What Is the Difference Between a Dovetail & a Tenon Saw?


A dovetail saw and a tenon saw are back saws that are used for making small cuts in furniture. The dovetail saw is used to make dovetail joints, while the tenon saw is used for making tenon and mortise joints.

Dovetail Saw

A dovetail saw is used to make cuts in wood so that pieces of wood will interlock, such as fingers do when holding hands. For example, a box with dovetail joints will look like squares of alternating wood running along the sides.

Tenon Saw

A tenon saw makes cuts so that once piece of wood fits into another. Cuts are made on the edge of one piece of wood to form pegs and on another piece to form holes for the pegs to fit into.


Both a dovetail saw and a tenon saw can make numerous types of cuts, including through joints, half blind joints and reverse joints.


The dovetail saw is small and has a blade that is 0.018 inches thick. The tenon saw is larger with a blade thickness of 0.025 to 0.040 inches. There are 15 teeth per inch on a dovetail jig and 13 teeth per inch on a tenon.


A dovetail saw will have a pistol grip or fist grip handle that is open at the bottom. A tenon saw will have a standard handle that is closed at the bottom.


  • David Darling - Dovetail Saw
  • Adria Tools - Dovetail Saw
  • Disstonian Institute - Dovetail Saw

Who Can Help

  • David Darling - Tenon Saw
  • Design Technology - Tenon Saw
  • Wise Geek - Tenon Saw
Keywords: tenon saw, dovetail saw, tenon saw vs dovetail saw

About this Author

Crissi Enger has been freelance writing for five years on a variety of topics and subjects. She has a bachelor's degree from UNLV in both theater and English. Enger has been published on such sites as eHow, Associated Content, Bukisa, and Shvoong.

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