Frank Klausz, in his video titled "Dovetails for Drawers - The European way" takes two minutes to show how he makes his "3-minute dovetails". When cutting the tails, he uses what looks to be a custom turning saw, and achieves speedy and clean sharp turns.

In my limited experience with coping saws, sharp turns are difficult to execute, and will frustrate the blade into a bind, or cause the blade to break altogether.

Klausz' longer, taller saw blade appears to rotate (you can witness a lot of twist), but also strangely appears to leave sharp corners (not rounded) with no waste. It is mystifying. The tail cleanup is obviated completely. The pins (which were cut first) are just hammered in, to a convincing effect.

Skill aside, can this be reproduced? Preferably in the Americas, with readily available coping tools?

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Also: This image was taken from the european drawer video. But he does it again (although with a comedic attitude) in a different video on just the quick dovetails, while playing piano.

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    Note how the blade on Klausz's saw is held horizontally on one side and vertically on the other. This means that the blade is twisted 90 degrees. When the blade is pushed through the wood, the twist in the blade naturally rotates the saw. – Stephen Meschke Oct 31 '18 at 2:56
  • coping saws cut on the pull stroke, so this is different. it looks like a twist-as-you-push motion to me -- the blade's only twisted at the end of the stroke. – ww_init_js Oct 31 '18 at 6:55
  • "Skill aside, can this be reproduced? " You can't put the skill aside for this as it probably contributes about 50% of the success here. "Preferably in the Americas, with readily available coping tools?" Not easily no, because you'll struggle to (affordably) find a coping saw with anything like the tension of the saw in the video. But it is possible to recreate the saw Klausz is using, even if it means building it entirely from scratch and using a section of commercially available bandsaw for the blade. [contd] – Graphus Oct 31 '18 at 7:48
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    Now even ignoring the above, I don't think you should be trying to emulate this unless you're in a production workshop environment and speed is the key (this would today argue strongly in favour if them being done by machine anyway). Even Klausz himself wouldn't advise students cut all dovetails this way, his well-publicised advice on how to do dovetails elsewhere says as much. Plus pay attention to what he says at about 1:10 onwards in the second link. – Graphus Oct 31 '18 at 8:01
  • i'll try to find more information on what makes this saw special. i'm hoping this is detailed in one of his numerous articles. it's hard to take anything seriously in the second video. i particularly enjoyed the wisdom: "if it's too tight, don't force it, just use a bigger hammer" – ww_init_js Oct 31 '18 at 14:32

90 degree frame saw blade, courtesy of sawmillcreek forumsHe uses a special blade that has a 90˚ fold and a progressive teeth line. This blade is not well known outside Europe and then it's mostly known in Germany and Hungary. The name for the blade varies, try googling for "zinkensäge" or "zinkensägeblatt", there are close up images of this particular blade. Attached image is courtesy of a sawmillcreek.com's user Cliff Rohrabacher

  • This is useful info, but I'm not sure it's what Klausz is using in the video. In a couple of different contexts I recall reading that a conventional (generally quite thin) blade can be safely twisted by adjusting the two ends (by as much as 90° to each other, which is safe even over the short length of a coping saw blade). So that's what I assumed was being used here... and although it's very hard to be sure looking at the video afresh I can't see any clear indication that a zinkensäge is fitted. – Graphus Aug 13 '20 at 13:07
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    A twisted blade just doesn't work: you can twist it, but the wood pinches it so hard you can't move it, imagine trying a sharp turn with a coping saw. It won't saw straight too since the twist angle will be distributed over the whole length of the blade. It was tried by many people e.g. see Lost Art Press blog or sawmillcreek posts. Also, Klauzs demonstrated this blade in live presentations, the only difference from the pictured blade is that his blade has teeth on both vertical and horizontal sections. Please also note that this blade was advertised for rough work only by a manufacturer – user9049 Aug 13 '20 at 17:09

A few points:

1) You can make a frame saw yourself from scratch or from a kit (https://www.toolsforworkingwood.com/store/item/GT-BOWS.XX/Gramercy_Tools_Bow_Saw_Kits_and_Parts), buy one on ebay, etc.

2) The process in the video isn't as clean as you may think (see 2:25 of the quick dovetails video you linked to. If you zoom in you can clearly see the uneven nature of these dovetails. zoom_in

3) Klausz is working in pine. If you are in the ballpark of accuracy, you can hammer the two boards together and the pine will compress enough for the joint to close!

4) You don't need frame saws. In The Precision Handcutting of Dovetails: With a Sequence to the Author's Fifty Years As a Planemaker and User Hardcover by Cecil E. Pierce, Pierce uses a hacksaw and coping saw to cut dovetails. A coping saw will do the same 'trick' as the second frame saw.

5) A coping saw will turn in a similar way (i.e. under tension rotated 90 degrees), easier than the frame saw in the video. For me, the thin blade is slightly harder to cut a clean flat line due narrower blade, but this too, yields to practice.

6) You will notice that two saws are being used. The bigger saw, first used, leaves a wide kerf. That width gives enough 'wiggle room' to rotate the second saw somewhat before starting the cut, allowing the second saw to continue to rotate as it begins to cut. Neat trick, eh. In my experience, this is the reason for the two saws. If two saws weren't needed, Klausz would be even faster!

7) This skill, in my experience, isn't hard to learn. It isn't a '10 years to learn' but more like '30 joints to learn'. Go and buy a few pine boards and cut them into 8" lengths and cut dovetails in every piece. By the end of the first day, you too will be able bang together joints. You will also have a greater (but different) appreciation for Klausz's casual approach to laying out the joinery. :)

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    Excellent Answer. Only thing I'd disagree with is in 5 about a coping saw turning more easily than Klausz's turning saw, but that's not a major point. – Graphus Nov 5 '18 at 15:54
  • Fair point - to me the determining factors are the thickness of the blade, the width of the kerf, the height of the blade (from 'back' or 'top' to the teeth or 'bottom' and the tension of the blade. These can overlap to a great degree between different saws. As for myself, I use a jeweler's saw given to me years ago, due to the easy of tensioning and lack of exploration in my dotage. – ewm Nov 5 '18 at 18:32
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    No question you can generally do tighter radii with a coping saw than most turning saws as it's a function of blade width. But specific to this context, the (much) greater mass of the saw and the greater blade tension will make what's shown in the clip far more easily done. Perfectly doable with a coping saw of course, just more slowly (which I feel the need to add, is completely irrelevant to most amateurs who have the luxury of working as slowly as they want to). – Graphus Nov 5 '18 at 20:19
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    Anything to be said w.r.t. the blade orientation being different on Klausz' saw (push) vs modern coping saws (pull)? Serendipity perhaps, but I just returned that Cecil E Pierce book to the library yesterday. It did mention that any saw will leave a round corner that needs to be chiselled out so pierce does not yield too much importance to its choice. I can't compare results, but the casual approach seems way easier than Pierce's. Pierce, for instance, modifies chisels for marking and avoids pencil and marking gauge and knife lines, judging them "too inaccurate". (6) and (7) are good to know! – ww_init_js Nov 6 '18 at 15:53
  • Regarding saws that push or pull: First you can mount the blade either way in coping saws, jeweler's saws, or similar, so you can try this for yourself. As for myself, I can pull with slightly more force than I can push but, honestly, it doesn't make a meaningful difference. Regarding marking tools: yes, folks have many strong opinions and good reasons. For my money, simple practice is the best investment and it will inform you as you go. To me this skill is closer to learning to tie your shoes: not too difficult but everyone remembers striving to learn it. – ewm Nov 6 '18 at 16:12

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