When cutting dovetails, I’ve always cleared out most of the waste with a coping saw. Why? I learned it that way in 1993 and am faster with the coping saw than I am with a chisel.
Even though I’ve been dovetailing for almost 20 years, I’m always looking for small things to improve my speed and tighten my fit. This morning while cutting the endless dovetails for this Campaign Secretary I had a thought.
This can be good at times, or a waste of a good time.
One of the annoying things about coping saw blades is that they have too much set. My much-beloved Olson blades are .015” thick but cut a kerf of .025” – that’s .005” of set to each side.
As a result of this extraneous set, it can be hard to drop the coping saw blade into the kerf left by my dovetail saw, which is .020”. The tips of the teeth stop me from dropping the blade to the bottom of the kerf and making an abrupt left turn to saw the waste. As a result, I have to saw out the waste in two sweeps, one left and one right.
This morning I filed back the set on my coping saw blade. I took about five swipes on each side of the blade with a fine mill file. After I finished, the thickness of the blade plus its teeth equaled .017”.
Then I went to work. The blade dropped to the bottom of my existing kerf and I was able to clear the waste of my pin board with only one sweep.
Doesn’t the saw jam without the set? Perhaps it would if I were cutting wet softwood, but in dry hardwood – mahogany in this case – the blade sailed right through without a squeak.
This got me thinking that perhaps I could try to bend out the set in a blade using a metalworking vise like Mike Wenzloff shows in this video I shot.
— Christopher Schwarz
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