Zona Dovetail Saw

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    Anyone got any experience with the Zona saw’s?

    They are in the right price range (for me), and have gotten some good reviews over the years.

    Christopher Schwarz from Popular Woodworking 2006


    User review


    Amazon Store

    Online Store

    Dallas, Texas

    Rob Young

    I bought one some time back to play with. I think I got it for $10 including the shipping.

    1) very fine teeth so works better on material thinner than 1/2″ and cuts better in hardwood than softwood
    2) even though it looks like a back saw, it cuts on the pull stroke
    3) crappy handle, too small for my hand and I don’t really like the “gents saw” style anyway
    4) saw plate very thin, good for fine kerfs, bad for not accidentally kinking the plate — don’t loan it out like I did

    I’d suggest you either keep looking for a nice vintage one that doesn’t need much restoration or consider the LeeValley dovetail saw, 14TPI & rip. Get on LV’s mailing list so you will be notified of free-shipping days (I’m assuming you are in the USA or Canada, don’t know if free shipping applied in the UK).

    Probably the biggest down side to the LV saw is that the handle hang seems a little high to me. I’ve borrowed other “modern” saws from friends and used some vintage ones that had a lower hang and it felt more natural. But for $70 new, I’ve adjusted to it and it doesn’t bother me the way it did when I first got it.

    Fixed pitch but simple enough to gradually create a progressive pitch during sharpening if you are so inclined. I’m not as it starts just hunky-dory for me. YMMV.

    Gary Hodgin

    Yes, I took a course in hand tools several years ago at the Appalachian Craft Center near Cookville, TN. The course involved the construction of a dovetail box. The instructor, Greg Smith, recommended the Zona dovetail saw and had a few on hand for those interested in buying. Greg has built some fantastic stuff and he claimed is the saw he used. He studied under James Knenov at the College of the Redwoods and is still there as far as I know.

    It’s a very good saw for the money but my experience is similar to Rob’s. Our boxes were made from 1/2″ walnut. The saw worked well for that but probably not so well for thicker stock. I eventually got a Lie-Nielsen dovetail saw. This was before Lee-Valley came out with its saw. If the LV is out of the question, I’d definitely consider the Zona. I’m pretty sure this is the one I had.

    Note: The blade is not replaceable, but for the money a person could just buy a new one. One of the reasons I replaced my Zona was the fact the blade is not replaceable and not very practical to sharpen. I figured about the time I got hooked on the saw they’d stop making it.


    Wow, I have to try one of these since they are made in the town I grew up in. Gotta be loyal to the home cooking :). Besides at those prices I can find some use for it that will not make it a loss…. I knew Olson saw was there but I didn’t know these guys were under the same roof. I have the LV dovetail saw and am happy with it. I am going to assume these saws are slower.

    Paul Sellers

    I have to jump in here and add my endorsement to this saw. I have used them for about fifteen years. They are wonderful saws and especially is this so for fine work, small beads, dowels, inlay and veneers. The 24 tpi is a good size for this. They do finer teeth so small you can scarcely see them and these are good to have too. You can cut soft metals and plastics with them and though classified as a modellers saw they are a serious saw to add to the tool collection/arsenal at the price they sell for. They do look cheap, but the perform, man do they perform. I agree, on heavy dovetails they are too thin and they flex away from the task sometimes. Especially is this so in softwoods with diverse grain density, but in hard, dense grained woods, they are invincible. One last thing, the handles look chintzy (UK decorative, US cheap) but for the turners amongst us you can jerk the handle off, turn a nice hardwood one to a classic design and retrofit to taste. I do that. Also, you can replace the blade plate.

    Blaine Hill

    I am a novice on a tight tool budget, so this saw is quite a fine. I’ve made 7 dovetails so far. I’m not actually happy with them yet, but I know it is a matter of learning technique!ie I’m not wasting time blaming my tools. It certainly gave me better success on 1/4 that 3/4.


    I don’t know about replacing the blade Paul but certainly you can reverse the blade as per your YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PI2pQHEIOcw though I’ve never found the need as I don’t mind which direction saw blades cut in.


    I know that this is an old post, but it has been revived recently and here’s my thoughts on the subject.

    Zona-type saws are fine… but if its the one I’m thinking of, its an inexpensive saw that has some drawbacks that are worth considering – especially for dovetails.

    It is a saw designed for work doing small, precise cuts which other saws cannot approach – I’ll leave which ones to your imagination. You’ll note that few woodworkers use them exclusively for dovetails and your own results suggest that it isn’t entirely satisfactory for this.

    First, because there is no set to the teeth, whether arranged to cut on the push or pull, it will tend to bind in the cut and get stiff. The plate is extremely thin compared to a saw that cuts on the push, or compression stroke. This is the reason why the saw is sold to cut on the pull stroke when the blade is in tension; cutting on the push stroke coupled with the binding effect leads to the blade tending to ripple or fold. The partial answer is frequent removal for lubrication.

    Second, because there is no set to the teeth, the blade is set on its course from the very first stroke; right or wrong it cannot be ‘wiggled’ into a change in direction, controlling the course of the cut as you can with a saw with a ‘set’ to the teeth.

    It’s a personal thing and I expect to be disagreed with, but the best saw for ‘normal’ sized dovetails, in my opinion, is still a small saw – about 10 – 12 inches (250 mm – 300mm) in length, 12 – 14 TPI, with a rip configuration. Spend some time mastering that, including re-sharpening, and you’ll cut dovetails that get better and better with time.

    Zona-type saws are a useful thing to have, but I don’t think that they are the solution to a tight budget or to a series of good repeated dovetails time after time.

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