Japanese Woodworking Saws
In contrast to Western saws, Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke, placing their fine hard steel in tension (stretching). The teeth are angled up toward the handle, which is what allows for this blade to cut on the pull stroke. This also permits the use of a thinner, harder steel that produces thinner kerfs, a smoother cut, and better control, in addition to longer teeth and deeper chip channels. Because of their shape and construction, Japanese saws need to be sharpened with special files. In addition, care should be taken not to press on the push stroke, as you may inadvertently break a tooth. With care and a little practice, these saws will give you exceptional performance.
In this article, we refer to measurements of the blades you would find in our Japanese saw collection, so measurements may vary among similar saws. However, the saws depicted are those used by Japanese craftsmen and are considered traditional Japanese saws.
DIFFERENCES WITH WESTERN SAWS
- Cuts on the pull stroke.
- Thinner, harder steel which produces a smoother cut and a thinner kerf.
- Not as long-lasting as Western saws, but lifespan of blade is greatly increased through covering saw and blade maintenance.
- Easily replaceable blades.
- Light to carry to job sites or around the house.
- May be tougher to place in tool bags, though blades are detachable for most saws.
Types of Japanese Woodworking Saws
Japanese ryoba saw has teeth along both edges of the blade – one side for crosscutting, the other for rip cuts. The thin blade of the ryoba results in a thinner kerf and it is less likely to get caught, which helps decrease time spent on cutting larger pieces of wood. The blade is useful for making furniture and cutting larger boards to size. It is also a good saw for beginners because the blade is more forgiving when cutting and because the force is felt through the fingers rather than through the palm. The ryoba saw is used in projects such as flooring, decking, and for fitting beams, although it is a versatile saw that can be used for so much more.
The Ryoba saw designed for Garrett Wade has a cross-cut edge with 15 tpi and the rip edge has 10 tpi to 7 tpi heel to toe, with a blade that tapers to 3″ wide. The length of the blade is 9.5″ inches, around 240mm, which is the typical length of a ryoba blade.
A backsaw specially designed for cutting small joints and delicate dovetails, though it is suitable for any dovetail joint. The dozuki saw is similar to an English backsaw with a rigid steel back. Cutting extremely well on the bias (diagonal to the grain), the cut is so smooth that the time spent on trimming tails and fitting joints will be greatly reduced. However, the hard steel back means this saw is not meant for deep cuts, though there are dozuki saws with wider blades available. A saw that provides this fine precision with dovetails means it is excellent for whatever wood you choose to build with, softwoods or hardwoods.
Our dozuki saw comes with a shorter tooth on every 12th tooth to allow for better chip clearing. The saw blade runs 7″ length-wise at 25 tpi, with an overall length of 19″. Overall weight 6 oz.
Detail Trim Saw (“mawashibiki”)
The detail trim saw is essentially a very small keyhole saw. This results in extremely smooth, precise cuts in even the hardest to reach spots, as well as an extremely fine kerf. An excellent, highly functional detail saw for carvers, turners, modelers and patternmakers. It is unsurpassed at getting between crowded dovetails for final fit & trim, especially for making curved cuts. This is a rather advanced tool, and should be treated carefully since its thin blade makes it prone to breaking or bending. The blade has a fine tooth pattern with a narrow, tapered blade (5/16″) that is around 5″ long. The tpi of this saw is 13 tpi and has minimal set.
Flush Cutting Saw (“kataba yokobiki”)
flush cutting saw has an extremely flexible, thin blade and are specially filed with no set so they will not mar the adjacent surface. The blade has a slight taper heel to toe. The flush cutting saw can take over for the dozuki saw in order to take off excess and finalize the appearance of joints.
The Japanese flush Cutting Saw at Garrett Wade features a 6″ long 24 tpi blade that tapers slightly toe to heel. Overall length 16-1/2″, weight 2 oz.