What Is A Tenon Saw?

What Is A Tenon Saw?

Getting into woodworking means that you’ll be faced with a plethora of different tools and knowing what each of them is for can be headache-inducing. We recently produced a guide on the different types of saws and what they are used for but we wanted to place our focus on the tenon saw since these are versatile and an essential part of your toolkit.

We’ll be giving you detailed information on how to use your tenon saw and when it’ll come in handy as well as introducing you to some of our top picks.

What Is A Tenon Saw Used For?

A tenon saw is an ideal choice when cutting furniture pieces as it offers extreme accuracy. This is a type of backsaw with a very classic design. What’s great about the tenon saw is that it works very efficiently, allowing the user to make deep, straight cuts with ease.

This type of saw has a relatively short blade, that usually measures between 250mm and 350mm and is known for its stiffness. This is ideal for cutting hard edges as a more flexible blade wouldn’t give the same precision or smooth finish. Along the back of the blade, the tenon saw features a steel spine, further improving its stability and in most cases, you’ll find that the blade is not designed to be removed from its handle.

While there are differences between individual tenon saws, you will find that, for the most part, these saws have between 10 and 14 TPI. This means that they typically have more teeth per inch than other types of saw which allows them to create a much neater finish. In addition to this, the greater number of teeth per inch means that cuts are achieved more slowly. This provides you with greater control over the cut, again giving a more smooth, even and precise finish.

Another brilliant feature of the tenon saw is the pistol grip handle. This gives the user greater comfort while cutting as well as making the saw safer to use.

For the most part, a tenon saw will be used to make tenons that are used in mortise and tenon joints. This is where the saw gets its name. They are very similar to the dovetail saw in that they have a stiff blade and are designed for making precise, straight cuts. But we will look at this comparison in a little more detail later on.

In terms of the tenon and mortise joint, the tenon saw is perfectly designed for the job. For this application, precision is key and, as we have learned, that is where the tenon saw excels. When attempting to create a tenon and mortise joint with other types of tool, you will find the process becomes much more complicated and difficult. If you are making furniture, this is one of the most important tools to have in your kit.

What Materials Can You Cut With A Tenon Saw?

The great thing about the tenon saw is that it is so versatile. Regardless of the type of wood, you are cutting, your tenon saw will be up for the challenge. These tools can be used to cut both hard and softwoods.

With that in mind, many people ask can you use a tenon saw to cut plastic? In theory, you can but you might not get the precision that you would when cutting wood. For obtaining the same smooth, even finish on plastic, it is preferable to use something like a coping saw.

Are Tenon Saws Ripcut Or Crosscut Saws?

If you need to perform a rip cut, along the grain, then a tenon saw is not the best tool to use. For this, you will need something like a rip saw or a panel saw.

The tenon saw is designed for cross-cutting and its unique design is perfect for this type of cut. When you are looking to make very precise crosscuts, the rip-filed teeth of the tenon saw allow for much greater accuracy and neatness across the grain.

What Is The Difference Between A Tenon Saw And A Dovetail Saw?

Looking at a tenon saw and a dovetail saw side by side, you could be forgiven for thinking that they were the same thing. There are some similarities between them but they do have some subtle differences.

Both types of saws are known as backsaws and this name comes from the steel spine that we talked about earlier on that runs along the back of the blade. Both saws have this feature and it serves the same purpose in both cases; it keeps the blade rigid and adds a little weight to the saw. This means that the user has to exert less effort when making a cut.

Similarities aside, the tenon saw is designed primarily for making the shoulders and cheeks of the tenon joint, as we have already discussed. This use requires the saw to have a thicker and wider blade with a lower TPI count than the dovetail saw. The teeth are also perfectly designed to perform a crosscut.

n the other hand, a dovetail saw is designed to cut dovetail joints and it features a higher TPI than the tenon saw to allow it to do this. Moreover, since making dovetail joints usually means cutting along the grain, the teeth of this saw are designed for rip cutting.

Can I Use A Tenon Saw For Dovetails?

If you are in a real fix and have no other tool for making a dovetail joint, then you may be able to get away with using your tenon saw for this. That said, most woodworkers would agree that you’d need a tenon saw that was on the smaller side for the best results.

However, we would absolutely recommend investing in both types of saw as each one if perfectly designed for its purpose. If you want your projects to have the best finish, it’s essential to use the right type of equipment.

What Are The Best Tenon Saws?

When it comes to shopping for a tenon saw, you will quickly notice how many options there are out there. While it is worth considering the features of each potential saw, any of the following tools would meet the needs of most woodworkers.

Our Top Pick – Spear & Jackson Professional 10 Inch Tenon Saw

This isn’t the first time we have recommended the Spear and Jackon tenon saw. With a 10 inch blade made from high-quality carbon steel and reinforced with a brass back, this is a saw that will retain its rigidity over time.

The beautifully carved handle not only offers comfort and gives the user greater control over the tool, but it gives it that professional look and feel too.

One of the best things about this tenon saw is that it is incredibly versatile. The type of teeth that it has make it perfect for cross-cutting but also mean that this particular tenon saw makes a decent rip cut as well.

Best Budget Tenon Saw – Irwin Jack Tenon Saw, 12″

If you’re just getting started and initially setting up your workshop, there are a lot of things you’ll need to buy. This may mean that you don’t want to break the bank on any particular item but it’s also important not to compromise where quality is concerned.

There aren’t many tenon saws that perfectly get the balance between affordability and quality but the Irwin saw really does this well. It doesn’t look as fancy as the Spear and Jackson but in terms of performance, it rivals it well. The teeth are designed to optimise cutting and the plastic spine provides you with affordable rigidity and affordability.

This one features a plastic handle that is moulded to perfectly fit the shape of the hand. Furthermore, it benefits from a soft grip for ultimate comfort while cutting.


A tenon saw is used primarily to create tenons for tenon and mortise joints but it can be used for other tasks. This versatile piece of equipment can be used to cut all types of wood and delivers a fine, precise cut with a very smooth finish.

What Is A Tenon Saw?

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