How to Sharpen a Dovetail Saw

A dovetail saw.
  • 2-3 hours
  • Beginner
  • 20-50
What You'll Need
Dovetail saw
Sharpening chisel (triangular or square)
Sharpening plane
Good lighting
Self-supporting magnifying glass

A dovetail saw is a small saw that is popular in furniture making. It is reinforced on the edge of the saw directly opposite of the saw's edge. Some of the things that make a dovetail saw unique are the amount of teeth that it has per inch of the blade and the thinness of the saw itself. It is about 0.07 mm thinner than the average backsaw. This characteristic is what makes the dovetail saw useful for intricate work in furniture making. You can sharpen your favorite dovetail saw. The job will take a couple of hours and attention to detail.

Step 1 - Flatten The Teeth

Attach the saw to the vise, blade side up. You need to use the sharpening plane from the bottom to the top of the saw. Your goal is to flatten the teeth to about three-quarters of their original height. This will allow you a fresh surface to sharpen.

Step 2 - Lower and Form

Now you should lower the saw in the vise for the purpose of stability. The closer that the teeth are to the surface of the vise, the less vibration and friction will be present.

You will now use your sharpening chisel. Through the magnifying glass, you will be able to see the individual saw teeth. Use the chisel at an angle in order to form new and deeper teeth for the saw. The new teeth will be sharp.

Step 3 - Alternate the Teeth

Alternate the teeth of your dovetail saw. Use a small press to press out every other saw tooth away from you. Then switch the saw around in the vise and alternate with the other teeth. This will leave you with sharp teeth that are almost pointing away from each other.

Step 4 - Re-form the Teeth

Now you are going to use the sharpening chisel to repeat Step 2 again. Use the magnifying glass to sharpen each tooth individually.

Step 5 - Re-plane the Dovetail Saw

This is the final sharpening step for your dovetail saw. Use the plane sharpener to slightly flatten the top surface of the dovetail saw again. The alternating of steps ensures that each tooth on the saw is sharp and uniform. It takes skill to make each tooth perfectly, and it takes patience to finish the saw.

Step 6 - Test It

You always want to test your saw after taking steps to sharpen it. It may handle differently, or it may not make the cut exactly as you wish. On the other hand, it may work better than it ever has. Make certain to use a scrap piece of wood, not one that you were planning on using for a project.

Knowing how to sharpen your own tools can save you a lot of money. Doing the work yourself will give you a sense of satisfaction on a job well done. You will also be better prepared to do all of your own work and repairs.