What is the best Japanese Saw in 2020?
Most of woodworkers are not familiar with Japanese saw and it’s a shame. Japanese saw come with great advantages and appear to be a real alternative to traditional and western saw. The Japanese saw is indeed a very specific, handful and portable wood cutting tool.
There are many variations to this saw and there is a lot to be learned about them. With this guide, we will walk you through different topics such as how to use Japanese saw techniques, nest Japanese saw review as well as hand saw sharpening.
How to use the Japanese Saw
Japanese saw are mostly used as wood hand saw even though they can sometimes be used to cut bones and metal as well. The biggest difference that is going to come with the Japanese wood saw is the way in which they are used.
With the Japanese hand saw the cut is made on the pull stroke. The advantage to this is the blade remains straight so a thick blade is not needed for cutting. A pull stroke has the advantage of less wood being cut away which means less sawdust to deal with and it doesn’t require as much physical effort as a push saw does. For those who are new to working with saws the Japanese pull saw is a great one to start with.
When using a Japanese Saw, it is recommended to proceed as followed:
- The cut begins with the back end of the saw.
- The handle is gripped slightly towards the back.
- Angle the blade slightly towards the stock.
- Perform the sawing motion with slight pressure and gentle strokes.
- Take it slow at first until you get the feel for using the Japanese saw.
Japanese Saw types & conception
The Japanese saw is often referred to as « Nokogiri » (its traditional name) or Japanese razor. But there is not only one model of saw, there are actually many variations. Here is a quick explanation so you can better understand the different types of saw you might use:
Dozuki Noko: This is one of the most basic Japanese. If we had to classify it, we would qualify it as a back-saw model. It is the type of model you might use for precision cutting.
Ryouba: Multi-purpose carpentry saw with two cutting edges. The name itself means « double blade » in Japense. The double sided blade is composed of the cross-cut part (Yokobiki) and the ripping (Tatebiki) on the other side. As mentionned earlier, this is a multi-function tool, that works well of soft and hard wood. Each side of the blade allows to adjust the cutting precision.
Kataba: A saw that comes with a one sided -easy to replace- blade, that can be either for cross-cut or ripping. The design stands between the Dozuki and the regular western saw. Let’s be clear, this is a slight variation of the Dozuki, but there’s nothing particularly different in the end except for the design itself.
Mawashibiki: A thin saw used for cutting curves, the Japanese version of a keyhole saw. The name means « turning cut ».
We have listed the most popular and mainstream types of Japanese saw, nevertheless there are so many other variations that exist! If you’re curious, you can search for Azebiki, Kugihiki, Sokomawashibiki, Anahiki
Best Japanese saw brands
Like for many tools, the saw quality might vary a lot depending on the brand. Hopefully, the Japanese Saw business is traditional, which means that most brands in the market have a long lasting history manufacturing that type of saw. Nevertheless, every brand has its specifics, therefore here is a quick review of the best brands you should focus on:
Gyokucho is probably one of the most « old fashioned » and « traditional » brand for Japanese Saw in the market. They invented the first replaceable blade Japanese saw back in the 1970’s, and still lead the industry in terms of quality.
Their handle is made of reinforced wood (or plastic for the cheapest models) allowing to deliver extra-power and pressure during the cutting without losing precision control.
Blade length is 9-1/2˝
18 Teeth/inch, blade 0.012” thick
Curved end for cutting veneer and starting cuts in mid-panel
But the handle is not they keystone of their products, so what is really great about this brand? Well, they tend to use the traditional « laminated blade » manufacturing technic, meaning that the cutting property of their saw is off the charts. Blades also receive a special surface treatment called electroless nickel plating. The plating produces a very smooth surface that resists corrosion and the adhesion of tree resins as well as providing a reflective surface that can be used to accurately align the cut.
Blade length 8 1/4″
Crosscut – 17 tpi, Rip 8 tpi
Handle tilts to allow access to difficult spots
Handles are wrapped with rattan for a secure grip
For those who want a high performing Japanese saw then the Tajima is a good option. They have proven to be very strong at creating thin but flexible blades with very strong teeth. Most of their blade are actually treated with high frequency thermal shock which significantly reinforce the blade durability & cutting properties.
They have also delivered with decent handles as they have a proprietary non-slip elastomer grip system for every handle they make.
Premium grade carbon steel
Ergonomic handle with elastomers for grip
Quick release blade retainer
Hardened teeth through heat shocks
More recently, they have focused their effort on “handyness”, meaning that they have developed -also patented- ultra fast blade assembly / disassembly system so workers can easily maintain their saw or adapt their blade depending on the cutting they want to perform .
And despite so many innovations, their saws are still very affordable!
Suizan is another interesting brand, their blades are exclusively manufactured in Japan by Japanese forge masters. They have built a decent brand name over time thanks to their blade quality. Nevertheless, we have to admit that compared to Gykucho and Tajima, this brand is much less innovative. They tend to rely on the traditional positioning of the brand and decent pricing (and let’s be franck, it’s a great deal most of time), but this is basically what you’ll get from Suizan, not much more!
Another brand to consider
Top Japanese steel blade from local manufacturers
Useful both on hard and soft wood
Decent durability & low blade maintenance
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