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
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