Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lie-Nielsen vs. Wenzloff

This is my friend, Scott. Scott is thrilled because his new Wenzloff saws arrived this week and he can’t wait to try them out. Trust me, he’s happy. Regardless of his mood, he always looks like someone just pilfered his lunch money.

My partner and I find Scott’s grumpy disposition highly entertaining, along with his “gut-busting, lol, oh-my-God-did-I-just-snort?” stories about how gay guys hit on him all the time and he can’t figure out why. Scott is 100% straight.

And we’re bringing him with us to the Woodworking in America conference in Berea, KY this November. He loves hand tools so much he might even crack a smile. I’ll have the camera ready.

Scott and I decided to conduct and in-depth, painstakingly-scientific study comparing the smaller of his two saws with my Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw. Both are 9” long, 15 tpi blades.

Here are the results:

• Larger handle, set lower
• Shorter blade height
• Lighter weight
• Smoother start
• Does not cut as quickly, due to less aggressive set in teeth
• Thinner and less ragged kerf due to less aggressive set

• Aggressive set in teeth made it cut more quickly
• Produced a wider kerf
• Physically heavier, which aided in cutting more quickly with less effort
• Handle shorter and positioned higher
• Blade is tapered back to front
• More difficult to start due to agressive set

We liked both saws and the shape of the teeth looked identical to our untrained eyes, but Scott preferred his Wenzloff and I preferred my Lie-Nielsen. Since I usually cut thin, delicate dovetails, the Lie-Nielsen works better for me. I also feel like I have more control over the saw because it cuts less aggressively and has a smoother start. However, both handles were comfortable and both saws cut straight lines.

Scott preferred the more aggressive cut and heavier weight of his Wenzloff saw. He also preferred the feel of the handle over the Lie-Nielsen, stating that it felt handmade rather than machined.

Scott has a different sawing technique than I do when cutting dovetails. His is actually the “right” way to do it where you start the cut at an angle and slowly level it out. I start with the saw completely level with the board’s edge to ensure I’m cutting exactly along my pencil line.

One unexpected benefit to practicing sawing with a friend is that you can help each other improve your technique. By observing at board’s eye view from the side, you can tell if the sawyer is making a level cut and is using the entire width of the blade.

In conclusion: Lie-Nielsen and Wenzloff are both great saws!


Corey said...

Tell Scott it's the goatee, DAMHIKT.

Kari Hultman said...

Corey, I believe I'll keep that my little secret. hee hee

Anonymous said...

Hey Kari,

Not declaring a winner is cheating ;-)

Seriously, both saws look like very nice tools - and this is coming from someone who uses a Japanese Dozuki for dovetails!


The Craftsman's Path

Vic Hubbard said...


Tell him the advances are do to his "come hither" scowl:D

I was just watching my new Tage Frid video last night and he used a bow saw for dovetails. So, I'd say whatever you're most comfortable using.

Vic Hubbard said...

I, of course, meant "due" not "do".

The Village Idiot said...

Actually, it is my wife that brings up the stories of being hit on by guys. I didn't really know they were doing it except for a few obvious times. I think she puts them up to it to be funny.
Seriously, Kari you are right about sawing with a friend and pointing out some of your bad habits. I know what to consciously work on now.

Kari Hultman said...

Scott, at least you're a good sport.
; )

Vic Hubbard said...

Cool! So, now I know who the Village Idiot is and he has good taste in beer! Of course, since Sylvia is from Germany, I'm partial to their beers. But, any beer you can chew is a friend of mine.

acanthuscarver said...


Great comparison of two extremely nice saws. I did a similar comparison of those two saws and a half dozen others on my blog a week or two ago and my conclusion was similar. Vic has it right. After thirty plus years as a professional period furniture maker, having trained dozens of apprentices, I’ve found that “whatever is the most comfortable for you” is usually a pretty good adage for most aspects of woodworking. If you’re comfortable with the tool or an operation, and it isn’t inherently dangerous, you will be more likely to achieve a better result in less time. I think it holds true especially when it comes to dovetail saws. In the end I, like you, stand by my decision that there are many tremendous saws on the market. Go out and find one that feels right to you. Thanks for the great post.

Anonymous said...

There's really no reason to limit yourself to one saw. When you look at some old and fairly intact tool inventories, there are often multiples of certain saws. Why would you limit yourself to one particular set/tooth number in a backsaw when you would never do that with a panel saw?

Besides, one saw has a hyphenated name and one begins with W. I contend the difference is clear.

Kari Hultman said...

Why not own both saws? The spirit is willing, but the funds are weak. ; )

Anonymous said...

Time to charge admission...

Identity Mixed said...

You guys are total geeks.

Kari Hultman said...

I beg your pardon....we are total HANDTOOL geeks.