My old dovetail saw gave up the ghost in the middle of building a toolbox for the side of my bench. The saw was one of those reversible types with a spring-loaded pin; the pin no longer held and was releasing in the middle of cuts. So I headed to the store to try to find a replacement. Rather than buy the same type of saw, I wanted to find a saw that was made for finer work. I spotted Irwin’s dovetail pull saw and figured I could hardly go wrong for $10.
Even thought Irwin uses the word dovetail in the name, they don’t include cutting dovetails in their product description. What they do say is they designed it primarily for flush cutting dowels and “any detail cut.” Then they give examples of people who would use the saw: an interior trim contractor or a fine woodworker. While the saw works well, there are a few reasons why this probably isn’t your go-to saw for fine woodworking.
Reason 1: there’s a little bit of play between the handle and the blade — it doesn’t detract much from the saw, but it’s not the sign of a quality tool, either. The reason the play exists is because Irwin designed the saw to use replaceable blades. To remove the blade, just press the blue button on the handle and the blade pops out. Some reviewers note that there’s no replacement blade available anyway, so the decision to make the blade replaceable doesn’t make any sense. Were they originally planning on selling a $7 replacement blade for a $10 saw?
Reason 2: Building the toolbox, I gave the saw a pretty fair workout. The original project plan didn’t call for dovetails, but since I had been experimenting with hand-cut dovetails, I though this would be a good project to practice my techniques. While the flexibility of the saw comes in handy for sawing flush cutting, it is actually a liability for cutting dovetails. The thin blade doesn’t have enough backbone to adjust the angle of the cut once it’s been started, so you need to be careful to start the cut correctly.
Besides these minor complaints, I find the saw really handy. The kerf is thin, and the teeth, while fine, are fairly aggressive. Whether it’s aspen or oak, this saw makes sawing through most woods almost effortless and it leaves a smooth cut with little tearout. I’m starting to see why Japanese pull saws are all the rage. It had gotten to the point where I’d rather have spent five minutes trying to figure out how to use a power tool than fight with a push saw. In contrast, sawing with a pull saw, at least this pull saw, is almost pure pleasure. You almost go looking for reasons to use it.
The Irwin saw is so easy to use, I found that it’s the perfect saw for my 6-year-old daughter to use while she’s in my shop. It’s very light, it cuts with hardly any effort, and it’s much easier for her to control it since it cuts on the pull stroke. She loves using the saw to reduce scraps of wood into even smaller scraps and sawdust.
In case you’re wondering what the toolbox looks like completed, here’s a picture of it hanging off my workbench.
It looks like you can purchase this saw online for around $12 to $15, but I found it locally for $10. Since I liked this saw so much, I think I’m going to try its bigger brother: Irwin’s Extra Fine Cut Saw. It’s has almost exactly the same teeth, but it’s a little thicker and should be a little stiffer, which would make it better for cutting dovetails.