Understanding Japanese Pull Saws seems to be a bit mystery, but it really isn't. The first thing to keep in mind is that wood is always wood. You Rip wood along the grain or you Crosscut it across the grain and with that basic knowledge, that is how ALL woodworking saws work, including Japanese Pull Saws. 

Watch it on Youtube: https://youtu.be/dBvL9BzrhLk

There is a wide selection of saws available, but the one I currently like are the Suizan brand, Japanese Pull Saws, actually made in Japan. I like these saw because they have a nice variety of saws and because most of the saws can be retrofitted with replacement blades.

 This makes them not only cost effective but more environmentally friendly too ... it all helps. 

Japanese Pull Saws

The first thing to understand about most Japanese Saws is that they are "pull saws", and not "push saws" like many of us in Western Cultures have become used to. I grew up using hand saws and they were all push saws. That is ... the saw did most of it's cutting when the saw is forced away from the sawyer, and often you can watch the evidence of this by the amount of sawdust that goes out front of the cut rather than behind on the backstroke. This method works just fine but has a couple of minor drawbacks. First of all, a "push saw" needs to be solid enough that it is not going to bend on the push stroke. This means the blade needs to be slightly thicker which we all know means more teeth in the wood and more sawdust all of which takes a little bit more energy. The second drawback, which is not always an issue, is that when you push a larger saw, you have slightly less control in some cases, which results in a less than perfect cut. 

Story Time
Way back when I was in my teens, my best friend from High School had a father who was a carpenter, and from time to time I would be asked to help the 2 of them with some aspect of the house construction that they were working on. I clearly remember Roy's dad hand sawing wood with a push saw, and being in awe of how smooth and accurate his cuts were. They looked even better than if they had been cut with a power tool. When he drew a line on the wood and followed it with his hand saw, it was straight as an arrow from end to end ... but that's what 40 years of practice produce. It left a lasting impression with me.

Back to the Japanese saws ... They are like every other saw, they either rip wood or crosscut wood and the teeth need to be designated to one of those specific jobs. And of course there are some saws that can do both, actually, any saw can do both ripping or crosscutting, but to get a good, efficient job, it's always best to have a saw that is dedicated for one or the other. 

Double Edge Saws
Most of the double-edged Japanese Saws have a ripping blade on one edge and a crosscut blade on the other. The one I am using is the Suizan Ryoba (which means double-edged). If you look closely at the saw you will notice one side has much larger, and sparser teeth while the other has many, many smaller teeth. The large ones are for ripping the smaller ones for cross-cutting, just like every other type of woodworking saw. You may also notice that the smaller teeth seem to have a blackened look. This is a form of steel hardening that is done that makes the teeth stay sharper longer. The same technique is not done to the ripping teeth as it is not needed with larger teeth.
I call these saws, general purpose because they do a good job of most aspects of woodworking. 

japanese pull saw

Double Edge Japanese Saw
You can check out the replacement blades for this saw too ... 

japanese saw

Suizan Dovetail Saw
This saw is one of the specialty saws available for woodworkers. This saw is called the Dozuki (or dovetail) Saw. You will notice this saw has a reinforced back and is single sided. This saw is designed for very fine, cutting such as with dovetails. The blades on these saws are very fine and require some support to keep the blades from bending and kinking. The particular saw I am using is 9.5 inch, but this same saw is also available in a 6-inch length for those who prefer a shorter saw. The teeth on this saw are extremely fine and are ideal where a thin kerf is required, such as with wood joints. 

japanese saw

Dovetail Saw

And the results speak for themselves. Here is a comparison of the Push Saw, the Ryoba Double edge saw and the Dozuki or Dovetail saw.

There are even more options, like folding saws and specialty saws for other projects, and more information on these Japanese Pull Saws that you can check out on my Amazon Store

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Copyright Colin Knecht
Woodworkweb.com

A Guide to Japanese Pull Saws

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