$295 for a dovetail saw?


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Ok; I'm all for buying really good tools. But, even I am wincing at the $295 that Rob Cosman is asking for his Dovetail saw. I've watch the video he has produced on it:

Looks like a really nice saw, but it's over twice the price of the Lie Nielsen saw (which I usually consider to be the gold standard) which is close to double the price of the veritas dovetail saw.

I've done a search of the forum and didn't really find much about this saw (did find a post where someone bought one on the spot after trying it). My question is for the people that own it, are you happy with the purchase and do *you* feel that it is worth the price? And why?

Finally, I have to be honest, no matter what people say I probably can't justify that much money for a dovetail saw (there's just a lot of other places I'd rather spend my shop dollars), but I am curious. Is this just "tool porn"? And who knows? I never thought I would spend almost $100 on a fret saw, but Knew Concepts got me to do it. ;)

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Just one mans opinion, and it may draw some heat but I think that saw is exorbitantly overpriced. I don't see anything special about it.  I'm sure it works perfectly well, but it seems to be a factory made saw (and yes I've handled it in person).  If I were going to pay that for a dovetail saw I'd get something custom made, at least partially by hand, from someone who has an exceptional reputation for filing saws (E.g. Wenzloff, Ron Bontz, Bad Axe, Medallian, Klaus and Pedder)

 

His whole marketing persona just reminds me of a late night infomertial. He struggles with very same saws that he used to sell before he started having his own made.  If those fine teeth at the front are helpful to some great, but I take issue with the implication that a regular dovetail saw is too coarse for a beginner to cut dovetails.  

 

I really don't care how other people spend their money, and I know folks who love that saw.  Also, I will never deny that the man is an excellent woodworker (better than I'll ever be) and certainley a prolific teacher, but the mark up on his products has always seemed obscene to me.

 

Of course, the value of a product is precisely what people are willing to pay for it so in that senese he is absolutely selling it for what it is worth.

 

(I know all that sounds really harsh, and typically I'm not that critical, but with so many wonderful saw makers out there (from the $69 Veritas to the $225+ Bad Axe and others) I just  can't see any reason to buy that thing.  Really my biggest gripe is with how he markets it. Its one thing to show and explain the benefits of your product, its another thing to act like a product that you know is good won't work)

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I owned one of Rob's Dovetails saws.  I can say it a very nice saw and cut amazing well.  I still have and used the LN dovetail saw before buying Rob's saw.  Cut quality I would give to Rob's saw, it left a much nicer "finish" then the LN.  Although I never had an issue with the LN cut quality when assembling my dovetails.  The saw truly is a dream when starting the cut.  One of the selling points Rob uses for his saw, is the added weight of his saw.  Yes I think the added weight does help speed the cut.  Although after using it for awhile, it's the weight that started to bother me.  I think if I hadn't used other dovetail saws before, I would have stayed with the saw and been very happy with it.  Because the saw is of a high quality and in demand, I was able to sell it on eBay for almost as much as I paid for it.

 

Each person has to decide what is a value to them, I felt it was worth the price when I bought it. 

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Mr Cosman and his products are new to me. Firstly this is a really hard topic. On the saws worth, it's worth what people are willing to pay for it. Market forces will then determine if it is truly worth buying/good product. If it is the saw will be on offer for may years to come.

 

After watching the video there is also a valid point made by ChrisG that the other dovetail saw is made to look inferior or hard to start. I own a PAX beech handled dovetail saw which in comparison looks very humble indeed. Although I have not found it difficult to start and it has cut dovetails quickly and easily. IMHO I'm not sold on the composite handle. I can see the benefit of the composite but if I was spending this kind of money I would like a wood handle. Not sure why I need a waterproof handle  :)

 

Each to their own though, I don't think I would advise against spending this kind of money, if you have this kind of money to spend. Just don't get an inferiority complex if you own a cheaper saw or you are going to buy a cheaper saw. The best tools are the hands and brain, keep them sharp and focused. 

 

Also, like Mike points out if you do buy premium tools and you don't like them you can recover nearly all the value if you choose to sell them. My PAX would probably not recover much of my purchase price.

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Ironic that weight is one of the selling points.  Maybe that is why you need that smooth start area at the toe of the saw considering too much weight is what causes a saw not to start.  I did a demo a while back to help someone get over "trouble starting a saw" and was able to successfully start a 4 ppi 26" rip saw in Ipe just by removing the weight from the toe.  It's not magic, just technique gained with practice. 

 

I get in trouble whenever I speak of something that lowers the barrier to entry and I feel like a hypocrite for espousing that point of view because I use "training wheel" type tools too (cough cough Easy Wood Tools).  I mean isn't anything that gets more people into woodworking a good thing? 

 

The problem I have with this saw (yes I've used it  to cut several dovetail joints) is that it makes cuts easier but doesn't tell the woodworker why.  I think there is a fundamental understanding gap that results.  Maybe that is fine for a more specialized operation but good sawing is not one of them considering every thing you build requires sawing.  I can add progressive pitch and jigger with the rake and fleam all day long to get the perfect saw that any neophyte can use to make clean, easy starting cuts...until it goes dull, or that newb tries a different saw to cut a long tenon or a half lap or cross cut rough lumber or, or, or...you get the point. 

 

So training wheels are nice, but in the end I can't help but feel you do a disservice to your own skill set.  Maybe some things in woodworking shouldn't be so easy to do right away??

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More options is always a good thing and I don't begrudge people charging what they think is fair for their product, but I wouldn't buy this saw if it was $100.

 

Why not?

- Plastic handle

- You become unable to use any other saw

- Made in ?

- Warranty ?

- Did I mention the plastic handle?

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Just a couple of quick points of clarification on my part.  Mr. Cosman is welcome to charge whatever he wants to the saw (I don't begrudge him that).  And I'm not saying it's not worth it - I've never used it.  And I understand what is "worth it" to one person may not be to another person.  No one is *right* ro *wrong* here.  Just asking peoples opinion here - especially those that might own the saw.

 

PS.  I really like the Miller High Life ad!  :)

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I have only seen it and talked to people who have it as I made my own DT saw but I have never heard a bad thing about his saws or any of his tools for that matter. It is made in his shop by him and one helper. The other key thing is its not a "plastic" handle in the way you would think of plastic, its more hard composite. I prefer wood handles mainly because Im a woodworker, I know he has his reasons and has stated it before why he does the composite handles but right now I can't seem to find it. Robs tools are amazing, high quality, and made in his shop in Canada (I know the saws are but not positive on all of his tools). I think to compare them to many of the others out there isn't fair. A better comparison would be a Bad Axe saw vs his. I think the "worth it" question is a very personal thing that can only be determined by you.

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I have modified the original question to ask if people that own the saw are happy with their purchase.

I sent a message to Rob so he can explain the details, pros and cons of his saw vs the others, hopefully he will respond soon, maybe that will help you?

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I also edited my original post a bit because looking back at it it was fairly snarky but I maintain that his portrayal of using the LN saw is inaccurate.  I'm sorry but I take issue with the implication that one can't learn to cut DTs with a regular DT saw and that one needs his saw to learn them.  Benefit from and need are two different things.   Perhaps, I am mis-interpreting his ads, but all I know is that they have consistently turned me off of his products for that reason (says the guy who admits to having watch the those same ads as a free source of info when he was learning to cut DTs...the technique he explains while holding the LN saw works great when your starting out btw, even though I usually use a different approach now)

 

I also do disagree with the comparison of his saw to a custom boutique sawmaker, but that just my opinion and we are free to disagree.  I have no problem with composite materials...there is another great saw on the market that uses non traditional materials, the Veritas, but it sells for under $70.  Again, he is free to charge whatever he wants and I wouldn't expect his to be that inexpensive as I'm sure his production runs are much much smaller than LVs, but I wouldn't compare it to a saw that is hand shaped and hand filed by Mark Harrell or Ron Bontz (which still cost less BTW).  

 

I'll also note that "assembled in house" and "made in house" are not the same thing.  All the saw makers have their backs and saw nuts prefabricated and I think some even have there handle blanks made on CNC, which is all fine and dandy, but there is still a lot of handwork that goes into the final product and that handwork is reflected in those higher prices.  I have my doubts that the same is true with this saw but I may be wrong.

 

If Mr. Cosman does chime in (and I know he does read these forums) I'd be curious to know, where the parts for his saws are made/sourced from, how much of making (or making vs. assembly) is done in house, and who is filing his saws, and what the specs on the filing is.  Again, I made be totally wrong...maybe he has a way of making the resin handles in house.

 

BTW, none of this is to say that I think they are bad products.  "Factory made", which is how I described his saw in my first post, is not a bad thing (LV and LN products are both factory made).  But for me, when I look at that saw what I see is a quality factory made saw being sold at a custom made price, and thats not something I'll put my money or a recommendation behind.  Of course, others will and that is fine. 

 

(Also just too be clear none of this really matters to me personally, I just sold my last LN saw in favor of using the saws I made from Wenzloff parts, and have no intent of buying saws from any of the aforementioned makers other than more saw parts in the future anyway.  I was just sharing my opinion, which is worth exactly what you paid for it :) )

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I sent a message to Rob so he can explain the details, pros and cons of his saw vs the others, hopefully he will respond soon, maybe that will help you?

 

I appreciate the effort.  However, for me, I'm more interested in reading the opinions of people that own the saw and that don't make money each time it is sold.  :)  That said, I will be curious to see if he responds, and the information he provides might very well be of help to a future reader of this thread.

 

Thanks again.

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The word "plastic" is a broad sweeping term to describe a man made material consisting of organic polymers that are usually derived from oil. Saying that it is unfair to describe a resin handle as being plastic is like saying it is unfair to describe an apple handle as being wood.

 

To me a dovetail saw with a non-wood handle is contrary to the whole point of why I would buy a hand saw. Does not compute.

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Thanks to Nate for bringing this to my attention, as with any press, glad to see you spelled my name correctly!  Here is the skinny on our saw for those interested enough to read it.

 

I have one assistant, Dave, he and I make the saws in my shop in Grand Bay, New Brunswick, Canada (Big cold place up north)

We make the handles from a composite we buy from a company in MO, we get it in sheets, 36 by 7 by 1.  Dave does all the bandsawing and he has gotten very good.  The stuff is tough to cut, we have to use bi-metal blades at $50 each and we get about 40 handles per blade.  Love to hear "plastic" tossed around, let me tell you that if plastic was as tough as this stuff we wouldnt need half the land fill sites we now have!

 

I do all the milling from here, naturally everything has to be carbide and even that doesn't last long, maybe 50 handles before the bits have to be changed and sent out for resharpening.  Dave does the sanding, buffing and drilling before I get the handle back to be mounted on the blade. 

 

We use to have a company in Ontario make the brass backs and bolts but they went out of business unexpectedly, no luck finding anyone else interested in the small quantities we use so we now do it ourselves.  We buy our brass flat bar from an outfit in NY, cut and rip it to width on my sawstop with the over ride on.  (amazing what you can do when you don't know any better).  I set up a drill press to mill the groove the blade sits in, there was an expensive learning curve on that one.  A local jeweler does the engraving for us.  We found a small father and son company in Tiawan that now makes our nuts and bolts, the quality is better than what we were getting locally.   Dave routs the radius on the backs and mounts the blades (blades are a secret,sorry), drills for and installs and peens the copper pins.  I sand the blades flush before Dave finish sands the edges and gets them ready for me to install in the handle.  I do the bolting with the split nuts and hand them back to him, he then flushes off the bolts, finish sands the handles, cleans them up including oiling the blades and I do the final test cut.  Dave makes all the boxes and does a perfect job at that.  We spent a bit of time working the process to get the best result and minimize waste. We spend a fair bit on creating a nice and durable box to present and ship the saw, some think it is unnecessary but since I make the decisions we are sticking with it.  Now you know how its made, where it is made and where most of the materials come from.  We are definatley not "assemblers" but "fabricators".  The saw is for the most part a product of US and Canada.   

 

I designed this saw after spending a couple of decades teaching folks how to cut dovetails the "right" way.  Now I say that with a bit of borrowed authority.  Alan Peters taught me a lot of what I know about cutting dovetails and I consider him to be the best of the bunch.  He died a few years ago but up until that time he was the last real link we had to the original arts and crafts movement.  According to Alan, dovetails are to be sawn, not pared.  Assembled from the saw one time with glue, no test or "dry" fit.  The explanation for this is too long to type here but go to my site under the "student gallery" and view a few hundred examples of first time dovetailers that have done it this way, first time! 

 

The latter requires mastery of the saw, if you are 60 years old and just starting this hobby you're a little bit behind the eight ball.  I noticed over the past 12 years that my average student was in that age group, eyesight not what it once was, bit of arthritis, sore back, tired muscles and the list goes on.  I sold LN for 8 years, it was the best saw on the market but in the hands of half the folks I handed it to, they could not start it with the required precision.  Half could, half couldn't, simple as that.  For the "half couldnt" I had an idea, put a starter strip at the front, small teeth, negative cutting face, easy to start!  Now instantly they could do what was needed without the days, weeks or months of practise that would otherwise be required.  Problem with the last comment is how many folks give up before they get where they need to be.  I simply removed the "equipment excuse", if they really wanted to learn how to hand cut dovetails now they could, today!  Someone made the comment that implied if you learn on this saw you wouldnt be able to use any other??  A) if you succeed with this one why bother with another and B) think again about what you just said, really??

 

The extra weight was designed to do a few things, learning to make plumb cuts is the second most important task in dovetails.  The pin cuts have to be plumb and parallel for the joint to work.  Gravity is the best "trainer" of plumb.  My saw is double the weight of most dt saws, you can feel the "pull" and with a pistol grip that registers in your hand the same way each time you pick it up, in a very short time you are able to make plumb cuts by feel.  For the later to work I always make sure my board is standing plumb in the vise. 

 

Last topic is the handle, I have played hockey all my life, still do, 3 or 4 nights a week, love it!  In my book "wood is good" and that is all I used, a wood, usually ash, hockey stick.  My boys got me to buy and try a composite stick a few years ago, $280.00!!! Crazy right?  Well I was sold first time on the ice, it has life, it is light, it lasts and if your lucky enough to get a season out of it, the next year when you take a shot it has the same snap it had the day you bought it.  Wood sticks had a limited life span, a month of hard play and it was done, no snap, lifeless.  I am using this analogy to simply say, what we always thought isnt always right.  I would never trade my large diameter, rubber handled screw drivers for the prettiest wood handled ones, not a chance!  The composite handle gave us the weight we were looking for (double the weight of maple), the durability, the ease of processing, while it is tough to cut and shape, we dont have to worry about grain direction which also makes it more economical.  When Dave is finished band sawing handles out of a complete sheet, the waste wouldnt amount to another handle.  I am not knocking pretty handled tools, I have some beauties.  Mine are meant to be user tools, no "show" value, that was never my intent.  I expect the majority of the (ugly "plastic") saws we have sold are getting used to create beautiful dovetails. 

 

Final comment since I need to get back to work.  Taught a dovetail class in Boise a few years ago and 88 year old Bob came up to me and said he figured it was "high time he learned to cut a dovetail".  Now we could have insisted he use a traditional 150 year old patterned saw originally designed for 18 year olds heading into a furniture apprenticeship or we could inovate a bit and give the guy a fighting chance.  Check out Bob's first dovetail on the student gallery page about 4/5s of the way down.  I met up with him again last weekend in Boise, turns 91 soon and still hard at it.  Just got back from a cruise and complained that most of the activities were for old folks, he went ashore and did the zip line instead!  Way to go Bob! 

Enjoy your time in the shop and pass what you know onto someone younger!

Rob

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Thanks to Nate for bringing this to my attention, as with any press, glad to see you spelled my name correctly! Here is the skinny on our saw for those interested enough to read it.

I have one assistant, Dave, he and I make the saws in my shop in Grand Bay, New Brunswick, Canada (Big cold place up north)

We make the handles from a composite we buy from a company in MO, we get it in sheets, 36 by 7 by 1. Dave does all the bandsawing and he has gotten very good. The stuff is tough to cut, we have to use bi-metal blades at $50 each and we get about 40 handles per blade. Love to hear "plastic" tossed around, let me tell you that if plastic was as tough as this stuff we wouldnt need half the land fill sites we now have!

I do all the milling from here, naturally everything has to be carbide and even that doesn't last long, maybe 50 handles before the bits have to be changed and sent out for resharpening. Dave does the sanding, buffing and drilling before I get the handle back to be mounted on the blade.

We use to have a company in Ontario make the brass backs and bolts but they went out of business unexpectedly, no luck finding anyone else interested in the small quantities we use so we now do it ourselves. We buy our brass flat bar from an outfit in NY, cut and rip it to width on my sawstop with the over ride on. (amazing what you can do when you don't know any better). I set up a drill press to mill the groove the blade sits in, there was an expensive learning curve on that one. A local jeweler does the engraving for us. We found a small father and son company in Tiawan that now makes our nuts and bolts, the quality is better than what we were getting locally. Dave routs the radius on the backs and mounts the blades (blades are a secret,sorry), drills for and installs and peens the copper pins. I sand the blades flush before Dave finish sands the edges and gets them ready for me to install in the handle. I do the bolting with the split nuts and hand them back to him, he then flushes off the bolts, finish sands the handles, cleans them up including oiling the blades and I do the final test cut. Dave makes all the boxes and does a perfect job at that. We spent a bit of time working the process to get the best result and minimize waste. We spend a fair bit on creating a nice and durable box to present and ship the saw, some think it is unnecessary but since I make the decisions we are sticking with it. Now you know how its made, where it is made and where most of the materials come from. We are definatley not "assemblers" but "fabricators". The saw is for the most part a product of US and Canada.

I designed this saw after spending a couple of decades teaching folks how to cut dovetails the "right" way. Now I say that with a bit of borrowed authority. Alan Peters taught me a lot of what I know about cutting dovetails and I consider him to be the best of the bunch. He died a few years ago but up until that time he was the last real link we had to the original arts and crafts movement. According to Alan, dovetails are to be sawn, not pared. Assembled from the saw one time with glue, no test or "dry" fit. The explanation for this is too long to type here but go to my site under the "student gallery" and view a few hundred examples of first time dovetailers that have done it this way, first time!

The latter requires mastery of the saw, if you are 60 years old and just starting this hobby you're a little bit behind the eight ball. I noticed over the past 12 years that my average student was in that age group, eyesight not what it once was, bit of arthritis, sore back, tired muscles and the list goes on. I sold LN for 8 years, it was the best saw on the market but in the hands of half the folks I handed it to, they could not start it with the required precision. Half could, half couldn't, simple as that. For the "half couldnt" I had an idea, put a starter strip at the front, small teeth, negative cutting face, easy to start! Now instantly they could do what was needed without the days, weeks or months of practise that would otherwise be required. Problem with the last comment is how many folks give up before they get where they need to be. I simply removed the "equipment excuse", if they really wanted to learn how to hand cut dovetails now they could, today! Someone made the comment that implied if you learn on this saw you wouldnt be able to use any other?? A) if you succeed with this one why bother with another and B) think again about what you just said, really??

The extra weight was designed to do a few things, learning to make plumb cuts is the second most important task in dovetails. The pin cuts have to be plumb and parallel for the joint to work. Gravity is the best "trainer" of plumb. My saw is double the weight of most dt saws, you can feel the "pull" and with a pistol grip that registers in your hand the same way each time you pick it up, in a very short time you are able to make plumb cuts by feel. For the later to work I always make sure my board is standing plumb in the vise.

Last topic is the handle, I have played hockey all my life, still do, 3 or 4 nights a week, love it! In my book "wood is good" and that is all I used, a wood, usually ash, hockey stick. My boys got me to buy and try a composite stick a few years ago, $280.00!!! Crazy right? Well I was sold first time on the ice, it has life, it is light, it lasts and if your lucky enough to get a season out of it, the next year when you take a shot it has the same snap it had the day you bought it. Wood sticks had a limited life span, a month of hard play and it was done, no snap, lifeless. I am using this analogy to simply say, what we always thought isnt always right. I would never trade my large diameter, rubber handled screw drivers for the prettiest wood handled ones, not a chance! The composite handle gave us the weight we were looking for (double the weight of maple), the durability, the ease of processing, while it is tough to cut and shape, we dont have to worry about grain direction which also makes it more economical. When Dave is finished band sawing handles out of a complete sheet, the waste wouldnt amount to another handle. I am not knocking pretty handled tools, I have some beauties. Mine are meant to be user tools, no "show" value, that was never my intent. I expect the majority of the (ugly "plastic") saws we have sold are getting used to create beautiful dovetails.

Final comment since I need to get back to work. Taught a dovetail class in Boise a few years ago and 88 year old Bob came up to me and said he figured it was "high time he learned to cut a dovetail". Now we could have insisted he use a traditional 150 year old patterned saw originally designed for 18 year olds heading into a furniture apprenticeship or we could inovate a bit and give the guy a fighting chance. Check out Bob's first dovetail on the student gallery page about 4/5s of the way down. I met up with him again last weekend in Boise, turns 91 soon and still hard at it. Just got back from a cruise and complained that most of the activities were for old folks, he went ashore and did the zip line instead! Way to go Bob!

Enjoy your time in the shop and pass what you know onto someone younger!

Rob

Touche'

Thank you for the detailed response. More than anything I appreciate the clarification that this is an offering to a certain market and your admission that many do in fact do just fine with regular DT saws, even as beginners. I was also very interested to hear about how your saw is made - I concede that I was incorrect in assuming it was only assembled in house.

I do disagree with your assertion that for those struggling to start a saw it would take "days, weeks or months of practice", but of course concede that I am not as familiar with your clientele as you are, and I recognize that you are in position where you have students, who you need to make successful in a class that is only a few hours long. Additionally, I would guess that in addition to being "of greater maturity than me" a great number of your students are mainly power tool woodworkers whose only interest in hand sawing is in producing handcut dovetails in, which case if your saw is the only saw they need to start then the training wheels do no harm. [i think, I just set the record for run-on sentences and poor punctuation]

I will end with this. For the new woodworker on a limited budget (or any budget for that matter) who wants to get into hand sawn joinery, I would advise against spending more than you otherwise would have spent on this saw if it is for the sole reason that you are worried you may not be able to start a regular dovetail saw. If you like it, want it, and want to spend money for whatever reason that is all good of course. But know that starting a saw is not hard to learn to do, and it is important to be a be able to do, and know that their are a myriad of options out there for high quality joinery saws in a range of prices. A saw cuts as smoothly and accurately as it is set and filed...period....sure hang, weight, handle shape are important and do effect ease and niceness of use but set and filing is what makes a saw cut straight and smooth.

I say none of this as an expert woodworker, expert sawyer, expert saw maker, or expert dovetailer (most of mine fit off the saw and some don't, as will be the case for many people). I say all this as a relative novice, who has been woodworking with limited time in the shop about 5 years, who can fairly competently cut dovetails (which are easier than many things in woodworking and over-hyped anyway) and fairly competently use saws in general (except for last weekend when my M&T joints for a frame and panel door came out looking/fitting like it was the first time I'd ever picked up a saw :wacko: )... I say this as someone who can fairly competently file a saw, and who has very recently been and still frequently struggles to decide what tools are needed to produce the work I want, and who still frequently struggles to consistently produce high quality joinery.

If your struggling with something I urge you to resist blaming the tools as your first reaction (as I started to do on those dang M&Ts last weekend and do more often than I would care to admit) and rather take the time to analyze what is going wrong and attempt to correct it through trial, error and practice....believe me when I say you will be better off for having learned what was wrong with and correcting yourself accordingly.

Rob, thank you again for your detailed reply. Cheers.

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