Rob's rationale on why and how he makes his saws.
Posted 03 May 2013 - 07:17 AMThanks to Nate for bringing this to my attention, as with any press, glad to see you spelled my name correctly! Here is the skinny on our saw for those interested enough to read it.
I have one assistant, Dave, he and I make the saws in my shop in Grand Bay, New Brunswick, Canada (Big cold place up north)
We make the handles from a composite we buy from a company in MO, we get it in sheets, 36 by 7 by 1. Dave does all the bandsawing and he has gotten very good. The stuff is tough to cut, we have to use bi-metal blades at $50 each and we get about 40 handles per blade. Love to hear "plastic" tossed around, let me tell you that if plastic was as tough as this stuff we wouldnt need half the land fill sites we now have!
I do all the milling from here, naturally everything has to be carbide and even that doesn't last long, maybe 50 handles before the bits have to be changed and sent out for resharpening. Dave does the sanding, buffing and drilling before I get the handle back to be mounted on the blade.
We use to have a company in Ontario make the brass backs and bolts but they went out of business unexpectedly, no luck finding anyone else interested in the small quantities we use so we now do it ourselves. We buy our brass flat bar from an outfit in NY, cut and rip it to width on my sawstop with the over ride on. (amazing what you can do when you don't know any better). I set up a drill press to mill the groove the blade sits in, there was an expensive learning curve on that one. A local jeweler does the engraving for us. We found a small father and son company in Tiawan that now makes our nuts and bolts, the quality is better than what we were getting locally. Dave routs the radius on the backs and mounts the blades (blades are a secret,sorry), drills for and installs and peens the copper pins. I sand the blades flush before Dave finish sands the edges and gets them ready for me to install in the handle. I do the bolting with the split nuts and hand them back to him, he then flushes off the bolts, finish sands the handles, cleans them up including oiling the blades and I do the final test cut. Dave makes all the boxes and does a perfect job at that. We spent a bit of time working the process to get the best result and minimize waste. We spend a fair bit on creating a nice and durable box to present and ship the saw, some think it is unnecessary but since I make the decisions we are sticking with it. Now you know how its made, where it is made and where most of the materials come from. We are definatley not "assemblers" but "fabricators". The saw is for the most part a product of US and Canada.
I designed this saw after spending a couple of decades teaching folks how to cut dovetails the "right" way. Now I say that with a bit of borrowed authority. Alan Peters taught me a lot of what I know about cutting dovetails and I consider him to be the best of the bunch. He died a few years ago but up until that time he was the last real link we had to the original arts and crafts movement. According to Alan, dovetails are to be sawn, not pared. Assembled from the saw one time with glue, no test or "dry" fit. The explanation for this is too long to type here but go to my site under the "student gallery" and view a few hundred examples of first time dovetailers that have done it this way, first time!
The latter requires mastery of the saw, if you are 60 years old and just starting this hobby you're a little bit behind the eight ball. I noticed over the past 12 years that my average student was in that age group, eyesight not what it once was, bit of arthritis, sore back, tired muscles and the list goes on. I sold LN for 8 years, it was the best saw on the market but in the hands of half the folks I handed it to, they could not start it with the required precision. Half could, half couldn't, simple as that. For the "half couldnt" I had an idea, put a starter strip at the front, small teeth, negative cutting face, easy to start! Now instantly they could do what was needed without the days, weeks or months of practise that would otherwise be required. Problem with the last comment is how many folks give up before they get where they need to be. I simply removed the "equipment excuse", if they really wanted to learn how to hand cut dovetails now they could, today! Someone made the comment that implied if you learn on this saw you wouldnt be able to use any other?? A) if you succeed with this one why bother with another and think again about what you just said, really??
The extra weight was designed to do a few things, learning to make plumb cuts is the second most important task in dovetails. The pin cuts have to be plumb and parallel for the joint to work. Gravity is the best "trainer" of plumb. My saw is double the weight of most dt saws, you can feel the "pull" and with a pistol grip that registers in your hand the same way each time you pick it up, in a very short time you are able to make plumb cuts by feel. For the later to work I always make sure my board is standing plumb in the vise.
Last topic is the handle, I have played hockey all my life, still do, 3 or 4 nights a week, love it! In my book "wood is good" and that is all I used, a wood, usually ash, hockey stick. My boys got me to buy and try a composite stick a few years ago, $280.00!!! Crazy right? Well I was sold first time on the ice, it has life, it is light, it lasts and if your lucky enough to get a season out of it, the next year when you take a shot it has the same snap it had the day you bought it. Wood sticks had a limited life span, a month of hard play and it was done, no snap, lifeless. I am using this analogy to simply say, what we always thought isnt always right. I would never trade my large diameter, rubber handled screw drivers for the prettiest wood handled ones, not a chance! The composite handle gave us the weight we were looking for (double the weight of maple), the durability, the ease of processing, while it is tough to cut and shape, we dont have to worry about grain direction which also makes it more economical. When Dave is finished band sawing handles out of a complete sheet, the waste wouldnt amount to another handle. I am not knocking pretty handled tools, I have some beauties. Mine are meant to be user tools, no "show" value, that was never my intent. I expect the majority of the (ugly "plastic") saws we have sold are getting used to create beautiful dovetails.
Final comment since I need to get back to work. Taught a dovetail class in Boise a few years ago and 88 year old Bob came up to me and said he figured it was "high time he learned to cut a dovetail". Now we could have insisted he use a traditional 150 year old patterned saw originally designed for 18 year olds heading into a furniture apprenticeship or we could inovate a bit and give the guy a fighting chance. Check out Bob's first dovetail on the student gallery page about 4/5s of the way down. I met up with him again last weekend in Boise, turns 91 soon and still hard at it. Just got back from a cruise and complained that most of the activities were for old folks, he went ashore and did the zip line instead! Way to go Bob!
Enjoy your time in the shop and pass what you know onto someone younger!
$295 for a dovetail saw? - Hand Tool Village - Wood Talk Online
Be interested to see what others take would be on the weight & start tooth proposition he has.
…..Live a Quiet Life & Work with your Hands