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Choosing & Using Japanese Saws

Expand your tool arsenal with handsaws that belong to a centuries-old tradition of craftsmanship.

Yann Giguere

Today I teach Japanese woodworking techniques and take on custom woodworking projects in my Brooklyn studio, but my first exposure to Japanese-style woodworking was entirely accidental. When I began to learn woodworking in a cabinet shop, we worked primarily with power tools. The one handsaw we had was a Japanese “pull saw.” My mentor explained that “we use it because it works great.” I gave it a try and...wow! I was “pulled” in. I purchased my first saw and the pleasure grew— motivating me to undertake a formal apprenticeship with a Japanese woodworking master.

You don’t have to be devoted to Japanese woodworking to appreciate the unique qualities of Japanese-style saws. In this article, I’ll provide details on choosing and using the three types of Japanese saws that enable you to do a wide range of cutting by hand.

Alignment is important. Pull saws provide you with a number of different cutting positions. But in all cases, accuracy is easier to achieve when the dominant hand, arm and shoulder are in line with the cutline.

The pros and cons of pull saws have a great deal to do with their thinner blades and with the way that crosscutting blades are sharpened (see photos below).

PROS

1. Less energy required for cutting.

2. Faster cutting than Western style handsaws.

3. More flexibility in cutting positions.

4. Thin kerf is an advantage in certain situations.

5. Saws with replaceable blades eliminate the need to sharpen or repair a dull or damaged blade.

6. Long handle accommodates two-handed grip when necessary.

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August-September 2016

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