Quantcast
  • We invite you to join UKWorkshop.
    Members can turn off viewing Ads!

Japanese Saws vs. Western Saws

UKworkshop.co.uk

Help Support UKworkshop.co.uk:

Scrit

Established Member
Joined
17 Sep 2002
Messages
3,872
Reaction score
1
I am reviewing my hand tool kit and one question which has popped-up in my mind yet again is whether or not to make the switch from European saws to Japanese saws. I currently use a good selection of (mainly) vintage quality European-pattern saws including dovetail saws, tenon saws, panel saws, crosscus and a couple of rippers. Almost all of them are filed and set for hardwood. I do carry a couple of cheapo Japanese saws (with induction-hardened teeth) in my site kit for use on softwoods, but I wondered exactly how good Japanese saws are on hardwoods and what advantages there are to buying quality blades over cheaper ones (and for that matter what makes were the best and which to avoid). Ideally if I'm going to make the change I'd like to replace my dovetail and carcass (back/tenon) saws first (that's 4 saws in total), followed later by the panel and rip saws. The work I envisage is mainly hardwoods, so, who has experience of these and what do you think?

Scrit
 

dchenard

Established Member
Joined
13 May 2006
Messages
259
Reaction score
0
Location
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Scrit":e9j0t91p said:
I am reviewing my hand tool kit and one question which has popped-up in my mind yet again is whether or not to make the switch from European saws to Japanese saws. I currently use a good selection of (mainly) vintage quality European-pattern saws including dovetail saws, tenon saws, panel saws, crosscus and a couple of rippers. Almost all of them are filed and set for hardwood. I do carry a couple of cheapo Japanese saws (with induction-hardened teeth) in my site kit for use on softwoods, but I wondered exactly how good Japanese saws are on hardwoods and what advantages there are to buying quality blades over cheaper ones (and for that matter what makes were the best and which to avoid). Ideally if I'm going to make the change I'd like to replace my dovetail and carcass (back/tenon) saws first (that's 4 saws in total), followed later by the panel and rip saws. The work I envisage is mainly hardwoods, so, who has experience of these and what do you think?

Scrit
My limited experience...

I've been attracted to Japanese saws for quite a while, because of their thin kerf (less effort) and the finish quality of the cut. But like anything else, cheap ones will put you off.

I had a LN dovetail saw. I speak in the past, because that saw has been sold. I thought it was fussy to start in a cut, did not cut that fast, and the blade became quite a bit warm after a cut. As far as western dovetail saws go, the LN is among the better ones, so there was no point for me in trying another brand.

Then I tried the rip dozuki sold here by Lee Valley. Man oh man, what a saw... It truly cuts like the wind, tracks straight and true, a pure joy to use. It's more than worth its $90 price tag. I don't know if you can get it on your side of the pond, I sure hope so. Everyone who tried that saw wants one, at one point I met with a guy who had something like 20 Japanese saws, and he was blown away.

One of his saws that fared well was one by Gyokucho, I believe this is that one:

http://www.japanwoodworker.com/product.asp?s=JapanWoodworker&pf_id=19.371.0&dept_id=13085

For crosscutting tasks, I'm still debating... I bought a Z Saw crosscut dozuki, and while it does smooth and fast cuts, for some reason it feels less natural than western saws. Maybe it's just a question of getting used to it, but I haven't sold my western back saw yet...

When it comes to large scale work, I'm not sure that Japanese saws have an edge. For one, these saws have no backs so the blades need to be thicker, negating in my view one main advantage. But for smaller, precision work, Japanese saws are the cat's meow...

I hope Wiley chimes in, he knows a whole lot about all these saws.

DC
 

mr.nfla

Member
Joined
14 Jan 2007
Messages
11
Reaction score
0
Location
Padova-Italy
For my experience of seller and user, I always advice japanese saws.
The real secret is using the right Japanese saws depending on the job you're doing. In my lab I've got 15 Jap saws, and after long years of work, I've learned choosing the right saw depending on the piece I'm working on.
They have a minimum price compared toan european quality saw, like Pax or Flinn.
A crown, which has a minor price, must be prepared accurately for obtaining good results. This takes time and requires technical knowledge.

Regards to all UK forum!

Federico :)
 

whybob71

Established Member
Joined
16 Nov 2005
Messages
108
Reaction score
0
Location
Naples, Italy
Actually I use both type of saws:

1) European saws
pro: the cut is fast and precise, especially if you are dealing with thick timber. For most of DT work I prefer an Adria saw.
con: the surface of the cut is often rough (this is not a priority if you are dealing with most of the joints); the start of the cut is often difficult (especially for some DT saws sharpened with an aggressive profile).

2) Japanese saws
pro: some saws have affordable prices and good quality; the surface of the cut is clean (these saws are perfect for exposed joints). If you are working with thin timber and veneers these saws are often the best.
con: the cut is slow, often not precise in deep cuts. The handle is not comfortable for all-day work.
 

ByronBlack

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2005
Messages
4,117
Reaction score
0
Location
Thurrock, Essex
The best dovetail/tenon saw I've used is a sunchild dozuki - the blade is designed to work well with hardwoods, as most dozuki are only good for softwood. The sunchild is available from thanet tools - and is very cheap (about £25 I think, and takes replaceable blades).

For ripping and some large cross-cuts I use a Ryoba which seems to be ok.

Personally, I think I prefer the pulling action of japanese saws, and the thinner kerfs make joints a little easier to get first time around. IMVHO.
 

David C

Established Member
Joined
5 Jun 2005
Messages
1,867
Reaction score
20
Location
north devon
Scrit,

I find that the Sunchild is the only Japanese saw (that I have tried) which does a good job of dovetailing in thin (8mm approx) hardwood.

Many Japanese saws sold in UK are for crosscutting softwood.

David Charlesworth

More like £32 or so from Thanet. Replacement blades approx £14.
 

dchenard

Established Member
Joined
13 May 2006
Messages
259
Reaction score
0
Location
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
ByronBlack":3s8u4rgh said:
as most dozuki are only good for softwood.
I would dispute that assertion. While it is true that the Japanese use mainly soft woods, the saws themselves are usually of the "universal" type, made for both softwoods and hardwoods. This, at least in the saws available commercially.

When it comes to very high end saws, done by hand, then the teeth are formed and set according to the type of wood used. I am trying to get Yataiki (reputed as being the best saw maker ever) to make me two dozuki (crosscut and rip), and I did specify hardwood teeth.

On "consumer grade" saws, you can get either rip, crosscut, or "combination" teeth. From what I've heard, the latter type are not that good apparently.

The sunchild is indeed a good saw, BTW.

DC
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
I have a few Japanese saws, I like them a lot, mainly used for fine cuts on beads, or trimming off overhangs, dowels, pegs etc. but I have found that a Japanese saw is fantastic at swatting flys/wasps in mid air, once you get your eye in a quick manic flailing action and you usually down the little bug**rs. :lol:
 

woodbloke

Established Member
Joined
13 Apr 2006
Messages
11,770
Reaction score
0
Location
Salisbury, UK
senior":27rp52uq said:
I have a few Japanese saws, I like them a lot, mainly used for fine cuts on beads, or trimming off overhangs, dowels, pegs etc. but I have found that a Japanese saw is fantastic at swatting flys/wasps in mid air, once you get your eye in a quick manic flailing action and you usually down the little bug**rs. :lol:
Senior's defo cracked it this time :lol: I went down the Jap saw route a few years ago and was disappointed, they work very well on a decent bit of softwood (for which they are primarily designed and used in Japan as I understand) but don't seem to work nearly as well in hardwoods used in Europe and 'Murica so I've sold all mine and now use only LN or similar bench saws and have a couple of Disston cross-cut and panel saws - Rob
 

pam niedermayer

Established Member
Joined
6 Sep 2006
Messages
187
Reaction score
0
I prefer Japanese saws, much easier to use and gain excellent results, very fast in operation; but I've also used western saws to very good effect, they were just a little harder to use. I've noticed no significant difference in using them on hardwood or softwood, but I've not ripped a 6' long board lately either. I think the LN straight handled dovetail saw is just about perfect for that job. So my attitude is to pick what you like and get back to work.

Pam
 

sparky

Established Member
Joined
7 Mar 2007
Messages
88
Reaction score
0
Location
Baltimore, Maryland USA
well here is my thought

i started with some japanese saws and the more i used them for joinery the less i liked them. now i use a ryoba for basic triming and i especially like the speed of these saws for crosscutting.

however: for dovetails i tried a nice dozuki and was very dissapointed. so i went with a DT saw from mike wenzloff (bit of a gloat :wink: ) and i knew that i had found what i was looking for.

for me i started with japanese saws and now i am in the middle of the switch to western saws almost exclusively.
i can't say enought about the quality of wenzloff's saws. especially when i compaired it to a LN DT saw. the LN seemed to be much lower quality (don't mean to start trouble 8-[ )

im leaving now :-#

sparky
 

Alf

Established Member
Joined
22 Oct 2003
Messages
12,079
Reaction score
0
Location
Up the proverbial creek
Can only speak for myself, but the fact I can sharpen and maintain Western saws myself makes it a "no brainer". I dunno, Scrit, but if you do decide to change first dibs on your unwanted old ones, eh? :D

Cheers, Alf
 

Scrit

Established Member
Joined
17 Sep 2002
Messages
3,872
Reaction score
1
This has proven to be an interesting discussion, so far. As I said I have little experience of Jap. saws but they seem to be praised and reviled in equal measure. The main part of my work is in hardwoods and it seems that Jap saws are really better suited to softwoods. Perhaps I should be lusting after an Adria, Wenzloff or LN, then? :lol:

Alf":2r6ip2hw said:
I dunno, Scrit, but if you do decide to change first dibs on your unwanted old ones, eh? :D
Don't ring me, I'll ring you...... :wink:

Scrit
 

ByronBlack

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2005
Messages
4,117
Reaction score
0
Location
Thurrock, Essex
Scrit, I think DC (Charlseworth) might be able to give you good advice on which saws are good on which hardwoods. I had a long disucssion with B.Luckhurst on this very subject, and along with the research that i've read from DC and Luckhurst; i've concluded from their results, that most Jap saws available aren't suited for hardwood in this country, so you have to either talk to a really good dealer who knows the origins of the saw, or go by recommendations. The only dovetail/dozuki I have read/told is good for hardwoods is the aforementioned Sunchild.

Personally, if i were in your situation with a good selection of western saws, I would slowly add a mid-range japanese saw for a particular task and see if you prefer it over the western. These things have mystical value to them so you can almost always recoup what you paid via evilBay.
 

Philipp

Established Member
Joined
3 Nov 2005
Messages
81
Reaction score
0
Location
Via strata montana
Only my impression: the reason for Japanese saws being preferred more and more by western woodworkers is because they are the only affordable saws that can be successfully used directly from the packaging. Thus, they are ideal industrial products (and, by the way, they are being marketed superbly as well).
Ok, never owned (and probably never will) a Wentzloff or similar hand saw, but all western saws that I had in my hands needed preparation like sharpening or reducing the set etc. before they became usable tools. Since probably only a few hobby-woodworkers know that these saws need preparation they will never have an idea about the good results that can be achieved with such a tool when put into correct working condition. The same applies to other tools, like chisels and planes. Being used “from the shelf” without sharpening etc. they will lead to frustration.

I also started with JS and praised them for their great performance, the slim sawing kerf and the smoothness of the cut, yes, I was so impressed that I didn’t realise that the planes after the cut indeed where smooth – but not flat. And flat planes are the goal, not smooth and shiny but bumby ones. It took a while for me to understand this. And despite growing experience I even today hardly manage to make a deeper and longer cut in hardwood with a JS not deflecting from the line.
So I began to look for old European and American hand saws and at the same time started to deal with saw sharpening. And I must say, this was a glance into a new world! My first attempts of saw filing were rather poor, but I am learning step by step what is essential and what is not. And with regard to deep cuts in hardwood my western saws clearly outperform my JS. They track the line much better, do not cut more slowly and I have to spend much less effort refinishing of the workpiece.
And they are much more beautiful!

I won’t give away my collection of JS but I will not invest much more money into these saws. New ones will be western ones – and old ones!

Regards

Philipp (off for lunch-break and reworking a handle of a – western – dovetail saw.
 

engineer one

Established Member
Joined
25 May 2005
Messages
3,070
Reaction score
0
Location
Wembley, Middx
scrit, very personal thought on the other side of the coin.

as has just been said, japanese saws basically come ready to use out of the box, but the down side is getting them sharpened, do you really want to send them back to japan :twisted:

many people start out with them because after trying "normal" saws at woodworking lessons many years ago, they feel there must be a better way. it is only when you use a properly sharpened european saw that you understand how they can be. but jet saws etc are still difficult to use from the get go without practice.

you have a long time in practising with european saws, thus it will be basically learning a new skill where as your time might be better spent in getting one or more of the modern limited edition saws that suit your long established style.

the kerf and finish of japanese saws is definately better than that of a western style cut, however it does take practice to get them to cut straight and true. the action although is valuable, especially if you have any problems with your wrists or elbows( poor auld s*d) where the action is somewhat more comfortable. since it is in more of a straight line.

however for hard wood my feeling is that experience is what counts, and you cannot overnight get the experience with a japanese saw that replaces that of your european saw usage. do you have the time to learn in a production setting.

a quick poll would i think suggest that in most cases for most jobs, those promoting japanese saws do not use them day in day out in production work, rather like me more in the "hobby" with occassional madness mode.

however for certain things like thin kerfed joints ie dovetails they are definately the bees knees. :lol:

paul :wink:
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Hi Srit

i used Jap saws for several years as i found them a little easier to use then european saws and also the fact hat theyare different appealed to me.

However, now that I have some decent european saws and a little more skill, i find the japaneses saws hardly ever get used........
 

dchenard

Established Member
Joined
13 May 2006
Messages
259
Reaction score
0
Location
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
OK... Few things here...

BB, you keep mentioning that commonly available Japanese saws aren't suitable for "hardwoods in this country". As far as I know UK timber isn't much different than what we have on my side of the pond, so what is the issue?

Looking at LV's saw offerings (of which many if not all, are sold in the UK by various retailers), I haven't seen a mention that a given saw is to be used only in softwoods, actually it is mentioned for many of these saws that they work with both softwoods and hardwoods. And my experience (I've had four of their Japanese saws) supports that. You might want to put this down to "retailer's hype", but I know LV enough to tell you that it's not the case. So I'm asking again, why are these saws unsuitable for hardwoods? The very high end Japanese saws, those that are hand-made and must be sent back for re-sharpening, are filed specifically for the type of wood used, but the mainstream saws are not.

Philipp, you raise one good point, Japanese saws are ready to use right out of the box. Western saw manufacturers are not, except for the high-end ones. Actually, not to put down the high-end makers, the quality of the sharpening is often what distinguishes their saws from more mundane ones (neglecting beauty and material quality for the moment). More on that later. As far as "unflat" cuts go, Rob Cosman told me something similar when I mentioned to him that I preferred my rip dozuki by far compared to the LN DT saw he had sold me. In practice this hasn't been an issue, even in thick stock (I made tests). One thing to remember about Japanese saws, one can't correct a cut once started, the blade is too thin.

Sparky, you said that you tried a dozuki for dovetails and were disappointed. Did you use a rip dozuki? It makes a world of difference... FWW did a review of dozukis a year or two ago, and the crosscut dozuki saws took up to five times more strokes to do the same endgrain cut as the rip dozukis. If you didn't use the proper saw no wonder you were disappointed.

A few months ago, one of our local association members purchased a DT saw made by Ed Paik, an up-and-coming Canadian saw maker, and wanted our (the other association members') opinion. It did well, somewhat better than the LN another member brought for comparison. Another member brought a Pax, and was quickly convinced to return it because it performed so poorly (I think sharpening was an issue here). But the best cutting saw was a cheap gent's saw sharpened by Tom Law (of sharpening video fame). I didn't want to kill the party so I didn't bring my rip dozuki. Maybe I should have, because it would have blown all these western saws in a New York minute...


In the end, coming back to Scrit's intended plans, if we look at dovetail and carcass saws, here's the lowdown:

- Western saws are sturdy, and can be used by a ham-fisted gorilla without too many dire consequences. They can be resharpened by the user (if proficient, and willing to spend the time), and their blade thickness allows them to correct a cut without too much deflection.

- Japanese saws are the opposite. They are fragile, and demand more proficiency from the user (on top of getting used to the pull stroke, I ruined my first dozuki by not handling it properly, good thing it was an inexpensive one). One important point is to let the saw do the work, i.e. not force it into the cut. I think that's what leads to unflat cuts. They also can't be sharpened (except the very high end ones), which is not necessarily a problem. Western saws blades have been hardened traditionally to Rc 38-42 (LN claims 50-51 on their DT saw); Japanese saws are much harder, my rip dozuki is Rc 61, and my Z Saw is quoted at Rc 70 (which honestly I find hard to believe). The bottom line is that Japanese blades last much longer between sharpenings than western saws, at that point replacing the blade isn't more expensive than having a western saw done a few times, unless you don't value your time.

The reward for using Japanese saws is speed, precision, and smoothness. But they are used differently from western saws, in my view the learning curve is more than worth it.

DC
 

ByronBlack

Established Member
Joined
4 Sep 2005
Messages
4,117
Reaction score
0
Location
Thurrock, Essex
DC - as mentioned, my opinion is based on the two people that i've spoken to and read from mentioned in my previous post, so i'm quite happy to take a second opinion as you sound well informed on the subject. The one's i've used have mostly been from the Ice Bear range from Axminster - they're great for small jobs, and i've used them for dovetails but they weren't anywhere near as good as the sunchild one.

DC - since you seem to be somewhat of an expert on this subject, atleast more expert than I, could you recommend a couple of saws (and makers) and if you know: a place to buy them in the UK? I personally, would like a good Ryoba, and something to give me a good crosscut in 1" to 1.5" hardwood. I think part of the problem with the high-end saws is that there is simply a massive choice, and it's hard to distinguish what is good and what is not. Which leads back to the problem that most dozuki's in this country - and I would guess are at the budget end of the scale are only suitable for softwoods.

And finally, do you know of a good website, that perhaps reviews and compares the various makers of this saws?
 

Alf

Established Member
Joined
22 Oct 2003
Messages
12,079
Reaction score
0
Location
Up the proverbial creek
Ooo, "ham-fisted gorillas" eh? Ooo, that's good. Anyone going to play the "wrapped up in a yak hide on top of a mountain listening to the sound of one hand sawing" card in retaliation? I've brought popcorn...



Cheers, Alf
 
Top