Zona Deluxe Razor Saw

Based on a recommendation by saw and handtool guru Christopher Schwarz, I ordered a Zona Deluxe Razor Saw for cutting some fine dovetails.  I have a couple of boxes I need to make and was looking for a dovetail saw that was a little more precise than the ones I had.   The Deluxe Razor Saw was under $10 so I figured I had nothing to lose.  I figure that Chris Schwarz has handled some of the most expensive handsaws on the planet, so if he recommends this one, there must be good reason.  To make it a little less subjective, I’m going to compare the Zona Deluxe Razor Saw to the other saws I use for Dovetailing

Dovetail Saws for comparison

Comparing Dovetail Saws

I have three saws in this dovetail saw shootout.

  1. Deluxe Universal Razor Saw (Model 35-560) – Designed for modeling and miniature work, it has gained some fame as a solid dovetail saw for woodworkers.  Made by ZONA Tool Company  in the USA.
  2. Crown Straight Dovetail Saw – I purchased this one a few years ago based on Fine Woodworking Magazine giving it the “Best Value” rating for dovetail saws.  Made by Crown Tools of Sheffield England.
  3. No Name Back Saw – This back saw is one that came from my Father.  It has no maker’s mark on it.  It was originally a crosscut saw that I re-filed as a rip saw.  It is no Disston or any other famous old brand.  The only thing it has going for it is a very comfortable handle and it cuts straight.
Saw teeth of the Dovetail saws

These are the teeth from the saws. Notice from the reflected light near the base of the teeth, that only the Crown has any set to the teeth.

Here is a comparison chart with all of the important details:

ZONA Razor Saw Crown Straight Dovetail Saw No Name Back Saw
Length of Blade 6.5″ 10″ 12″
Depth of Cut 1-1/8″ 1-3/4″ 2-5/8″
Teeth 24TPI Rip Pull 16TPI Rip Push 12TPI Rip Push
Plate Thickness 0.01″ 0.02″ 0.03″
Cost ~$10 ~$20 ?? Garage sale type item

Zona Deluxe Razor SawThe Zona Razor saw is essentially disposable because the blade is too thin and teeth too small to bother sharpening.  This was not a stress test so I do not know yet how long the teeth will hold up. The Crown and my No Name Backsaw can be sharpened as needed.

When looking at the Zona Deluxe Razor Saw the thin blade is immediately evident.  A blade this thin is apparently prone to kinking if treated too roughly.  The handle can be removed from the blade by simply pulling on it, as the tang and the handle are only joined by a friction fit.  You can not buy replacement blades…well you can, but they include their own handle.  😉

Before I start cutting, just by looking at the comparison stats, I can guess that the Zona saw is at a speed disadvantage due to its short stroke length and small teeth.

To test the saws, I cut straight rip cuts into Oak, Pine and Maple.  The woods varied in thickness so I made the depth of cut equal to the thickness, as though cutting through dovetails.

1″ thick Oak cutting 1″ deep

Dovetails saw cuts in Oak

Sample Rip cuts 1″ deep in 1″ thick Oak

Zona Razor Saw Crown Straight Dovetail No Name Back Saw
51 Strokes 30 Strokes 9 Strokes

So in this case the Razor Saw was no speed demon.  In its defense, this Oak has been air drying for at least 30 years and is very hard.  The cut was straighter than the Crown and had no tear out on the back side.  To put this in perspective, yes the Zona saw needed a lot more strokes, but I should add that the strokes were nearly effortless compared to pushing the other two saws.  Though I have to admit I was impressed with how my No Name, self sharpened backsaw performed.

3/4″ Pine cutting 3/4″ deep

Dovetail cuts in pine

Cuts in Pine 3/4″ thick and 3/4″ deep

Zona Razor Saw Crown Straight Dovetail Saw No Name Back Saw
12 strokes 7 strokes 2 strokes  !!

Okay, should I mention now that my No Name back saw is the first saw I ever sharpened?  I’ve known it was fast and pretty aggressive, but 2 strokes is pretty amazing.  The ZONA saw did well.  Again not the speediest, but a very clean straight cut.  Notice that the minor tear out from the Zona Razor Saw is on the front due to it being a pull saw, but is minor compared to what the other saws did to the back of the cuts.

1/2″ Maple cutting 1/2″ deep

Dovetail cuts in Maple

Dovetail cuts in 1/2″ Maple

Zona Razor Saw Crown Straight Dovetail Saw No Name Back Saw
26 strokes 10 strokes 2-1/2 strokes

The pattern continues that the Razor Saw is no speed demon.  It tracks straight and makes an incredibly narrow kerf, but it takes some extra back and forth movements.  I think in dovetailing though it can save time in the long run.  The sidewalls of the kerfs from the Razor saw are smoother and would require less cleaning up when used on something that will have visibly prominent / exposed dovetails.  To continue the comparison, I cut off the “tails and put all the sidewall side-by-side for comparison.

dovetail sidewall comparisons

The sidewalls of the kerfs from the ZONA Razor saw are much cleaner than the other saws.

It is a little hard to tell from the photo but the sidewalls of what would be the dovetails or pins are significantly smoother than the other saws. The Crown was the worst because it is the only saw with set to the teeth. Dovetails saws don’t really need any set to the teeth because the depth of cut is so short. The smoother sidewalls could save a bit of time cleaning up the joint.

I found the tracking of the Razor saw to be straight while the Crown always seems to veer off to the right.  Based on these tests, I should probably sell the Crown.  It has nothing great to offer.

The Zona saw is better at fine cuts, if only a bit slower.  The Zona razor saw would be excellent for making boxes or other items that have exposed dovetails, while my No Name Back Saw would do the beefier cuts on things like outdoor furniture.  The combination of the two saws allow me to do every type of dovetailing I’d ever run into.


I’d buy another Deluxe Razor Saw in a heartbeat.  It cut smoothly and straight even though it needed extra movements to do it.  My other conclusion is that I have new reason to love my old No Name backsaw.  I feel great that the time I spent on sharpening it and cleaning it up resulted in a speed demon that tracks straight.  Incidentally Zona has a lot of other razor saws.  What makes this one “deluxe” is the better handle.  The handles on the other Zona Saws are pretty much just a piece of dowel.

Other resources related to the Deluxe Razor Saw

Reader's Comments »

  1. By Steve Branam on August 24, 2010 at 7:52 am

    Nice comparison! For this kind of tool, speed is mostly irrelevant, you put up with slow in order to have precision.

  2. By swirt on August 24, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Thanks Steve, I agree about the precision and one thing I forgot to point out was that it is hard to cut too deep (going past the depth of the dovetails) with this saw, which is something that my aggressive saw is prone to do.