dovetail saw

Best Dovetail Saw Reviews and Buying Guide 2019

Best Dovetail Saw Reviews 2019

Most saws that people think of are either large hard saws or impressive power tools, but these are often generalist tools. However, if you need to make extremely fine cuts for incredibly delicate and precise joints, you need a more specialized saw. That is why we put together a list of the 5 best dovetail saw reviews of 2019. We also provide a helpful buyer’s guide and FAQ, so you can navigate this more obscure type of saw. We think that the Ryoba and Dozuki are the best options for precise dovetails, but you have to keep reading to see our best value pick.

Product Image
Best Seller
Ryoba 9-1/2inch Double Edge Razor Saw for Hardwoods from Japan Woodworker 1.7mm Teeth Pitch
Top Pick
Dozuki "Z" Saw
Best Value
Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw
IRWIN Tools Dovetail/Detail Pull Saw, 7 1/4-Inch (213104)
Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw
Model
Ryoba 9-1/2inch Double Edge Razor Saw for Hardwoods from Japan Woodworker 1.7mm Teeth Pitch
Dozuki "Z" Saw
Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw
IRWIN Tools Dovetail/Detail Pull Saw, 7 1/4-Inch (213104)
Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw
Customer Rating
463 Ratings
276 Ratings
157 Ratings
127 Ratings
84 Ratings
Prime
-
Best Seller
Product Image
Ryoba 9-1/2inch Double Edge Razor Saw for Hardwoods from Japan Woodworker 1.7mm Teeth Pitch
Model
Ryoba 9-1/2inch Double Edge Razor Saw for Hardwoods from Japan Woodworker 1.7mm Teeth Pitch
Customer Rating
463 Ratings
Prime
Top Pick
Product Image
Dozuki "Z" Saw
Model
Dozuki "Z" Saw
Customer Rating
276 Ratings
Prime
-
Best Value
Product Image
Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw
Model
Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw
Customer Rating
157 Ratings
Prime
Product Image
IRWIN Tools Dovetail/Detail Pull Saw, 7 1/4-Inch (213104)
Model
IRWIN Tools Dovetail/Detail Pull Saw, 7 1/4-Inch (213104)
Customer Rating
127 Ratings
Prime
Product Image
Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw
Model
Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw
Customer Rating
84 Ratings
Prime

Ryoba 9-1/2inch Double Edge Razor Saw for Hardwoods from Japan Woodworker 1.7mm Teeth Pitch – Best Seller

Ryoba 9-1/2inch Double Edge Razor Saw for Hardwoods from Japan Woodworker 1.7mm Teeth Pitch
463 Ratings
Ryoba 9-1/2inch Double Edge Razor Saw for Hardwoods from Japan Woodworker 1.7mm Teeth Pitch
  • Impulse hardened teeth for extended wear
  • 9.4 inch blade with 1.7mm teeth pitch
  • Accurately cuts a wide variety of joints

To be clear: unless you are a somewhat experienced woodworker or a relatively high-end contractor, there is a good chance that you have not heard of many of the companies on our list. However, you should not let this lack of awareness influence your decision since a number of these companies are incredibly niche. Take Suizan, for example, which is a company with more than a century of experience crafting some of the finest Japanese hand saws on the market. On top of that, the company specializes primarily in Japanese-style hand saws, though they do cover a number of niche markets. That said, the Suizan Ryoba dovetail saw still takes the best seller position on our list due to a combination of great design and exceptional performance. What makes this feat even more impressive is that the Suizan dovetail saw is also one of the more expensive options that we reviewed too.

Great Cuts
One of the most important things to remember about dovetail saws is that they are designed to but some of the most delicate joints that are commonly used in woodworking projects. Aside from the fact that dovetail joints are more delicate due to their tapered neck, they also need to be more accurate and precise than most other types of joints to function as well. This makes choosing the proper dovetail saw all the more difficult as a saw that cannot meet this extremely high threshold of performance is close to worthless. Thankfully, the Suizan dovetail saw offers some of the most impressive saw blade specs that we found. Keep in mind, being that the Ryoba dovetail saw utilizes the traditional Japanese design, it will definitely differ from the more traditional European-style of dovetail saws.

This can take a bit of getting used to, especially in regards to the different cutting technique required, but the blade is still top-notch. For example, this is the only double-edged dovetail saw on our list which allows you to make different types of cuts. One side of the blade has 9 tpi for making tougher crosscuts with a more aggressive cutting action. The other side of the blade employs 15 tpi to still provide a somewhat aggressive cutting action, but better suited for rip cuts. However, it is important to note that the Japanese-style blade combined with the blade’s build means that you will need to take a bit longer to cut the wood than you might with some of the other dovetail saws we came across. Of course, dovetail joints need to be accurate and precise, not necessarily quick, so this should not be an issue.

Slight Build
Do not let the section title fool you, the Suizan dovetail saw’s slight build is meant as an advantage, not a flaw. Granted, if you are used to applying significant amounts of force to your hand saws to quickly chew through wood, the slight design will present some flexing issues. However, if you use the Suizan Ryoba dovetail saw as intended, you will find that the blade practically glides through rip ruts and offers an incredibly smooth finish for crosscuts. A big part of this comes from the fact that the Ryoba saw has one of the thinnest blades that we reviewed. With a kerf that is only 0.03” thick, you do not need to worry about taking off more wood than the line of your measurement. It is worth noting that while the blade’s maximum thickness is only 0.5 mm, that is actually one of the thicker Japanese saw blade thicknesses.

On top of that, this is also one of the larger dovetail saws that we reviewed too with a 9 ½” blade that can handle larger workpieces as well. This size allows the Suizan saw to expertly cut dovetail joints but also serve for making larger cuts on bigger workpieces too. The teeth are impulse hardened to provide plenty of strength and durability, so long as you remember that this is a pull-saw only. If you make a push stroke, do not be surprised if the saw dulls quickly or if some of the teeth break off. To help the teeth better dig into the wood, the Ryoba dovetail saw also features one of the largest pitches we found at 1.7 mm. Still, to make sure that the Suizan dovetail saw remains firmly in control in your hand, the handle is wrapped in rattan cane.

Ryoba 9-1/2inch Double Edge Razor Saw for Hardwoods from Japan Woodworker 1.7mm Teeth Pitch

Pros

  • Has a Japanese design
  • Has a cane-wrapped handle
  • Has a 9 ½” blade
  • Has a double-edged blade
  • Has 9/15 TPI
  • Has an incredibly thin kerf

Cons

  • Is a more expensive dovetail saw
  • Cuts slower than some

Dozuki “Z” Saw – Top Pick

Sale
Dozuki 'Z' Saw
276 Ratings
Dozuki "Z" Saw
  • Dozuki "Z" Saw
  • Ideal for precision joinery
  • Rigid back insures accurate cuts

Z-Saw, also known as the Zetsaw company, is not quite as old as our most experienced company but still has a history that stretches back over three-quarters of a century. On top of that, Zetsaw specializes exclusively in hand saws, though their catalog includes a wide range of different types of hand saw as well as different styles. Thankfully, this does not detract from Z-Saw’s ability to still provide some of the highest quality Japanese-style dovetail saws on the market. In fact, Zetsaw is able to apply a number of Japanese manufacturing techniques to hand saw types that traditionally use a western approach. This allows the Z-Saw company to refine their products and get the best combination of features using numerous sources of inspiration. This engineering approach, combined with some of the best specs that we found, led us to rate the Dozuki Z-Saw dovetail saw our top pick despite also being one of the more expensive products that we reviewed.

Extremely Delicate
While all dovetail saws are ostensibly designed to make incredibly precise cuts, there are still a number of different approaches to this solution. Keep in mind that where you make the cut on the wood and the type of being cut will all influence how the blade should be designed to achieve the best results. That said, there are definitely a couple of factors that almost universally increase the accuracy and precision of a dovetail cut, though they carry with them their own additional caveats. One of these aspects which greatly improve precision is the fineness of the tooth design in terms of both physical size as well as their concentration.

With regard to both of these qualities, the Dozuki Z-Saw dovetail saw tops our list, providing one of the most precise cutting actions that we found. IN terms of the tooth concentration, this is the only dovetail saw we reviewed that has 26 tpi which is far more than most of its competitors. This is important because more teeth remove more material which allows you to cut workpieces with more materials to remove. In “real world” terms, this means that the Zetsaw dovetail saw is able to cut through thicker workpieces without having to worry about the blade bogging down through the stroke. To further complement this quality, the Z-Saw dovetail saw is also the thinnest saw we reviewed with a kerf that is only 0.012” thick. Of course, this means that you need to exact with your technique in order to avoid damaging the blade or teeth. Basically, let the weight of the saw do the work for you, applying as little actual force as you can.

Good Build
While the Zetsaw dovetail saw provides a fine-tooth blade, the rest of the build is just as high-quality. That said, you should expect the fine teeth to dull a little bit quicker than blades with teeth designed for more aggressive cuts. While this is not inherently the worst thing, it is a bit more frustrating in that you are not meant to sharpen this blade. Instead, because of the type of blade and teeth, you should replace it instead, though its ability to slice through even thicker workpieces like butter makes up for that cost inconvenience. Even better, the design of the Z-Saw dovetail saw makes it incredibly easy to change out the blade without sacrificing any of the tang stability like with some of the other options we found.

In terms of broad design, the Zetsaw dovetail saw also features a number of qualities to improve the overall ease of use. For instance, much like any Japanese-style pull saw, the extremely thin blade can introduce a bit of flex without great technique. In order to help accommodate this a bit, the Z-Saw dovetail saw uses a Dozuki spine. This spine helps keep the blade straight, even when you are making longer cuts through thicker workpieces. This is especially relevant for the Zetsaw dovetail saw as the 9 ½” blade allows for much larger cuts while the fine-tooth blade allows for thicker cuts.

Dozuki 'Z' Saw

Pros

  • Has a Japanese design
  • Has a cane-wrapped handle
  • Has a Dozuki back
  • Has 26 tpi
  • Has an incredibly thin kerf
  • Has a 9 ½” blade

Cons

  • Is a more expensive dovetail saw
  • Goes dull quickly

Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw – Best Value

Zetsaw makes another appearance on our list with this option coming from the parent company directly. The Okada Hardware Mfg Co, the owner of the Zetsaw brand, takes a slightly different approach with this model though. Instead of providing a dovetail saw designed to work on tough hardwoods or cut larger workpieces, this dovetail saw is actually mean to cut smaller, thinner workpieces. While you could definitely use one of the larger models to accomplish this task, the Mini Dozuki dovetail saw includes a feature that actually makes this even easier. When you consider that this dovetail saw comes with some unique features as well as a low price, it is pretty easy to see why we rated it our best value.

Different Design
Easily one of the more notable qualities of the Okada dovetail saw is the fact that it employs a slightly different design than most. While this dovetail saw still employs the popular Japanese-style design, it also includes a pointed tip. This allows the Okada dovetail saw to cut into the wood with the tip without actually using the blade’s teeth. This piercing dovetail saw is especially useful when cutting dovetail joints into thinner workpieces. On top of that, the piercing tip allows you to score the wood, giving you an immediate signal as to where the cut will take the wood from. When you do not have much material to work with, this can mean the difference between wasting a workpiece or not. That said, while the Okada piercing dovetail saw is great for thinner workpieces, it is not ideal for hardwoods.

Solid Build
Beyond the unique piercing tip, the Okada dovetail saw still uses many of the same great features that allow Japanese dovetail saws to perform so well. For example, you will still need to use this as a pull saw, giving you unparalleled precision, though slowing down the cut time a bit. In fact, this dovetail saw has the smallest blade on our list at only 6” which means you will need to make more strokes on the same workpiece when compared to other saws. The smaller blade will slow down the cut time further since the saw is lighter and will cut on the pull stroke less. At the same time, the Okada piercing dovetail saw can still handle a surprisingly thick workpiece thanks in large part to the 18 tpi blade. And despite the fact that the blade is smaller than most, you do not have to worry about strength as the Dozuki back helps maintain rigidity throughout the cut.

Japanese Mini Dozuki Panel Saw

Pros

  • Is a less expensive dovetail saw
  • Has a Japanese design
  • Has a cane-wrapped handle
  • Has a piercing blade
  • Has 18 tpi
  • Has a Dozuki back

Cons

  • Has a 6” blade
  • Not ideal for hardwoods

IRWIN Tools Dovetail/Detail Pull Saw, 7 1/4-Inch (213104) – Runner Up

Sale
IRWIN Tools Dovetail/Detail Pull Saw, 7 1/4-Inch (213104)
127 Ratings
IRWIN Tools Dovetail/Detail Pull Saw, 7 1/4-Inch (213104)
  • Use this dovetail saw for interior trim work and detailed work around windows
  • The flexible blade on this pull saw is also great for flush cuts on dowels
  • A polymer handle on these dovetail saws is comfortable and durable

IRWIN is definitely a bit of an outlier on our list in that it is the only company we reviewed which does not specialize exclusively in woodworking tools specifically or even hand tools more broadly. That said, IRWIN Tools definitely has a long and storied history backing up its more than a century of experience with its founding in 1885. However, it is important to note that IRWIN generally makes its tools for the contractor professional as opposed to the hobbyist woodworker. While this definitely has the advantage of costing less than more specialized brands, they are also not necessarily as high quality.

Pint Size
While the IRWIN Tools dovetail saw is not actually the smallest on our list, it is definitely smaller than most. The blade itself is the second-smallest at only 7 ¼”, though this carries with it some advantages as well as disadvantages. While the IRWIN dovetail saw may not necessarily be able to make cuts on quite as large of workpieces as some of the other options on our list, it can work in smaller workspaces a bit easier. On top of that, this is a mini dovetail saw which gives you a bit of flexibility in terms of cutting technique. While you can use a standard push cut technique, the IRWIN dovetail saw can also use pull cuts. That said, the IRWIN mini dovetail saw requires a bit more force to use but is also not the most durable product on our list either.

Decent Cuts
Even though the IRWIN dovetail saw is not the most durable, it still can find a home in your workshop. As mentioned prior, the design of this dovetail saw is meant to appeal to the contractor which shows primarily in the flexibility of the blade. This is most notable with the kerf which measures at a second-thinnest 0.016” and gives the blade a lot of play. While this will make straight cuts a bit more difficult without a steady hand, it opens the IRWIN dovetail saw to others uses too. Whereas all of the other dovetail saws we reviewed are fairly limited in their intended use, this is the only product we reviewed which is made for flush cuts, greatly increasing its versatility. Of course, a dedicated woodworker may not get as much use out of this function as a contractor, but it is a nice addition.

IRWIN Tools Dovetail/Detail Pull Saw, 7 1/4-Inch (213104)

Pros

  • Is a less expensive dovetail saw
  • Can make flush cuts
  • Has an ergonomic handle
  • Has 22 tpi
  • Is easy to use
  • Has precision-ground, induction-hardened teeth

Cons

  • Has a 7 ¼” blade
  • Not the most durable

Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw – Also Consider

Sale
Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw
84 Ratings
Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw
  • Reliable 10-inch saw ideal for cutting dovetail and other fine joints
  • Pre-sharpened
  • Ideal for joint cutting

Two Cherries is somewhat unique on our list in that it is not actually its own company but is instead a brand of the Robert Larson company. Thankfully, the Robert Larson company can trace its history back to the late-1800s, even if the company only incorporated a little under 3 decades ago. That said, the Robert Larson company does specialize exclusively in woodworking tools, though not strictly in hand saws. While the Two Cherries dovetail saw offers a more traditional approach, it does have a tendency to lag behind some of the better-rated options in longevity.

Good Cuts
The Robert Larson Two Cherries dovetail saw is unique on our list in that it is the only European dovetail saw we reviewed. This is important because it means that you will use more force with your cutting action which can decrease the precision a bit. On the other hand, this also means that the Two Cherries dovetail saw will cut through the wood quicker than the other options we reviewed. The additional force of the push saw technique is further enhanced with a 15 tpi blade to offer a more aggressive cutting action. That said, you will need to be more precise with your measurements as the Robert Larson dovetail saw does feature one of the thickest kerfs we reviewed– though it is still only 0.11”. Finally, you can make the largest cuts on harder woods than most with a 10” blade, the largest blade on our list.

Okay Build
To be clear, the Robert Larson dovetail saw is not poorly made, but its design does leave a bit to be desired. Specifically, this is one of the only dovetail saws we encountered where the tang of the frame can come loose from the handle. In fairness, you will not have to worry about the saw falling apart on you, but it will introduce a little bit of wiggle. This is especially troublesome with the Two Cherries dovetail saw as it is a push saw that uses more force than most of the products on our list. That said, the wooden handle is sturdy enough on its own and even features an ergonomic, tapered design. On top of that, the brass back spine keeps the blade firmly in place, so you do not have to worry about flexing issues.

Two Cherries 520-6020 10-Inch Brass Back Dovetail Saw

Pros

  • Has a brass back
  • Has a 1.3 mm kerf
  • Has a wooden handle
  • Has 15 tpi
  • Has high-quality German steel blade
  • Has a 10” blade

Cons

  • Is a more expensive dovetail saw
  • Has a poor tang

Best Dovetail Saw Buying Guide 2019

Type

While the type does not necessarily determine how well the dovetail saw performs in a vacuum, it can definitely determine how well the saw performs for you. This is because the type of dovetail saw will largely determine what technique you need to use. While experienced woodworkers and contractors may be able to adapt to different cutting techniques of the fly, most people will need some practice before you can employ a new cutting technique properly. As such, if you do choose a type of dovetail saw with which you are not familiar, it is a good idea to practice cutting with the saw before using it for an important project.

European

This is likely the type of dovetail saw most people are familiar with and does not look too different than most hand saws. The blade will be notably thinner for a dovetail saw than a standard rip or crosscut saw, but the overall design will still feel familiar. Just like the more common types of hand saws, the European dovetail saw is a push saw, meaning that it cuts on the push stroke. This cutting technique makes the European dovetail saw cut more aggressively than some of the other types of dovetail saws. It is also important to note that the European dovetail saw often uses a spine to help stabilize the thinner blade so that it can handle the additional force used for a push stroke.

Japanese

Though this type of saw has been around for centuries, it was only following WWII that the Japanese-style of saw began to gain recognition in the west. Keep in mind, the Japanese-style of saw is not merely reserved for dovetail saws and applies to a wide range of different hand saws. Regardless, the main difference in terms of technique between the Japanese and European dovetail saw is that the Japanese dovetail saw is a pull saw. In this instance, the Japanese dovetail saw cuts on the pull stroke which actually allows for a far more controlled cut than a push saw. This also enables Japanese dovetail saws to be made much thinner than European dovetail saws without sacrificing the precision of cut. However, it is important to remember that cutting on the pull stroke requires a different approach and may not feel natural to new users.

Miniature

The miniature dovetail saw, or the mini dovetail saw, looks a bit like a large folding knife. However, the blade of the mini dovetail saw remains fixed, but it is still generally a much smaller blade than either of the other two types– though some Japanese dovetail saws also employ smaller blades. In terms of techniques, the mini dovetail saw can often be used as either a push saw or a pull saw giving it some versatility. That said, mini dovetail saws are generally meant to be used more as a push saw than anything else. Aside from the fact that mini dovetail saws can cut in smaller spaces, they also provide the ability to make minor cuts better than a larger saw. However, mini dovetail saws are generally some of the least precise and require steadier hands to use than the other types.

FAQ’s

Why a Dovetail Saw?

Dovetail saws are used to make dovetail joints which are notorious for being some of the most difficult types of joints in woodworking. Even experienced woodworkers can have difficulty with this type of joint sometimes due to the exacting nature of the cut necessary for the joint to function properly. All too often, people making dovetail joints either have to scrap the current workpiece because they cut too aggressively, or they have to add hours of finish work to make sure that the dovetail joints slide into place properly.

The dovetail saw aims to prevent both of those issues by providing a hand saw that can make incredibly precise cuts with the rigorous accuracy necessary for flush dovetail joints. That said, there are actually a couple of different ways to make dovetail saws, and each approach also requires using a different type of cutting technique. While there is no type of dovetail saw that is inherently better at making dovetail joints than all of the others, it is a good idea to understand how the different dovetail saw designs impact their cutting technique. This is especially important if you are not already fairly familiar with the different types of dovetail cutting techniques.

How to Use a Dovetail Saw?

The way in which you use a dovetail saw will heavily depend on the type of dovetail saw you have with the three main types described prior being the European-style, the Japanese-style, and the mini saw. Keep in mind that some manufacturers will use the “mini” term to distinguish between their specific models of dovetail saw and not to indicate the actual type. For example, a true mini dovetail saw will usually be around the size and shape of a large folding knife. In this instance, you will actually use a mini dovetail saw similarly to a pocket knife saw, though with far more control of the strokes.

The European-style of dovetail saw also uses a similar cutting technique, and both of these techniques are called push strokes. In this instance, the push stroke cuts into the wood by pushing the blade which generates more cutting force but it also a little bit less precise. The Japanese-style of dovetail saw, on the other hand, is also called a pull saw and cuts with a pulling motion. One thing to keep in mind with the Japanese dovetail saw is that you should not use as much force to cut the wood as with a push saw. Aside from the fact that the blade is made to slice through the wood, this can also damage the teeth.

What to Look for?

Likely one of the most important qualities to consider is the type of dovetail saw as this will often impact how comfortable the saw is to use. Even though the different types of dovetail saws use different cutting techniques, they all utilize similar qualities to keep their cuts precise. In this instance, one of the most important factors is the kerf of the dovetail saw’s blade as your measurement is likely made with accuracy in mind. Basically, the thinner the kerf of a dovetail saw’s blade, the less you have to account for the lost material. That said, you still will want to cut the workpiece on the inside of the measurement so that your joints are not too loose.

It is also worth noting that the kerf of the blade is not always the thickness of the blade, though this is not as much of an issue for most dovetail saws. Still, when working with extremely thin and delicate workpieces, you will want to use as thin of a blade as possible to avoid destabilizing the workpiece’s structural integrity. Outside of the blade’s kerf and general thickness, it is also a good idea to make sure you get a blade designed to cut the type of wood you use. This is generally determined by the tpi with fewer teeth per inch cutting harder woods or against the wood grain.

Conclusion

In the end, the best dovetail saw will depend on what you are comfortable with– both in terms of price and technique. The Suizan offers a great double-edged Ryoba approach that can make rip and crosscuts equally well. The Z-Saw is definitely the choice on our list if you are making dovetail joints for thicker workpieces and need a fine-tooth blade. On the other end of the spectrum, if you are making dovetail joints in thinner workpieces, the Okada’s piercing dovetail design is perfect. The Irwin Tools offers a great mini dovetail saw that can also double as a flush-cut saw, though it is not the most durable. Finally, if you need a traditional European-style push saw, the Robert Larson provides a decent option.