I spent this past “Woodworking in America” weekend demonstrating techniques and advising others to learn as many methods to accomplish any given woodworking technique, then choose the method that worked best for them. When I returned to the shop today, I thought it best to take my own advice.
Dovetails came to mind first, so I decided that I would explore a new method for fitting pins to tails. No, I’m not about to cut tails first (at least not yet). I’m going to focus on using a coping saw to remove waste , usually I chop the waste from the joint with a chisel. I’ve worked the coping saw method before, but never with the idea that it might be a better technique.
During our Monday morning meeting our editor mentioned that he had a Knew Concepts titanium saw that was unveiled at the conference, so along with this change in technique, I could compare a traditional coping saw to the new Knew Concepts saw and take my own advice.
I dug out a couple pieces of pine, marked the pins then grabbed a dovetail saw to make the defining cuts. I picked up a coping saw and set about sawing the tail waste from the stock. I adjusted the saw and went for it. Being a rookie using this method, I stayed well off the scribe line which left plenty to clean up. Chopping out the balance of the waste was fairly easy due to the fact that there was little resistance to the chisel blade as I worked back to the line. And the stock being pine didn’t hurt, I’m sure.
Next up was the Knew Concepts saw. There is quite a difference between the Knew Concept and the traditional saws. The Knew Concepts saw is way lighter. There surely would be a difference if I spent the day dovetailing drawers for a highboy. Also, there is a big difference when adjusting the saw. On a traditional saw, you loosen the handle in order to rotate the blade, then tighten everything back before using the saw , occasionally the blade rotates as you tightened the handle.
The titanium saw has a quick tension lever. To rotate the blade, all you do is release the lever, turn the knobs that hold the blade secure then make the change , there are positive stops at 90 degrees and 45 degrees in both directions. After the knobs are locked, flip the tension lever and you’re back to work. There is a problem with the knobs, however. The Saw Chris handed to me has the plastic knobs (knurled brass would be a cooler look) threaded in from the left-hand side. As I used the saw, I found those knobs distracting. I wanted to switch the knobs to the opposite side, but if you’re right handed and an “index finger extended” sawyer (which I’m not), one knob would then be in your way as you grip the handle. It wouldn’t be good to change. However, if you’re a left-handed user as well as an index-finger extender, switching the knobs would be a benefit. What is all boils down to is that you can switch the knobs to the opposite sides if that works for you.
Getting back to the tension lever, dialing in the optimal tension is a snap. Release the tension totally, then spin the brass knob a turn or two before flipping the lever to restore the tension. The cam lock pushes against the brass knob to set the tension. Pushing the tension to its limit, I notice the added stress began to bend the adjustment screw. Of course, optimal tension does not equate to over tensioned. As I worked through this exercise, I noticed little movement in the saw’s frame. In fact, there were no alignment issues to be seen. You got to love titanium.
All in all, I’m not a connoisseur of coping saws. The traditional saw does what I need it to do, just as a eight year old beater car can get you to the store and back. If you are that connoisseur, I’ll bet titanium is in your future. Heck, even I would rather drive a “fresh off the showroom” sports car if I had the choice.
I plan to stay with this dovetail technique variation to see if it is better than my regular method of work. To do so, I’ll have to get closer to the lines and make sure I have my saw close at hand.