2 posted 01-21-2014 03:14 AM

I use a jewelers saw with a 11 tpi skip tooth blade. This is a very efficient set up.

-- Marc

View Tim's profile


3859 posts in 2474 days

#3 posted 01-21-2014 03:15 AM

Haha, I spent so much time cleaning up the messy line the coping saw left I was going to try out the chopping method you described next. I think there’s a reason he uses each method but I haven’t caught what the reason is. I think after some practice with the coping saw and now that I can sharpen better I may have a better time cleaning up my dovetails.

The Olsen is decent, but mine doesn’t hold the angle as well as every other LJ that recommends one seems to say it does. Could be I’m doing it wrong. That Amazon price is pretty expensive, but if it’s the only thing you’re getting I suppose the shipping is the same. Try tools for working wood, though they are out right now of the skip tooth blades everyone recommends.

View Bart Steed's profile

Bart Steed

24 posts in 2149 days

#4 posted 01-21-2014 03:20 AM

The Knew Concepts are a bit over my budget (saving for a LN jointer plane mwahah). I think both of your suggestions point to a smaller blade kerf and a skip tooth blade. Great advice so far, thanks! I love…

-- Bart Steed, Apprentice, Ohio USA

View JayT's profile


6296 posts in 2724 days

#5 posted 01-21-2014 03:25 AM

I don’t have a coping saw recommendation, but before you give up chopping dovetails, check out David Barron’s video, “Hand cut dovetails made easy”. I like Paul Sellers and have learned a lot from his videos, but Barron’s is the best guide for hand cut dovetails I’ve seen. I’m on the tablet or I’d link it for you, but a google search will get you there.

His combo approach is excellent, but I’ve used the same concepts with chisels only and feel the results are pretty good. I just need more practice, especially on saw technique.

-- - In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 3017 days

#6 posted 01-21-2014 03:57 AM

Fine Woodworking just completed a tool review of coping saws. You should read the article.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View crank49's profile


4032 posts in 3484 days

#7 posted 01-21-2014 04:12 AM

Knew Concepts are nice and I’m sure there is a lot more craftsmanship involved in making their saw compared to a typical jeweler’s fret saw but I can pick from dozens of fret saws priced between $8.00 and $24.00 and then along comes Knew Concepts at $100.00 They even make a powered fret saw for only $2395.00 I don’t think so. Good blades are more important than the saw frame anyway.

View Bart Steed's profile

Bart Steed

24 posts in 2149 days

#8 posted 01-21-2014 04:17 AM

Wow! A lot of responses!

@Tim: LOL – It does work, I just need more practice and I think it takes just a bit too long. I read that same complaint in a review. Also heard that changing the blades is tedious.

@JayT: I will certainly look into that! I find myself simply fascinated by joinery at this point. I love learning the different techniques.

@DKV: Thank you! I am looking at the article now.

Thanks fellas!

-- Bart Steed, Apprentice, Ohio USA

View Bart Steed's profile

Bart Steed

24 posts in 2149 days

#9 posted 01-21-2014 04:20 AM

@DKV: Bah! The article is premium content available only to paid subscription holders. Shame too, sounds perfect forwhat I am after. Thanks anyhow!

-- Bart Steed, Apprentice, Ohio USA

View Bart Steed's profile

Bart Steed

24 posts in 2149 days

#10 posted 01-21-2014 01:36 PM

@JayT: David Barron’s, “Hand cut dovetails made easy” was simply wonderful. The magnet and japsaw seem like a very surefire way to achieve precision. I also really liked the dovetail alignment jigset he made. My vise wouldn’t allow me to drop material all the way down through the jaws though, as I only have a tail vise at the moment. I’ve got a new Wilton 79C in my future though so I will certainly be trying this. Thank you for the wonderful video suggestion!

-- Bart Steed, Apprentice, Ohio USA

View waho6o9's profile


8771 posts in 3090 days

#11 posted 01-21-2014 01:51 PM

Jerry’s review on Veritas’ Dovetail jig made me decide to purchase it with
the saw. I’m fed up with coping saws and the clean up and this will pass
that step, I think. LOL.,42884

View mds2's profile


310 posts in 2457 days

#12 posted 01-21-2014 02:05 PM

I’m new to dovetailing too. I started practicing a couple weeks ago and chiseling out the waste ala Paul Sellers was just taking too long. I cant afford the knew concepts saw either, but I do have a cheapass coping saw. I wasnt having very much luck with it either, until i found these:

Super thin spiral blades! They cut easily in any direction and they make them for about any type of saw and they are cheap! The 6” coping saw blades fit my 6 1/2” coping saw no problem. Made things a lot easier for me.

View Bart Steed's profile

Bart Steed

24 posts in 2149 days

#13 posted 01-21-2014 02:06 PM

@waho6o9: Ok, now that thing is cool! It wouldn’t allow me to use my new Crown 8” dovetail backsaw, but they even have a version that comes with a nice japsaw. Really really cool, thank you!

-- Bart Steed, Apprentice, Ohio USA

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8547 posts in 2495 days

#14 posted 01-21-2014 02:33 PM

I prefer the coping saw method. I’ve gotten decent at sawing barely above my baseline so it requires very little chiseling.

As the FWW review states, both the Olsen and Lee Valley saws are very good. For the price, you may as well try one. You’ll use it for more than just dovetails.

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

View Loren's profile


10477 posts in 4161 days

#15 posted 01-21-2014 02:37 PM

I cope them, but I don’t try to get on the line. The coping just
gets the bulk of the waste out of the way quick. Paring to
the line still needs careful doing if you want them to
look just right.

showing 1 through 15 of 21 replies

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