What kind of hand saw for this job?

Forum: Hand Tools

I’m planning a cantilevered pergola for my backyard modeled after the one in the photo. I designed it and bought the materials yesterday. I have a good handle on how to get it assembled (figuring out how to get the rafters up by myself was the key).

So for the rafters – the main structure – they will be bolted to the column and to the upper side of the diagonal brace. But where the diagonal brace meets the column, I plan to mortise that joint for both structural reasons and to make it easier to assemble.

Ok now for the actual question. The mortise on the column is easy (chisels), but I need a way to cut the tenon cleanly and I don’t have a hand saw for this particular job. What type of saw should I use for this? And Amazon or Lowe’s would be the most convenient for me to purchase. Not too $$$, please. I already blasted my budget on a brick paver patio where this pergola is being installed. ;-) Thanks.


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22 Replies

Madts ...

I would use a Japanese type pull saw. The one I have are called Sharksaw. It comes with teeth on both edges. One set for crosscut and the other set for rip sawing. I have had good luck with these and they are relatively inexpensive.


Brian ...

I have one of those but I have trouble keeping it straight. Same one – the shark. Got it on Amazon a couple of years ago. I use it all the time. That’s how I know I can’t make it cut straight. :-(

I found a fat max backsaw on Amazon for $15. Looks like it should fit the bill. I guess if nobody has any objections or better suggestions I’ll order it tonight. The price is right.

Madts ...

Clamp a board along the cut line to use as a guide for the saw.


Madts ...

Get a new blade for it. the blades do not last very long and then begin to cut askew. The blades are thin with very little set on the teeth, so it does not take much for the saw to pull to one side or the other.


Manitario ...

Firstly; amazing pergola. I’m not a huge fan of pergolas (most look kind of clunky and a cheap version of Japanese architecture) but this design looks great. May have to copy it some day.

About the tenons; These are going to be big, fat tenons and it’ll be hard to get them fine woodworking level of perfect. I’d clamp a board to the brace as a guide and use a circular saw to define the shoulders and cheeks of the tenons. This should get you pretty close and and remaining wood would be easy to cut using the circular saw cuts as guides.

Brian ...

Yeah I was never crazy about pergolas either but when I started thinking about a cantilevered one, it got the juices flowing. It’s pretty simple construction. The whole point is to have a place to grow grapes overhead. In the few years between grapes and today, having something nice to look at will be good. Shade and fruit. I can’t wait.

I never thought about using the circular saw. See? This is why I posted the question. Now I don’t have to buy anything. And you’re right about it not really being fine woodworking, but I do want the angle of the cut to line up and fit nicely into the post. That’s why I figured a hand saw might be easier or faster.

Manitario ...

Shade and fruit. The perfect combo. Post some pics of the build, I’m interested to see how this turns out for you!

Brian ...

Hopefully will have it done by next Sunday.

Sheri ...

Can’t wait to see the end results.

Brian ...

Here’s a sneak peek. I ended up getting a $10 back saw at Lowe’s. Store brand. I think it is easier than all the set up that goes with using a circular saw.

In the picture you can see the joint is not flush. It’s resting on its own (self supported). If I push the brace a little it will sit flush. The mortise is a little too big. It was really hard to cut the mortise at an angle with any accuracy. This is the first of 3 that I have to make. I think for the other 2, I’ll offset the tenon so the mortise is straight in instead of at an angle. I think that will allow me to get a tighter fit.

Now… Should I pin the joint? If so, with what? Oak dowel? Brass rod? I don’t want to spoil the “beauty” of the joint with threaded rod and nuts. With all the weight that will be on it I doubt it will go anywhere. Pinning is probably not necessary.

Question 2: should I worry about water collecting in the joint? Especially for the one in the picture where it’s angled down. Looks like a water trap to me. I’m afraid it might promote rot. Probably not as big of a concern if I offset the tenon.

What do you think?

Whitacrebespoke ...

Circular saw is the way I do them most of the time these days as usually the pressures on and speed is the key. That said my old hitachi will cut 130mm deep.

If I was to work by hand (my preference) I’d use a min 26inch 7tpi crosscut traditional saw.

Basically the longer the better corse tooth these triple grinds like the Stanley fat max cut well when new but by time you have finished it won’t be much good.

If I circular cut I cut through many times then knock worst of the waste of and the plane of trim the face flat with a sharp chisel or slick.

Radial arm saws make light work of this type of things also.

Do not forget to bevel the tenon edges and ends to prevent a bind up on assembly. Off set your peg holes 3mm or so towards the shoulder and leave 12-20mm at bottom of mortice to allow the tenon to get further into the mortice as the post shrinks.

Whitacrebespoke ...

I don’t mess with boards guides etc when cutting tenons for framing with circular saw scribe your lines as you would normally then you have two options first run knife lines fairly deep or just go straight in with the saw.

I lay the foot on then set depth to the marks on the piece and cut to the line just so the saw rubs the knife line or splits the pencil line.

I have no issues creating Joinery grade tolerances when framing using circular saw. I do however like a sliding fit with frame joints they want to be a snug fit but not too tight you can’t get the frame together “sofisticated slop” as one carpenter that I had some lessons off would say.

I would also have used a 2inch wide tenon then taken up to two inches of the lower nose and gone full width from there into a mortice with the back cut a a similar angle. Tenons 3 inch long on an 8 inch post with mortice 3-1/2to 3-3/4 deep.

Brian ...

Thanks for the advice here. Some really good stuff. I ended up using all 3 saws. Circular, shark pull saw and back saw. I only used the circular for easy plunge cuts. Didn’t take the time to set up beveling, etc. The shark pull saw was good using a guide and for finishing partial circular saw cuts. It’s thin and has both a cross cut and rip blade. The back saw was best for free handing when either I was too lazy to set up a guide or I couldn’t clamp a guide because I was cutting against a bevel.

I have 3 posts and 3 m&t joints. The first one is in an earlier post above. The tenon is straight and the mortise is angled into the post and I was worried about water collecting in the mortise. So for the next 2 I offset the tenon so the mortise would be straight – less chance for sitting water. Plus I thought cutting the mortise would be easier. It turns out that cutting the mortise was not really any easier. It took about the same amount of time. But the tenon seems to be a lot weaker than the straight one. When it’s offset, it’s basically the end grain. I’m so concerned about it that I’m considering bolting through the tenon to guarantee it won’t break under pressure. There’s going to be a few hundred pounds sitting on each of these tenons. I’m not sure what to do.

Brian ...

By the way, I finished all the machining yesterday. That took a lot longer than I expected (as usual – you’d think I’d get over the surprise by now LOL). Everything is ready to install and today I’m digging and setting the posts. Getting closer!

Whitacrebespoke ...

That’s how I create tenons on frames not had a failure yet. Water ingress won’t be a massive issue if the tenon is a good fit.