Carcass Saw vs. Tenon Saw

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I've recently received some birthday money and am contemplating purchasing a saw to be used mainly for cutting tenons. I'm fairly new to woodworking and only have a 26" hand saw and a small Gent's dovetail saw.

What are some things to consider when purchasing a saw for cutting tenons, and what are the differences between a carcass saw and a tenon saw? Also, feel free to make suggestions on saws that you've used for this purpose. My budget is around $100, maybe a little bit more. Thanks.


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Maybe Shannon will chime in with more authoritative info. I have Lee Valley Carcass saws, both rip and cross cut. I believe the primary difference between them and tenon saws is the plate depth. A tenon saw will usually be able to do a deeper (tenon) cut. The carcass saws have 2-3/8 inch depth which is plenty for most tenons unless you'll be doing long through tenons. There might be slight difference in tooth count, but probably not significantly so. The LeeValley Veritas carcass saws are $69 each, or $119 for the set, plus shipping. To me they seem like good value and a decent product. There are more costly saws out there which may be worth it, if your circumstances and preferences allow, but I don't feel that the Veritas saws will disappoint if you are just getting into hand saws.

For tenon cheeks you want a rip setup, for the shoulders you want cross cut. So ideally you get both. Of course one can make do until funds allow. Others may be able to suggest which is best for combo if you can't come up with an extra $20. Our maybe you can have another birthday...quickly. : )

Before getting my Veritas dovetail saw, I had a gent saw, probably from LeeValley as well. Did not have success with it and gave up quickly. Could have been the saw, surely is me, but...

Let's raise a toast to birthday money.


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I'm not a master-at-anything in the woodworking realm; but I do enjoy a quality, vintage handsaw.

The older Disston and Atkins backsaws work really well, once sharpened. Heck, I've even managed to tune some Penn. saws into great users.

Old backsaws typically have 10 or 11 tpi upto 12/13, plus thicker saw plates. When you grab the right saw for the right cut, it works great. Here's my experience:

12" saws are just the most versatile and with 11-13 tpi do a rather good job in cutting dovetails. But I agree that a 8 or 10" saws with thinner plates cut dovetails much more nicely--but the 12" works. The 12" is just a quality all-around user!!

14-16" Both work beautifully in deeper cross or rip cuts. I have less experience with my 14"; but, with my 16's, they are just the best. Too big for smaller work but just perfect for precision cuts with or across grain cuts. If I'm cutting really deep, I pull out the full size hand saws. Tuned saws work exactly like they're supposed to do and a back saw is a luxury not a genuine necessity until you cut dovetails.

What do you need--well, one of each--or two (rip/xcut), in multiples from all new quality makers :)

Man, old saws are fun!!!

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Thanks for all of the advice. I just placed an order for the pair of Veritas Carcass Saws. They looked reasonably priced and decent quality. Thanks Tom for your suggestion and I'm sure they'll be a lot more functional at cutting tenons than my 26" box store Stanley.

Tom, I've had similar results with my Gent's dovetail saw. It's a little awkward for me to hold, and I have a problem keeping the blade plumb through the cut. It will be due for an upgrade in the future as well.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So I received the saws last week and finally got a chance to use them last night. What a world of difference they make over the hand saw I was previously using to cut the tenons, now I just have to work on getting the tenon shoulders looking better. I'm very impressed with the saws at this point, although since I don't have a lot of handsaw experience my thoughts might be a little bit unfounded. They are working for me better than expected. Thanks again for all of the suggestions and comments.

I might see a new dovetail saw in my future as well.


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