New Tenon Saw From Lie-Nielsen Toolworks | Popular Woodworking Magazine
 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Sawing Techniques, Saws

In the world of backsaws, almost all the modern makers have perfected their version of a dovetail saw. But when it comes to tenon saws, things are all over the map.

Some are difficult to start or hard to push. Some are too small. Some are a bit unbalanced. Some have teeth that are too fine. I formed these opinions after trying several examples of tenon saws by modern makers and many vintage saws (teaching classes about sawing has an occasional advantage).

Until recently, my three favorite saws for cutting tenons were:

1. A Wenzloff & Sons Kenyon-style dovetail saw with a thin .025″-thick sawplate, 10 ppi and relaxed rake at the toe.

2. A Wenzloff & Sons Kenyon-style sash saw with a .025″-thick sawplate, 13 ppi and a bit of relaxed rake throughout the sawplate.

3. A Garlick & Sons vintage sash saw with the same specifications as the Kenyon sash.

Now Lie-Nielsen Toolworks has created a new tenon saw that soared onto my best-of list. If you are in the market for a tenon saw, you cannot do better.

What’s different? Plenty. For starters, it has a thin .020″ sawplate with minimal set , about .004″ on each side. A few thousandths here and there might not sound like much, but it makes a considerable difference (especially compared to Lie-Nielsen’s standard tenon saws, which are .032″ thick). This new saw absolutely flies through the wood with noticeably less effort.

The svelte sawplate also makes the saw a featherweight at 1 lb. 6.7 oz. And it has exquisite balance as a result.

The sawplate is long and tall. The blade is 16″ long and there is 4″ under the back. The long length is an asset. I find that a long saw helps you saw straighter and requires fewer strokes to get to your desired depth of cut.

The depth of the sawplate is an asset because it puts the brass back high up above your work. This might seem like a demerit. Nope. With the back in the air, it’s easier for you to feel when your saw is plumb. And most tenon cheeks and shoulders are sawn with the back plumb.

The Lie-Nielsen saw is filed with 11 ppi and has a bit of a relaxed rake. I found it immensely easy to start, fast in the kerf and smooth-cutting thanks to the hand-filed teeth. (Yes, Thomas Lie-Nielsen reports that the company is hand-filing saws at the factory.)

The tote is unchanged from the standard Lie-Nielsen tenon saw.

So what’s the downside? Technically, a thinner sawplate is more fragile than a thicker one. During the last few years, however, I’ve been using saws with thinner and thinner plates, and I’m convinced the fragility of a thin plate isn’t a big deal. Sure, you can kink it (you can kink any saw). But the Lie-Nielsen doesn’t feel anything like a thin Japanese kataba saw, which can have a sawplate that’s .018″ thick and no rigid back to support it. Those saws require real skill to wield.

The 16″ tenon saw is $175 and is available now from Lie-Nielsen.

– Christopher Schwarz

Looking for More Woodworking Information?
– Sign up for our newsletters to get free plans, techniques and reviews HERE.
– Looking for free articles from Woodworking Magazine? Click HERE.
– Like hand tools? Read all our online articles on hand work HERE.
– Want to subscribe to Woodworking Magazine? It’s $19.96/year. Click HERE.

Recommended Posts
Showing 22 comments
  • Manuel Cardoso-Lopes

    I think I need some help with technique, I am totally new to handsaws & love my crosscut & the finer toothed rip back saws that I have bought, but, when ripping with the courser 10ppi back saw I constantly battle with the saw getting "stuck’.
    I telephoned Deneb all the way from Johannesburg, South Africa & went through the problem that I was having with my LN 14 inch 10ppi rip toothed Tenon Saw, I asked him if it was possible to resharpen this saw in the same way as my 15ppi Rip Carcass Saw which work so well on our tough woods.
    He mentioned the new thinner plated 16inch 11ppi Tenon saw & I promptly ordered it plus a new 12ppi Crosscut Panel Saw
    When they arrived, I tried them both immediatly & fell in love with the Panel Saw.
    The new thinner plated 11ppi Saw, although far easier than the 10ppi thicker plated saw, still hooks up.
    It feels as if the teeth hook up with the far end of the cut & I am beginning to feel that it could that I am approuching the whole process incorrectly.
    Again I feel that the same saw with the same thin tapered plate & 15ppi would cut slower but more pleasantly (a bit like peddling a bicycle up hill in a high gear)
    As better people than myself at this game are raving about the ease of this saws action, please help with some technique pointers.
    By the way, all of my "working" Saws mentioned above are Lie-Nielsens, so I am comparing apples


  • Mark

    I couldn’t say exactly how much they were off by (I should have measured them). The dovetail was probably a "few thousands" and possibly not much to be worried about, but the carcass saw seemed to have a bit more of a wave and was enough to raise concern – especially after paying that kind of coin.

    I decided not to take any chances and returned them both yesterday. Needless to say while those are being returned I went ahead and ordered their equivalents from LN. I guess we’ll see how that works out. Thanks again.

  • Christopher Schwarz


    A little wave is OK in many saws. How much? Until it makes the saw kink or go off line.

    However, I’d definitely return it. You paid a lot for the saw. It should be perfect. Hope this helps.


  • Mark Briley


    Speaking of saws, I just received a Wensloff & Sons carcass saw from Lee Valley. The first thing I did after taking it out of it’s box was to sight down the tooth side of the blade in the light. To my disappointment, there appears to be a slight "bend", "wave" in the blade about 2" from the handle. I’m wondering if this is normal because I purchased a Wensloff & Sons 16" rip tenon saw and it appears as straight as an arrow when I sight down the blade.

    I’m new to woodworking, and not knowing much about saws, I’m not sure if I should return it or not. Is this something I don’t need to be concerned with, and will it affect the saw’s accuracy? Maybe the obvious fix would be to try and bend it back. If so, what would be the best way without damaging it?

    Mark Briley

  • Russell Bookout

    I found that the thinner blade took some getting used to – a bit like changing from my comfortable old truck to a sprightly sports car…I’m beginning to quite like it, though. Part of my discomfort may also have been due to the high handle position (wide plate) that felt a bit unstable to me after using the smaller tennon and dovetail saws.

    Perhaps the difference between this and other saws of the kind is that this is a furniture maker’s rather than a carpenter’s tool.

  • Adrian

    I’ll have to try the LN progressive pitch saw on some tighter grained woods. I was testing it (and trying to break it in) on oak. It tends to work ok at the fine teeth, but if I try to use the coarser teeth it tends to get stuck.

  • Ray Schwanenberger

    I have the LN progressive pitch tenon saw, and have found it more difficult to cut in coarse grained woods (oak, ash) than in tighter grained woods (cherry, poplar, maple). I wonder if the new LN tenon saw does a better job in coarse grained woods? What kind of wood was this new saw tested on?


  • Adrian

    I have a Lie-Nielsen progressive pitch tenon saw, but I haven’t managed to get it to work as well as the rip tooth dozuki I got from Lee Valley for less than half the price.

  • Dan Pope

    I had a similar conversation with Deneb Puchalski at the WIA conference in November. He told me the 16" tenon saw was expected to be in production after January 09. So here it is.

    Have you received a prototype of one of Mark Harrell’s Bad Axe Tool Works saws of similar specs?

  • John Walkowiak

    I would think that for comparisons to be fair, all the saws considered would at the least have to be sharpened by the same person, to the same specs and tested on a piece of wood from the same board. Is this not the way chisels and plane irons are tested and compared with each other?

    When that is done, then the other things such plate thickness, handle design and hang, and weight can be evaluated. And there are historical precedents for all of these. These features have evolved in the last 250 years, and for about 200 years the changes were done to improve function in some way and or to make them specific for certain tasks. The makers and the users today don’t have to re-invent the wheel, just look in the rear view mirror to find what will probably work best.

  • gdblake

    I find this announcement very interesting. Especially considering that at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event held at the Popular Woodworking I had a lengthy discussion with Tom about backsaws and told him I would really like a 16" tenon saw with 4 3/16" cutting depth, and 11 tpi with a slight rake so the saw would be smoother than my Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw. Tom made my day by offering to custom make the saw for me. We agreed on a price and I gladly paid cash. I’m still waiting for the saw because I complicated the order by specifying the handle without stain since I’m not a fan of the funny orangish red color that is currently being used. This write up makes me all the more anxious to receive the saw and take it for a test drive. What I’d love to know is if Tom decided to make this a standard item before or after I placed my custom order.

  • Patrick

    What a timely blog entry, I just received my Large Tenon Saw (xcut) from Adria Tools. The Adria saw and the LN saw specs are very close. I have the full set of Adria saws and love them, the fit, finish and ease of use are great.

    Chris, have you had a chance to compare the two makers yet?

  • Jeremy

    I failed to mention that my wife was NOT upset, in fact she asked why I did not get a new set of chisels too. WoW, shes a keeper. Definetly not part of the group of wives trying to rid the world for the Schwartz.

  • Jeremy

    I was using Jap saws, then I went to a LN tool show, and I had the most wonderful experiance, 30 min alone with Deneb Puchalski. I walked away with the progressive pitch saw. By far the best tool I have ever purchased. My only regret is not sneaking more money out of the house when I went to the show. I even kept it hidden for a while, but the LN t-shirt I bought gave it all away.

  • Richard Dawson


    This is one of the very best web sites around, and it is partly because Chris isn’t the only one with intelligent thoughts. Your opinion is valued, and appreciated.



  • Samson

    Andy asked: I have one question about the thin sawplate – why is it so important? Why would a thicker saw plate be any different in performance other

    Physics. It takes less work to remove less wood. If you have a table saw, perhaps you are familiar with thin kerf blades: they allow smaller cantractor saws to cut thicker and harder wood more efficiently (among other things, like less waste). In hand saws, this also makes a difference – when you are not having to muscle the thing through, the experience is more pleasant not to mention that the saw can be easier to control (your form is likely to be better).

  • Samson


    I know you didn’t ask me, but for what it’s worth, in your situations I would recommend buying the three Gramercy offerings:

    Carcase/Tenon rip
    Carcase/Tenon crosscut

    These will cut most any tenons or dovetails you can think of in medium sized (or small) furniture. I think all three would be $469 or so:

    I have no affiliation. Just a satisfied customer.

    Good luck,


  • Richard Dawson


    In the Spring 2008 Woodworking Magazine — Understanding Western Backsaws — you wrote, "I think that most woodworkers who want to use Western handsaws can do all the common operations with three backsaws: A dovetail saw, a large backsaw that’s filed crosscut (either a sash or a carcase saw), and a large backsaw that’s filed rip (either a sash or a tenon saw)". Since then, there has been considerable discussion regarding rip versus crosscut, the coping saw versus the fret saw. It goes on and is very interesting and informative.

    However, for one contemplating hand cut joinery, the options in the choice of tools is a bit overwhelming. I recognize that the kind of joinery and individual proclivities are important factors in selecting the right kit, making a generalized recommendation difficult. Still, especially based on your recent research, what saws do you suggest for one who wants to take the plunge? Assume that most work will be drawers and light furniture, using stock typically around 3/4" thick.

    Thanks for all the information, which I find very readable.


  • andy

    Hi Chris,
    I have one question about the thin sawplate – why is it so important? Why would a thicker saw plate be any different in performance other than instead of splitting the line, your action is now leave the line? Any overage could be negated with a rabbet plane or a large shoulder for final fit.


  • dave brown

    How does the new LN large tenon saw compare to the Wenzloff large tenon saw (19", Seaton-inspired)?

  • John ONeill

    You never commented at length on the Lie Nielsen panel saw. It also has a .020 saw plate. Your thoughts please


  • dave brown

    How does the new LN large tenon saw compare to the Wenzloff large tenon saw (19", Seaton-inspired)?


Start typing and press Enter to search