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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Crossposted from Cheap Sawdust.

Let's get it out of the way right now: This is a $16 saw. It's not going to be the best tool you'll ever use. Woodworking is one of those weird places where, up to a point, you really do get what you pay for, and $16 is CHEAP for a back saw.


This is the saw that WoodCraft sells as the "4140/250 Straight Back Saw". My first impression was pretty poor, but I've figured some things out since then.

What do you get, and what's the construction like?

It's a back saw; wood handle, steel saw plate, steel back. The handle is a touch small for me, but I find that the grip is reasonably comfortable. It's around 15TPI, filed rip. Remember here that with teeth that size, it really doesn't matter whether teeth are filed rip or crosscut: it does both equally well. Mine has held up pretty well: the printed logo is worn off to just about exactly half the depth, showing that it's really deeper than it needs to be for most things I use it for. I think that, in large part, that's because I like the Shark ryoba better for longer cuts.


How does it work?

Initially, it was terrible. Slow cutting, hard to start, hard to keep on a straight line, and with a miserable finish left behind. If it wasn't for the fact that it's the perfect size to use with a bench hook, and the ryoba isn't, I probably never would have used it.


However: last week I went out to the shop to putter. I've promised myself I'll spend some time, no matter how little, doing SOMETHING in the shop every day. I picked up the saw, and thought about trying to hand cut some dovetails, but I just couldn't bring myself to deal with the hassle of using it. So instead, I started trying to figure out why it didn't work well.


A saw is a simple tool. It needs:


1) A straight, flat sawplate. This one had that, so that wasn't the problem.


2) A handle you can grip reasonably comfortable for as long as you're going to use it. This saw also had that, so that wasn't the problem either.


3) Sharp teeth. OK, the thing could use some sharpening, but it's not THAT dull.


4) Proper set to the teeth. Huh. To quote, "Well, there's your problem!" The set on the teeth made the kerf nearly three times the thickness of the saw plate. That's ridiculous. How many of the problems could fixing that address? Let's see... Slow cutting? Check. Hard to start? Check. Hard to keep on a line? Check. Lousy surface after cutting? Maybe.


Once I'd figured out the problem, I decided on the easiest solution. The back of my machinist's vise has a small anvil on it, and I have a small hammer. I went up the blade, tapping each bunch of teeth with the hammer. This is a lightweight hammer, and I basically dropped it on the teeth from about five inches up. The teeth had visibly less set when I finished one pass, so I took the saw back to the bench.... and it's like it's a completely different tool. Starting is a lot easier, it cuts straighter, it cuts far, far, faster, and the surface left behind is a little bit cleaner. Not much, but a little.


At this point, the saw could really use sharpening, but it's no longer a matter of cursing when I realize I need to use it. Now it's just another saw in my toolbox, and worth grabbing if I have a job of the proper scale for it.


Final Thoughts?

I'm normally opposed to tools that need work before you can use them. If it's used, fine... all tools need tuning once in a while, and who knows what the previous owner did. But, out of the box, a saw should be sharp, set, and ready to cut. This one isn't. But... it's $16. A good dovetail saw will cost four or five times that: that's why I don't have one. So this is a reasonable compromise, in my opinion. If this is what you can afford, it's possible to turn it into a pretty decent tool with very little work.


Would I buy another?

If I needed a really cheap saw of this size, sure. For what it is, it works fine. That said, I plan to sharpen it once, then find a higher-quality dovetail saw to use instead. Sharpening it will give me practice filing teeth that small, and give me some time to find a good dovetail saw I can afford.
 

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Waste of time AND money

Why Bother? You bought a cheap, Chinese, saw. You said yourself, "you get what you pay for". I don't know where you look for tools, but if you took the time, you can find alternatives that cost $30-50 , that will out perform your expectations. You can buy either "Western-style" or Japenese pull saws for less than you think. AND I don't mean "Chinese-made.
Personally, I think you are wasting time, and time IS money!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Why Bother? You bought a cheap, Chinese, saw. You said yourself, "you get what you pay for". I don't know where you look for tools, but if you took the time, you can find alternatives that cost $30-50 , that will out perform your expectations. You can buy either "Western-style" or Japenese pull saws for less than you think. AND I don't mean "Chinese-made.
Personally, I think you are wasting time, and time IS money!

I have a couple of responses here.

The first is the one that made me laugh when I read your reply: This saw wasn't made in China. I never said it was made in China. I didn't even IMPLY it was made in China. If you follow the link to WoodCraft, you can see that it's marked on the blade and the site as having been made in Germany.

The second is that you probably haven't read many of these reviews, and I think you missed the point. The point of writing the Cheap Tool Review series is that a lot of us can't afford to just spend whatever it takes to get good tools. We can't, and that's all there is to it. We need to economize where we can, and spend a lot in the places where it's really going to count. I could, if I really wanted to, afford to buy mostly high-end tools, but I enjoy taking cheap tools and making them work. Since I can afford a few flops, I thought it might be to other people's benefit if I reviewed some of these cheaper options and talked honestly about what's good and what's bad. If I can help people get into woodworking without spending a fortune, doesn't that really benefit everyone involved?

Finally:

If you seriously know where to get a great-out-of-the-box western style dovetail saw for $30, please, tell me! As I said in the review, I'm planning to replace this, but the $70 for a Veritas saw is out of my reach at the moment (I'm unemployed right now). A $30 tool would make it into my budget much faster!

A side note on that, as well: if you're going to make a statement that, in essence, I'm completely wrong about how much good tools cost, please back it up. I don't mind being wrong: no one knows everything, and especially in something like this I'll be thrilled to find out where to actually get high-quality tools for less than I've been seeing. But if you tell me I'm wrong and won't tell me the right answer, I'll assume you're just being argumentative without actually knowing your side of the argument.
 

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My Apology

First, for implying that your saw was made in China. Second, for responding so slow. Anyways, I actually bought the same saw as you have, many years ago.
My only other previous experience was with my father's
"Stanley" back saw. Not at all a saw for cutting dovetails.
I wanted to try my hand at dovetails and other precise joints. I found the saw had way too much flex to suit my needs. I tossed it into my traveling tool box. for working construction sites. The only use I found for it was to cut back edges of sheetrock at door and window openings and to trim shingle shims flush to walls.
I already had a Katie Jig, that does through dovetails, on a router table, that can be variable-spaced. It doesn't do half-blinds, but that did not matter to me, and its considerably cheaper than a P.C. Omni Jig or a Leigh. So,
in other words, getting a better saw left my mind, for several years.
As by accident, I bought the Shark brand Dozuki saw, from Woodcraft's web site, because at the time, it was half priced. From $80 down to $40. It is now sold, regularily
for a little more than $50, I think. I bought some other small tools to try my hand at hand cutting dovetails and other speciality joints. Either from Woodcraft, Lee Valley/Veritas. I did purchase a new Stanley-"SweetHeart"
shoulder plane. I wish I had got the Veritas plane instead, but that's another story.
Since reading your review, I "Googled" Dozuki saws. I got hits from many on-line sellers. You can buy Dozuki saws, anywhere from $25 to well over $200. I found many "Western" saws in just about the same price range. If you are serious in finding something better, I will let you do the legwork and do a "Google" search on your own.
The other point that I failed to mention, especially with my title as, "Waste of time and money", was my concern of your "customizing" your saw. The teeth of saws are designed for a purpose. By altering them, with a "Hammer" and other means, would drastically alter the
geometric the saw. If you can get it the way you want it, more power to you. BUT, I have my doubts. For me, a
Japanese-style saw is more accurate, by a long shot, easier to use and leaves you a very clean cut. It was very easy to get used to. You could even buy one of those plastic-handled pull saws and get better results. I have read many favorable reviews for them. They probably
can be had between $15-$25.
I was and am not trying to personally bash you. My overall feeling is, if the saw you have doesn't do what want, you are better off trying something different. You don't need to re-mortgage your home, either.
So, good luck in your pursuit, no matter which way you go. Let's be honest, Why should I really care, How you spend your own money.

woodchuck1954
"A Legend in his own Mind"
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
First, thank you for the response, and apology accepted. There's too little of that going around, and I do appreciate it.

I found the saw had way too much flex to suit my needs.
Interesting... the one I have has basically no flex. I can make it flex, but I have to do things that should never happen while I'm cutting with it.

If you are serious in finding something better, I will let you do the legwork and do a "Google" search on your own.
That wasn't quite my point: I found a few things listed cheaper, but almost all of them appeared to be essentially the same quality or worse. If you have one that you know for a fact, from personal experience (or experience of people you know and trust) is fantastic, please let me know. I'll go buy one and write a review!

The other point that I failed to mention, especially with my title as, "Waste of time and money", was my concern of your "customizing" your saw. The teeth of saws are designed for a purpose. By altering them, with a "Hammer" and other means, would drastically alter the
geometric the saw. If you can get it the way you want it, more power to you.
Many, many saws are shipped with inappropriate set to the teeth. Almost all used saws have either too much or too little. In this case, after learning a lot more about saw teeth than I knew when I bought it, it was clear that the teeth had too much set. As far as I'm concerned, reducing the set (with a hammer, by stoning, or any other means) is just the same sort of tune-up that many tools need when you buy them. When you buy a table saw or chop saw, you make sure the fence is even. When you buy a hand saw, you make sure the set is appropriate.

I suppose it is technically altering the tooth geometry, but if I need the geometry different for what I want to do, I don't feel like that's a bad thing. If I'd paid $70 for the saw, I'd be bothered by the need (unless I was trying to do something very different from what it was intended for), but on a saw this cheap? Two minutes of work to clean it up doesn't bother me.

For me, a
Japanese-style saw is more accurate, by a long shot, easier to use and leaves you a very clean cut. It was very easy to get used to. You could even buy one of those plastic-handled pull saws and get better results. I have read many favorable reviews for them. They probably
can be had between $15-$25.
I actually have a Shark brand Ryoba: It's a great saw for the money, and my review of it is here. I probably will buy a Dozuki at some point, since I like the Ryoba so much, but for now I have this.

I was and am not trying to personally bash you. My overall feeling is, if the saw you have doesn't do what want, you are better off trying something different.
I appreciate that, and I hope my response wasn't too harsh. If it was, I apologize in my turn.

While I frequently agree, this tool for me hit a balance of cost and modification that made me think it was a reasonable buy. If it had needed more work or cost more, I probably would have said it wasn't worth buying. As it was... it's a cheap way to get a dovetail saw, and it can be made to work. It's possible to re-sharpen, so it's not a throwaway tool, and the handle fits my hand quite well.

The other thing is this: I'd already bought the tool. I paid, as I said, about $16 for it. If I threw it away and bought a new tool, even a $25 one, I'd have paid over $40 for the saw. If that one didn't work, I'd have to buy another. Continue in that trend, and eventually I've spent a couple hundred dollars trying to find a saw that works perfectly out of the box. At that point, I would have been better off just not trying out woodworking.
 
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