Review By Dean Bielanowski  Veritas Website -

Veritas Dovetail Saw

By Dean Bielanowski

Open up a set of drawers on any type of cabinet, and if you see dovetail construction, it is a good sign that the item was made with at least a fair level of attention to detail and not just slapped together as a mass-produced item of furniture.

It is true that just about anyone these days can craft pretty much perfect dovetail joints with a router and a decent dovetailing jig, but hand-cutting dovetails is still an art form, requiring planning, careful layout and good sawing and chisel skills.

At the heart of a good hand-crafted dovetail joint is a quality hand saw, and today we take a look at one of the latest items in the Veritas line of fine woodworking tools, their new dovetail saw.

The Veritas Dovetail Saw
It is true that you can make through dovetail joints with just about any saw. Even a coarse framing saw could be used, but its going to take a lot of careful work and may only be useful on timbers that are not prone to chipping due to the coarse tooth pattern on these saws. So, generally, a good dovetail saw will have a larger number of teeth per inch (TPI) to produce a finer cut in all materials and aid in greater user control of the cut. And because dovetail joints predominantly involve ripping type cuts along the grain, a tooth pattern and geometry that suits rip type cuts is preferred.

The Veritas Dovetail Saw offers 14 ripping teeth per inch along its 9 1/2" blade length with a set of 0.003" per side. The blade itself is crafted from 0.020" thick high carbon steel. The teeth have a rake angle of 14 degrees with an included angle of 60 degrees. The teeth are not hardened, which means they can be sharpened by a saw sharpening professional if when they become dull. This is the type of saw you want to keep for a long time. The cheaper saws with heat hardened teeth cannot be easily sharpened and must be thrown away when they dull.

Being a dovetail saw, it is important that the blade is rigid and remains straight when cutting. Any blade flex would affect the end result of the joint with unsightly gaps showing up due to bowed cuts. The saw spine is what holds the blade rigid during a cut. Often these are made of brass or other hard metals but the Veritas saw offers a different type of spine, one that wraps up and over the top of the saw handle, and one that is made of a new material mix. Stainless steel powder (for weight) and glass fibers (for stiffness) are bonded together with a polymer resin and then shaped via injection moulding to produce the spine shape. While the handle can be easily separated from the saw, the spine, blade and handle virtually act as one solid, stiff unit, allowing the user to make accurate cuts with confidence. I like the feel of the saw during its sawing action. There is never a time where you feel you are battling to control the saw, rather than focusing on controlling the actual cut.

And speaking of handles, it is crafted from Bubinga and its shape comes from traditional Lee Valley antique saws. It is a very nice fit in the hand, well, my hand at least and I see no need to change it. If you preferred another handle design however, you can retrofit your own handle to the saw. Connection is via a single brass screw. Instructions and measurement diagrams for making substitute handles to fit the saw spine are provided in the box. But as mentioned, I saw no need to change what is already there.

The saw on the whole is very well balanced, and most of all, comfortable to use. Making controlled and precise cuts seems very easy once you have a start on the cut. But the critical factor is making the initial saw cut accurately and at the right angle. Doing so provides a great reference point and saw setup as you make the rest of the cut. Consider the saw as an extension of your arm. Make smooth and consistent strokes for the best cutting results.

In Use
I personally found the saw to be better on hardwoods than on softwoods. Softwoods tend to require a very sharp blade to make clean cuts with no splintering and while the Veritas dovetail saw is indeed quite sharp, it doesn't beat a good Japanese pull saw in terms of sharpness and cleanliness of cuts on very soft timber. However, finding a Japanese dovetail saw as solid as the Veritas saw will be hard! Also, on the flip side, the Veritas saw does seem to work better on hardwoods than my Japanese pull saws, at least in my experience.

A good dovetail saw is as important to hand-making a dovetail joint as is the initial joint layout and marking. The Veritas dovetail saw has all the features you need to create a clean dovetail shoulder cut. It is solid, has weight (but no too much to be heavy and tiresome to use), remains rigid and straight during a cut, but most of all, is very comfortable. Cuts produced quite smooth edges when good sawing technique was employed, resulting in clean fitting dovetail joints. Overall another nice product from the Veritas line!

The Dovetail saw retails for US$65, which is quite good considering the cost of some comparable saws on the market. I expected it to sell for close to twice that much. A good investment if you want to try some hand cut dovetail joinery.

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