I am trying to learn dovetails. My first/second/third show slow improvement but I still have a lot of progress left. The most difficult part for me is starting the cut since the saw tends to want to bind or skip when first biting into the wood. Using the chisel + marking knife to cut a small groove helps. Since it is brand new I am fairly sure it is my technique and not the saw being dull.

I got the Veritas Dovetail Saw (14 TPI). I read this was a good saw for the price point, but that the better quality saws would be heavier to help start the cut.

I am wondering if I can simply add some weight to the spine of my Veritas dovetail saw?

  • 1
    How are you starting the cut?The other hand should be acting as a stop on one side of the blade until the cut is deep enough to provide its own guidance, and you should be letting the blade cut under its own weight rather than pressing it down...
    – keshlam
    Jan 24 '17 at 23:50
  • Also, start the cut with a gentle pulling stroke.
    – PProteus
    Jan 25 '17 at 1:09
  • 2
    It may seem counterintuitive, but you will have an easier time learning to saw on hard wood than soft wood. If you're working with spruce / pine / fir / cedar, try poplar instead. Hard enough to cut nicely, but soft enough to give you a little wiggle room when you fit your dovetails together.
    – Mr. Kevin
    Jan 25 '17 at 1:20
  • You could certainly add weight but I don't think you'll want to. I doubt you'll find it helps that much initially, and it won't do anything to improve feel deeper in the cut. If you want to try you can do this without any permanent change to the saw quite easily, lead weights stuck on with Blu-Tack or similar would do it just to test it out.
    – Graphus
    Jan 25 '17 at 9:34
  • Questions: are you starting the cut with a push stroke or pulling? If pushing change to doing the opposite, it'll make a massive difference — just draw the saw towards you until it has made a definite starter groove. Starting the cut towards the heel or toe of the saw, or in the middle? If using the toe or middle switch to using the portion of blade nearest your hand. Practising on softwoods? They're fibrous and grabby so can be tricky to begin with, a softer hardwood like poplar makes a great training wood.
    – Graphus
    Jan 25 '17 at 9:40

I use the same saw and am quite satisfied with its performance. I might be wrong, but I don't think adding weight will help. While a chiseled line helps, I do not depend upon it to control the blade. I make the first few draws with only the weight of the saw to begin the track for the blade, cutting into an edge rather than across a face of the board. My other hand's thumb serves as a fence to help guide the blade in a straight line. As the blade begins cutting into the edge I set my blade to the lines on the top and face continuing to cut into the edge. Only as the blade begins to be guided by the cut in the board do I begin strokes with any force.

There are a lot of good videos on youtube that can demonstrate best practices. One recommendation is to check out Paul Sellers vidoes.


I would say just the opposite. The saw should be lighter to start a cut more easily.

When you are starting a cut you should be supporting the weight of the saw with your hand so that it is barely resting on the work-piece. Only once you have an established kerf so the saw won't skip should you rest the weight of the saw on the piece.

There was a good video on the Renaissance Woodworker blog a while ago about this.

  • 1
    Most stuff I have seen on the higher end dovetail saws mention that they have a lot more weight and that it helps prevent them from trying to force the cut. For example Lie Nielson or Rob Cosman. I am far from an expert but assume that the huge following these guys get is due to their superior saw performance.
    – jbord39
    Jan 28 '17 at 4:02
  • @jbord39 This is one of those things that's probably a matter of preference rather than a right/wrong. Older "gent's saws" which were specifically made for small joint work including dovetailing were much smaller and lighter (some I believe were deliberately made light) than the pro-level tools made in the same period for doing the same job. Obviously both work well in the hands of their respective users. This is partly why I said above that I don't think adding weight will be a benefit, but you should try it out and see how you get on with it.
    – Graphus
    Jan 28 '17 at 9:47

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.