Saw Types

Whether hand cutting dovetails or dimensioning rough lumber, there is a saw to handle the job.


Dovetail Saw: A dovetail saw is a small saw used primarily for, you guessed it, cutting dovetails. Most dovetails are cut into the end grain of a board so the saw is usually filed rip. Dovetails are seen in casework and workbenches but the majority are seen in drawers and boxes. Since boxes and drawers typically use boards less than one inch thick, a dovetail saw has a high tpi (teeth per inch) and a shallow cutting depth. This keeps the saw rigid and easy to start.

  • Depth of cut: 1 ¾”
  • Length of blade: 10”
  • Thickness of blade: .018” to .02”
  • TPI: 14 to 16

Carcass Saw/Small Tenon Saw: These saws are very similar so I’m going to group them into one description. Any Google search will give you slightly different specifications for a carcass saw and small tenon saws, but the biggest difference is that a carcass saw is usually filed crosscut or hybrid and a tenon saw is filed rip. These saws can be used for dovetails as well as tenon work for small furniture. The tpi is lower so they are not as well suited for cutting thin boards as a dedicated dovetail saw.

  • Depth of cut: 2” to 2 ½”
  • Length of blade: 11” to 13”
  • Thickness of blade: .02” to .025”
  • TPI: 14 to 12

Sash Saw: This is a nice saw for intermediate joinery work. It doesn’t have the plate depth to cut large tenons but will handle small to medium work. Filed hybrid, it is the “jack of all trades”.

  • Depth of cut: 2 ½” to 3 5/8”
  • Length of blade: 14” to 16”
  • Thickness of blade: .025”
  • TPI: 10 to 12

Tenon Saw: This saw will fit the bill for your medium to large joinery work. It has the plate depth to handle large tenon work and has a lower tpi than the smaller saws, allowing you to cut those four inch deep tenons in a timely manner. Traditionally filed rip to cut deep in the end grain, it is paired well with a sash saw filled hybrid or crosscut.

  • Depth of cut: 3 ½” to 4 ½”
  • Length of blade: 14” to 18”
  • Thickness of blade: .025” to .032”
  • TPI: 9 to 11

Half-Back Saw : This is by far the coolest looking saw in my opinion. The length is getting into the medium panel saw region and the partial sawback provides a more rigid blade. This saw is great for dimensioning project pieces and roughing large tenons. It can be filed crosscut, hybrid, or rip…it all depends on your needs.

  • Depth of cut: 5 ½” under the back and unlimited when cutting at an angle or with the toe section.
  • Length of blade: 17” to 21”
  • Thickness of blade: .032”
  • TPI: 7 to 12