Hand cutting tenons

//Hand cutting tenons
Hand cutting tenons 2017-04-27T20:43:47+00:00

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    BB
    Participant
    Post count: 8

    what saw would you recommend for cutting tenons?  I have a Lie Nielsen dovetail saw but it really is too small for cutting tenons. I think a rip tooth saw is what is needed.

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  • Joshua Farnsworth
    Keymaster
    Post count: 54

    Here's what you need:

    Hey BB, have you checked my saw buying guide? (here). You will certainly need a saw with rip teeth (like your dovetail saw), but the saw plate only needs to be as wide as the largest tenon you think you’ll cut. So your dovetail saw may be just fine, as long as your tenon isn’t too big. Does that help?

  • BB
    Participant
    Post count: 8

    Thanks for your response. Another question: my dovetail saw does work but it appears to me to be a little slow on cutting tenons. Would a carcass saw have fewer teeth and therefore cut faster?  I realize that fewer teeth mean a rougher cut. I don’t want a tenon saw as that would be too big for the tenons that I will be cutting.

    • Mike in TN
      Participant
      Post count: 253

      Hi BB,

      Backsaws are lovely beasts. Brand seems to be less important than overall quality, sharpness,  and suitability to the work at hand. Many of the cheap saws are light which really works against the user.

      Cutting tenons normally requires crosscutting for the shoulders and rip cuts for cheeks and haunches. Having said that, sharp fine tooth saws with rip pattern teeth (up to about 12 teeth per inch) can perform both cuts really well.  As I understand it, it has to do with the size of the teeth relative to the fibers of the wood. Larger teeth have larger gullets which helps to carry the sawdust away when sawing wider sections, such as in most tenon cheek cuts. Likewise, longer saws are more efficient for wider stock because you have more teeth engaged in the work and the longer stroke helps with the dust removal. The other main factor is the depth of the cut. Obviously you have to have enough depth to your saw plate when cutting the cheeks of long tenons.

      I would recommend you look at the sizes of tenons you will probably end up making based your work and how important speed and surface quality of the finished surface is to you. The requirements for small scale work are vastly different from timber framing or building Roubo benches. I have several saws and have found that a standard sized (10 to 12 inch long saw plate) rip tooth (14-16 TPI) “dovetail” saw will manage most of my tenons. I do have several “tenon” saws that I generally don’t keep at the bench full time. They are generally 12 to 16 TPI with about 14 inches of saw plate. I have them all filled with rip teeth just because I find little, if any, advantage to a crosscut tooth profile in my work except for courser (than my bench saws) panel and carpenter saws.  There are some “better brand” crosscut saws at the bench, but to be truthful, the little difference in the quality of cut across the grain means that they get little use. The “tenon” saws see duty for larger tenons because of the plate length/depth and when I want a saw with a thick plate (those grandkids love to saw are rough on thin plate saws). I generally assemble straight from the saw but will, occasionally, use a router plane or a rabbet plane for fine adjustment. If you prefer to use those tools on your tenon cheeks regularly then the surface finish from the saw becomes even less of an issue. I would love to see a joint strength test conducted based on saw produced textures as opposed to other tooling techniques.

      There is another option that I use for really large tenons. I take long miter saws with around the same number of teeth as my tenon saws. filed rip. The extra size helps with the extra sized tenons and the extra weight helps with the sawing process. The larger, heavier saws can be harder to get started under good control and it really helps to establish a good knife wall in the initial stage.

      Have fun

      • BB
        Participant
        Post count: 8

        Thank you for your advice

  • Gbalcom
    Participant
    Post count: 6

    Another Option

    A large tenon saw is not inexpensive.  they can be great, but have you considered a frame saw?  Here Paul sellers shows you the benefits, and what you can get for the cost of a blade and some time.

     

    • Mike in TN
      Participant
      Post count: 253

      Frame saws are indeed a good option for a lot of work but are harder to find, and usually at greater cost, than used tenon saws. If I was starting from scratch and insisted on a new saw, a frame saw would definitely be a considered option. I have found that they feel a little more awkward in use until you have some experience with them. I bought a used Disston tenon saw today in a “lot” of tools so I can’t tell you the price on that individual item, but they can be regularly had in my area for less than $15. A little cleaning and a little file  time and they are normally ready to put to work. There are currently at least a dozen tenon saws in my personal pile along with a couple of frame saws.

      You have to love Paul Sellers as a woodworker and teacher. He always seems to reinforce the concept that most of us can do good woodworking with just a little effort and knowledge, normally without having to spend a fortune to do it. Thank you Mr. Sellers and thank you Gbalcom.

      Have fun.

  • Gbalcom
    Participant
    Post count: 6

    Thanks Mike!  If I could find a tenon saw for just $15, I wouldn’t make one either!  I do have a 14″ cross cut back saw (Carcass saw?)  that I pick up at a MidWest Tool Collectors meet.  Whoever sharpened it sure knew what they were doing.  I bought it 2 years ago, and haven’t sharpened it since.

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