Chris Schwarz's Blog

New Lie-Nielsen Progressive-pitch Saw

In all hand aspects of hand-tool woodworking, how you begin an operation with a hammer, plane or saw greatly influences your chance of success. Maintaining a proper strike, stroke or slice is far easier than trying to recover from a botched one.

So it makes sense that a tool should be designed to be easy to begin an operation. That’s why some hammers have a cross-pane, some joinery planes have long fences and some saws have specially shaped teeth.

With saws, the simplest way to make them easier to start is to put some fine teeth at the toe of the tool and coarse teeth at the heel. You begin the cut with short strokes using the fine teeth and then lengthen your strokes to unlock the speed of the coarse teeth. And that’s exactly what Lie-Nielsen Toolworks has done with a customized version of its dovetail saw that is now available for a $10 upcharge.

This special saw with its progressive pitch begins with 16 teeth per inch (tpi) at the toe and ends with 9 tpi at the heel. Otherwise, the saw is the same as the stock Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw , the teeth are filed rip and the brass back and handle are unchanged.

Thomas Lie-Nielsen loaned me a prototype of one of these saws about 18 months ago to test, and to be honest I didn’t take a liking to it at first. I’ve never had difficulty starting a dovetail saw (everyone learns this with practice) and for some reason found the progressive-pitch saw a bit harder to control than the stock Lie-Nielsen I’ve been using for years.

The fine teeth at the toe of the progressive-pitch dovetail saw.

But I kept using the progressive-pitch model, part out of stubbornness and part out of the knowledge that all freshly sharpened rip saws are a bit grabby and jerky in the cut. After a few months of use, the saw began to break in and I began to , grudgingly , see its merits.

The coarse teeth at the heel of the saw. (This photo was taken at the same magnification as the one above.)

Now it’s my favorite dovetail saw. Not because it starts easy (it does) but because it will fly through a cut thanks to the ravenous coarse teeth at the heel. Now that the saw and I understand each another, each cut goes something like this: Two short strokes at the toe to begin the kerf, followed by three long strokes along the entire toothline, followed by a short stroke or so to just touch the baseline of my joint.

These last little strokes to hit my baseline can be made anywhere on the toothline of the tool , so if I’m really close to my baseline I’ll use the fine teeth at the toe. If I have a little ways to go I’ll use the faster teeth in the middle. I started doing this out of instinct (not cleverness) and didn’t realize I was doing it at first.

This week, Thomas sent me an e-mail saying that his company is ready to start making the progressive-pitch saw for customers. The price is $135. The saw isn’t yet on the company’s web site, but if you call and ask, they will be happy to take your order.

– Christopher Schwarz

10 thoughts on “New Lie-Nielsen Progressive-pitch Saw

  1. Tim Crossan

    Chris,
    Does this LN saw cut as crisply as your Gramercy? I am getting ready to buy my first dovetail saw and am considering the two of them.

    Thanks,
    Tim Crossan

  2. Mike

    You can use a single 6" double extra slim. I would probably choose to use a 4" or 5" DES (or both for different parts).

    iirc, the 5" LN sells are Grobet, which have such nice tight arrises that it would do the whole thing at the expense of using up a file faster.

    But write LN–get it from the horse’s mouth.

    Take care, Mike

  3. Christopher Schwarz

    Andy,

    I’ve stoned plenty of saws to remove set or to equalize the set when the saw was pulling to one side. Will it fix your problem? Perhaps. I certainly wouldn’t be chicken to try it because resharpening it can fix any problem in short order.

    But before you try the oilstone solution, try this: Get a piece of wood that is tough to saw. Maple. White oak. Any exotic. Saw 20 lines into the end grain to the full depth under the saw’s back. Try to follow a pencil line the entire time.

    Then cut a tenon in cherry and see if that fixes your problem. I bet it will.

    Chris

  4. Andy

    Chris,
    Thanks for the reply. I’m wondering if the process of sharpening the saws is not quite "complete," and whether a light pass with an oilstone on either side of the teeth, with care taken to apply very little pressure (equally) to both sides (to avoid upsetting the balance of the slight set) would eliminate the burr, and with it, the jerkiness — have you tried this? I have a jerky LN tenon saw (rip) but am too chicken to apply the stone to it!
    -Andy

  5. Christopher Schwarz

    Andy,

    Good question about freshly sharpened rip saws. The sharp corner of each tooth can have a little wire edge on it, or it’s just a little *too* sharp at first. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but this is just my experience.

    Once the saw has seen some use it stops being so grabby and cuts smoothly as those sharp edges get a hair rounded.

    It seems a bit like a diamond stone. When you first get a DMT they are wicked-aggressive, but I don’t think they cut as smoothly. After a few months they cut slower, but the scratch pattern is more consistent and they work smoothly.

    I know this isn’t a brilliant explanation. Apologies.

    Chris

  6. Christopher Schwarz

    Michael,

    If you are happy with your tools, no matter whose they are, I’d stick with them. Changing the tools you work with all the time makes it hard to progress into new areas of the craft. I should know. My job requires me to use new tools all the time and (though I’m definitely *not* complaining) I do notice this effect.

    And as to Steve’s comment, I’d give them a call and see if they’d reform your teeth. I should have asked that question myself.

    Chris

  7. Steve Spear

    I wonder if LN would retrofit their existing saws with this new blade when returned for sharpening.

  8. Michael Rogen

    Chris,
    I too have a Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw as does many others and have always been pretty happy with it and never really had any issues starting a cut. I can’t imagine that it makes beginning a cut that much easier to warrant those of us, or rather myself to go out and spend $135 on this new and improved version.
    I have three Lie Nielsen saws so I obviously like the products very much. I would love to hear your take on this.
    Thanks,
    Michael

Comments are closed.