What is a Dovetail Saw?

A dovetail saw is a type of hand saw that is specifically designed for making precise and accurate cuts when creating dovetail joints. Dovetail joints are commonly used in woodworking to join two pieces of wood together at a right angle, such as in the construction of drawers or cabinets. The dovetail saw is characterized by its thin blade, narrow kerf, and fine teeth, which allow for clean and precise cuts in both hardwood and softwood.

The Anatomy of a Dovetail Saw

A dovetail saw typically consists of several key components that work together to ensure its functionality and effectiveness. These components include:


The blade of a dovetail saw is usually made of high-quality steel, which provides durability and sharpness. It is thin and narrow, typically measuring around 8 to 10 inches in length and 1 to 2 inches in width. The thinness of the blade allows for greater control and precision when making cuts, especially in tight spaces.


The teeth of a dovetail saw are specifically designed to cut through wood fibers cleanly and efficiently. They are typically small and have a high tooth count per inch (TPI), ranging from 14 to 20 TPI. The high tooth count ensures a smooth and accurate cut, minimizing tear-out and splintering.


The handle of a dovetail saw is ergonomically designed to provide a comfortable grip and control during use. It is usually made of wood or plastic and is shaped to fit the hand comfortably. The handle may also have a protective coating or grip material to prevent slipping and enhance control.


The back of a dovetail saw is a stiffening component that runs along the top edge of the blade. It provides support and stability to the blade, preventing it from flexing or bending during use. The back may be made of brass or steel and is typically secured to the blade with screws or rivets.

Choosing the Right Dovetail Saw

When choosing a dovetail saw, there are several factors to consider to ensure you select the right tool for your needs:

Blade Length

The length of the blade determines the maximum depth of cut you can achieve. Longer blades are suitable for cutting thicker stock, while shorter blades are more maneuverable in tight spaces. Consider the types of projects you will be working on and choose a blade length accordingly.

Teeth Per Inch (TPI)

The tooth count per inch (TPI) affects the speed and smoothness of the cut. Higher TPI blades produce finer cuts, while lower TPI blades are more aggressive but may leave a rougher finish. Consider the type of wood you will be working with and the desired finish when selecting the TPI.

Handle Design

The handle design should be comfortable and provide a secure grip. Consider the size and shape of your hand, as well as any ergonomic features that may enhance control and reduce fatigue during extended use.

Quality and Durability

Investing in a high-quality dovetail saw ensures longevity and optimal performance. Look for saws made from reputable manufacturers and materials that are known for their durability and sharpness.

Using a Dovetail Saw

Using a dovetail saw requires proper technique and attention to detail to achieve accurate and clean cuts:

Marking the Dovetail

Before making any cuts, it is essential to mark the dovetail joint on the wood. Use a marking gauge or a pencil to create precise guidelines that indicate the shape and depth of the joint.

Starting the Cut

Position the saw blade at the starting point of the cut, aligning it with the marked guideline. Apply gentle pressure and begin the cut with a slow and controlled motion. Let the saw do the work, and avoid forcing or rushing the cut.

Following the Line

As you continue the cut, follow the marked guideline with the saw blade. Maintain a steady and even pace, ensuring that the blade stays aligned with the guideline throughout the cut.

Finishing the Cut

Once you have reached the end of the cut, release the pressure and remove the saw from the wood. Use a chisel or a coping saw to remove any waste material and refine the joint as needed.


In conclusion, a dovetail saw is an essential tool for any woodworker who wants to create precise and strong dovetail joints. By understanding its anatomy, choosing the right saw, and using proper technique, you can achieve professional-quality results in your woodworking projects.