I used to start at the toe, but have slowly gravitated towards the method shown above in Dereks pic, mainly because there are situations where one has to start that way (e.g. HBDTs). It's odd but I've always liked fairly aggressive joinery saws. That could be because I learned using an LN saw, but for whatever reason I'd rather have to back off pressure on an overly aggressive saw that add pressure with an under aggressive saw... I'm just more accurate that way. The dovetail saw I made recently, which has more or less replaced my LN for most things, is built with that in mind. The hang angle is high enough so that when my work is in the vise it rest perpendicular to the piece or very slightly upward, so that I only need to tip my hand up a touch to be cutting with the grain - avoiding the bending/squatting I would need to do with a saw that has less hang. Its also filed more aggressively than my LN (5 degrees of rake as opposed to the approximately 10 degrees in my LN). I can still start it tipping forward and occasionally will but it works best tipped up, and will cut very quickly with virtually no downward pressure. It does have a touch of fleam in it (no more than 5 degree) which make it a little less aggressive. Not much less, but I believe it smooths out the cutting action and leave the back of the cut a little cleaner. It also, smooths it just enough that it make the little cross cuts for removing the waste on the outer edges of the dovetails pretty smooth.
Truth be told, I can't say much about how the back of the cut looks. Its not something I have ever really paid much attention to. I pretty much always cut tails first with the show surface facing me, and even when I don't, the little fuzzys that come out on a very aggressive saw are rarely more than just that... fuzzies that can be removed with one swipe of a plane or 220 sandpaper. Most the time they fall off on there own and can't remember a time off the top of my head when there was any visible tearing on the exterior of the cut. Perhaps this has to do with the species of woods I generally work (mostly cherry and walnut and a little hard maple). Perhaps other species would have more detrimental spelching on the back?
Anyway, all that rambling is simply to say that this is one thing that is very personal preference, in that it seems to have a lot to do with how you saw and possibly the types of wood you work the most. What I know for myself is the more pressure I need to apply the less accurate I am, and when I'm working with a saw that essentially does the cutting for me with just back and forth and little to no downward pressure, my results are more accurate, more consistent, and cleaner.
Last edited by Chris Griggs; 02-05-2013 at 8:46 AM.
Woodworking is terrific for keeping in shape, but it's also a deadly serious killing system...