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Japanese vs Western Saws

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woodbloke66

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Following on from the thread about 'Learning Dovetail Joint' on the General Woodwork forum, a question arose about Japanese saws as compared to their Western equivalents. I've used them exclusively for years to do finer stuff and I thing they're great, but I have a range of bigger Western saws for heavier cutting - Rob
 

Hornbeam

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I used Western saws exclusively for about 30 years and then bought a japanese dozuki to try. Like you I now use western saws for general work but all fine work done with a dozuki.
I have recently bought 2 handmade saws Japanese saws from Workshop Heaven. Just about £90 each but absolutely fantastic
Ian
 

dannyr

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I tend to use classic british saws of various sizes (bought cheaply but need some work) and happy with this.

not doing any fine work at present but have also used (American?) Zona saws - some with replaceable blades - anyone else here use them?
 

AJB Temple

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I agree. I like Japanese saws for fine work too. I love visiting Japan and enjoy many of their things.

However, I don't get on with Japanese saws for ripping sizeable pieces of timber. Somehow it just seems much slower and harder work than using a western rip saw. I assume this is my poor technique.

For fine joints I am pretty happy with a quality western saw too, but in tricky timbers a Japanese pull saw can give a super fine cut.

Can't say that I really see a massive difference with chisels.
 

woodbloke66

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Hornbeam":1woqfbfi said:
I used Western saws exclusively for about 30 years and then bought a japanese dozuki to try. Like you I now use western saws for general work but all fine work done with a dozuki.
I have recently bought 2 handmade saws Japanese saws from Workshop Heaven. Just about £90 each but absolutely fantastic
Ian
I use the handmade saws from WH as well and they are an absolute dream. The new 'Shokunin' range from Axminster are also pretty good; re-branded Gyokucho. I have a deep cross-cut Ax saw which is superb.

AJB Temple":1woqfbfi said:
I agree. I like Japanese saws for fine work too. I love visiting Japan and enjoy many of their things.

However, I don't get on with Japanese saws for ripping sizeable pieces of timber. Somehow it just seems much slower and harder work than using a western rip saw. I assume this is my poor technique.

For fine joints I am pretty happy with a quality western saw too, but in tricky timbers a Japanese pull saw can give a super fine cut.

Can't say that I really see a massive difference with chisels.
Same here. We love Japan and have been several times now; it's by no means a 'perfect' society and many things are really strange but they try to do the very best in everything they undertake which is probably why we find the culture so fascinating.

Back to saws. Apart from the two large handmade saws from WH, I also treated myself to the exquisite little Gyokucho Ts129 which is incredible for really fine work. I've a got a Japanese Tea Cabinet to make soon and I intend to incorporate a 'kumiko' panel in a small door; I've even got some Yakusugi cedar to make it with!
Very large hand saws are available in Japan...

maxresdefault.jpg


...but I've never seen anything similar in the West. On our first trip I did see a few rusty old antique saws leaning against a wall and when I pointed them out our host (a Japanese swordsmith) said via our interpreter... 'Nah, we don't use them any more, we use chainsaws instead' :lol: - Rob
 

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thetyreman

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I prefer the feel of western saws, especially when dovetailing and cutting joints like tenons, I like my hand made blue paper steel ryobi though for carpentry work and the cross cut is particularly clean, so am not against them.
 

Trevanion

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I wonder if the Japanese made a circular saw blade, would it cut on the backwards stroke? :-k
 

lurker

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My brain and muscle memory cannot deal with a pull cut.
I can saw with a back saw without thinking about it too much.
..... my life is too short to learn this new skill.
 

AJB Temple

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It's actually very natural lurker. We have to pull even Western saws backwards half of the time :lol:

If you do any pruning you may find that a pruning saw that pulls on the pull is much easier to use than conventional saws over here. I use the Silky brand and they are superb.

Rob - we must compare notes on Japanese trips. Last time was a couple of years ago for us and I focussed on knife making courses and we visited a lot of Japanese gardens.

I would like to get hold of some proper Japanese cedar: I have been wanting for a while to make a Japanese style wooden hot tub.
 

lurker

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I am sure you are right but I have enough back saws and all are sharp and properly set.
Several are my dad’s, and I feel a connection when using them.
 

Just4Fun

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Can someone comment on cheap v expensive Japanese-style saws?
I had a cheap pull saw and could not get on with it at all. I found it impossible to cut to a line - I consistently drifted off to my right. I don't know if the problem was with me or the saw, and whether I would be more successful with a better quality saw. I assumed the problem was with me and have stuck to western-style saws ever since. Should I try again with a better pull saw?
 

D_W

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Something was wrong with the saw. 90% of gyochuko and Z saws do exactly what they're supposed to do, but some will shed teeth on oak, so you have to watch what you're doing and what you're doing it again once you get a replacement blade.

I've not found the mid grade of saws any better (z and gyochuko sell new blades in japan for about $5 - $11. We get smacked by retailers on replacements in the states and in europe) - those saws are machine made or partially machine made and just don't seem to perform better, but I think retailers (woodcraft here in the states) that tend to have higher prices try to sell them as differentiating. Once in a while, there's something (like a rip only dozuki) that comes up and may be better for a specific task, but as pleasant as they are to use, they don't save time and they cost 4 times as much as a general dozuki.

At any rate, if you get all the way up into custom saws, you can get anything you want, including a rip kataba in a large heavy size like a western saw that will feel like you can't break it ripping.

Years ago, on sawmillcreek, I had gone from japanese to western saws as I started to work entirely by hand. There's nothing sold here (despite some japanophiles' wishes -they rip one cut with a ryoba and then declare it equal) to a disston rip saw if you're actually working by hand, and that's a big problem. So, stan covington picked up on it (i'd spent a lot of money on the coarsest of disposable saws by then and they just weren't up to it), and he went to a smith that he knows who makes 20 saws per year more or less and took the guy some western saws (including a rip d-12 disston). The sawmaker was impressed with the taper quality and accuracy of the disston and he made a pair of katabas - keep in mind, this guy makes these by hand - you can get whatever you want.

Stan sent one to me. I took a video of it, but I was in my pajamas and I'm fairly sure I've deleted it by now. I found it harder to use than a disston saw, but professional sawyers in japan found it easier than a disston saw (not surprising), and we had opposite experiences with speed. However, if one was used to pull saws, it would've been the solution for long ripping.

The trouble was, even though it was made by a reasonable maker, it was $750 at the time for each one. I was thankful to try it. There are some things necessary when you're pulling a saw to make it cut equivalently in effort to a western saw - more tooth hook, etc, but tooth count and firmness of the custom saw was a lot like a disston.

I can cut 75 linear feet of 4/4 - 8/4 material in a given day with disston saws and not feel anything other than a little tired (planing of the wood goes along with that to make door sticking, etc), but I was played out by the japanese saw in one cut because it's a different set of muscles. It could be equal.

I think beginners and people who don't do much work by hand will like the decent pull saws for joinery, I've moved to western saws and rarely use them - across the board. The thing about the japanese saws that's attractive to beginners is that on joinery, you can practically lay the saw on a spot, pull it, and it will cut where you put it. ham handing starting is less. No sharpening, which people don't like, I guess. But there remains no good solution for productive ripping of western wood without engaging a custom saw maker.

I've bought another kataba or two old and used off of japan yahoo auctions, but none is close to the equal of the saws that stan had made. What kept me from spending the $750 is pretty simple. I could see getting as good with it as I am with some of my western saws, but they were about $50 on average. It just wasn't justifiable even though it was unique and neat. Nobody on here would've been able to physically break the custom saw, either - it was tempered to good toughness (not glass hard) and the spine and tang were very heavy. But it came out a whole lot like a western saw (not surprisingly) when a capable and intelligent custom maker was given samples of wood that it was to cut.
 

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I am astonished to be able to claim that I, also, use Japanese handsaw.


It probably doesn't have the same kudos, or price tag, and I definitely don't do fine furniture making with it.
 

Bm101

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Trainee neophyte":1oirojpy said:
I am astonished to be able to claim that I, also, use Japanese handsaw.


It probably doesn't have the same kudos, or price tag, and I definitely don't do fine furniture making with it.
The lidl small pull saw (about as Japanese as IKEA) is amazing. Wafer thin blade its deadly for a finish that needs next to no finishing. When it's out in store I always buy a couple.
I have a couple of cheaper japanese saws (one backed, one a rip/cross cut from wh. Or maybe fine tools.) I also use a cheap hardpoint. And I have a couple of back saws that I need to learn how to sharpen. I got these in a joblot when starting out and even then had enough sense not to mess up. I will get these sorted. Maybe sooner than I thought what with current events.
One tip i read that works for me with Japanese saws is not to extend your finger. Wrap it round the handle. Don't know why this works but it does. Even at my gonky level.
Also japanese pruning saws. Nuff said.
8)
#usualnonadvicedislaimer.
 

Andy Kev.

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I picked up one of those rip/cross cut double sided ones and I practice with it by using it whenever I need to do a crosscut which can then be trimmed up on the shooting board. I find it goes through some woods a lot quicker but it doesn't do anything about my tendency to drift a bit to the right as I go down the cut (I try to make sure that the waste is always on the right). So I've come to see Japanese saws as an alternative as opposed to better or worse than western ones.
 

woodbloke66

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Andy Kev.":2gica9g1 said:
I picked up one of those rip/cross cut double sided ones and I practice with it by using it whenever I need to do a crosscut which can then be trimmed up on the shooting board. I find it goes through some woods a lot quicker but it doesn't do anything about my tendency to drift a bit to the right as I go down the cut (I try to make sure that the waste is always on the right). So I've come to see Japanese saws as an alternative as opposed to better or worse than western ones.
Like all sawing, Eastern or Western, there's a definite way to use them. In this case you may be standing incorrectly, in other words feet and body facing the bench. If this is the case, try standing sideways, so for a right hander, the left foot should be closest to the bench and the right behind it. This then gives room for the sawing arm to swing back past the body; at the same time your eyes should be directly over the top of the blade.

With a Japanese saw, the lightest possible effort is needed to pull it through the wood; it can be easily done by holding the handle with just a forefinger and thumb; too much 'wellie' and you'll find yourself stripping the teeth which is a very common mistake. With a Western saw, you need to apply pressure to push it through the timber; the reverse is true with a Japanese pull blade. The same amount of pressure as you'd use with a Western saw may well break a tooth(s) on a Japanese blade - Rob
 

D_W

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Andy Kev.":crkpsc4l said:
I picked up one of those rip/cross cut double sided ones and I practice with it by using it whenever I need to do a crosscut which can then be trimmed up on the shooting board. I find it goes through some woods a lot quicker but it doesn't do anything about my tendency to drift a bit to the right as I go down the cut (I try to make sure that the waste is always on the right). So I've come to see Japanese saws as an alternative as opposed to better or worse than western ones.
The saws are steerable (the light japanese saws), but they are two things more than western saws:
* more easily influenced off of the cut line
* more easily twist in more than one direction

Neither of those are helpful in heavy sawing. The large rip saw that I used more or less required standing on the workpiece, which created a need to facilitate that. Even though that saw plate was 1 1/2 times as tall as the back of the plate on a large western rip saw, and about as thick (thicker at the tang, but the tang is two pieces forge welded, so different design), it would still wander on me - once it started to wander, it was much harder to steer back (leading to the conclusion that a good user - which I wasn't within a week - would have the skill to prevent wandering or correct it more quickly). It didn't do that for the professional users.

At any rate, for smaller rips (the kind you can do in a vise and I'm sure people do often with japanese saws), the tooth profile (size, rake, etc) is more important in japanese saws and they're more picky. If you're working with a saw well matched to the wood you're using and you increase pressure, there may not be wander. The speed vs. fineness thing that's there in crosscut (esp. on small work, it's really hard to match the finish and speed that you can use something like a 270mm Z saw) isn't there in rip work.
 

Andy Kev.

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Woodbloke:

You won't believe this but I do all that already! :D

I should add that I have no problems in keeping a straight line from front to back with either my western saws or my Japanese saw. The problem is that I drift a bit to the right as I work down through the cut. That said, I have improved over the years and I think that the key in my case is to always go a bit slower and a bit more carefully. I do sometimes wonder if my bench should be 1 1/2" lower but as planing is no problem it is probably OK as it is.

I'll bear in mind your remarks about the lighter grip. I'm not ham-fisted with it but there probably is room for easing off a bit.

DW:

I tried ripping a longish piece with the Japanese saw once and quickly came to the conclusion that if I were ever to try it again, I would mark a 1/8" strip instead of a line, so wild were the results, although repeatedly turning the wood around did help correct things a bit. I agree that once they've gone off the line you've got a hell of a job getting them back on again.

Maybe I should find an hour or two to do a bit of pure sawing practice. It's not as if I haven't got the time at the moment.
 
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