A slight digression into Japanese woodworking saws.


My collection of Japanese woodworking saws, and a big-ass German cross-cut saw – because it is awesome.

I have been making a lot of sawdust lately, and spent some shop time with Thing 2 this evening. After helping me put screws into the beer caddie Xmas gifts I am making, he wanted more. So I handed him a saw and a piece of scrap pine and let him go to town. I know this isn’t a woodworking blog, but since I have a few specialty edged tools around, I figured some of you might find this interesting.


Japanese saws share one characteristic that sets them apart from their English counterparts. They cut on the pull stroke as opposed to on the push. I find that you can zip through a crosscut a touch faster with an English saw because you can put your weight into it. However, the control that you get on a pull stroke I find to be vastly preferable when woodworking. When making precise cuts, such as those for dovetail joints, there is no comparison in my mind. Centuries of western hemisphere master craftsmen would disagree, but at least on the beginning side of the learning curve I have found the Japanese pull-style saws much easier to use.

There are many types of Japanese saws, down to a considerable degree of specialization, but I have 3 very common ones. A ryoba is a general crosscut saw that frequently also has a coarser tooth pattern on the opposite edge for rip cuts with the grain. A dozuki is a precision saw that is meant for fine joinery. I also have a kugihiki , a flexible saw meant for flush cutting wooden plugs – such as those covering a countersunk screw. All of my saws came from Woodcraft, one of the best woodworking retailers out there (both internet and brick-and-mortar). They were acquired over the course of a couple of years with Christmas gift cards.



A Ryoba saw has edges for crosscutting and ripping.

My ryoba has an 8tpi (teeth per inch) crosscut side and a 5tpi rip side. It is my go to saw when I just want to make a quick cut that isn’t worth setting up a machine for. There are a lot of times where it is much faster to grab a hand tool.



The Dozuki saw is for precise joinery.

My dozuki has an ungodly number of teeth. They are actually quite fine and become damaged over time. There is no way to sharpen this saw, but the blade snaps out and is replaceable. The precision attainable with this saw makes its consumable nature an acceptable tradeoff.



A Kugihiki is extremely flexible and is used for cutting pegs and dowels.

My final Japanese saw is a kugihiki. It is extremely flexible and is used for flush cutting pegs and dowels. It is pretty much worthless for anything else. I find that it is best to cut a hole in a playing card and place it around the peg. The saw is designed not to scratch, but I would rather be safe and take an extra minute to sand something completely flush.



In a couple of weeks this saw will be used to cut my Christmas tree.

I threw in a bonus saw, a German crosscut saw from the Putch Company. It is a wonderful saw. It is a forestry saw that I grab anytime I don’t feel like firing up the chainsaw. When you get into a rhythm with this saw it is a great feeling as dust literally flies from the teeth as they clear the log.

Most of the saws have a bit of staining from surface corrosion. My shop at my previous home was cinder block with water issues. That and the Tennessee humidity caught me off guard when I first moved here. My current shop is much better, though I still store my hand planes in a box with dessicant packets.

I hope folks found this digression interesting.



Thing 2 making sawdust with a Ryoba.

Post Script: There is a disclaimer/warning (link here) on Woodcraft’s site because of Kalifornia Proposition 65. Apparently sawdust can cause cancer and the State of California wants you to know. Give me an effing break. Maybe I can snort some off the floor. Hand tools do not generate the sort of airborne dust that it poses a threat to one’s health. Machines are a different story, as is a detailed description of my overhead filter and dust collection system. I won’t bore you.



  1. Jim says:

    I started using the Japanese saws some years ago for my finer woodworking. The Euro style saws are just fine for rougher work, but I find that most of the lumber from the big home centers is so wet that I usually go right for a powered tool. Im currently looking for a good quality fret saw. The generic coping saws that everyone seems to carry seem to have become all but useless.

    1. Roger says:

      Perhaps change your wood supplier. The wood I get from the local small business lumber yard is much drier than what I get from Home Depot.

  2. Clay Spencer says:

    Fine-toothed Japanese saws really can make very accurate kerfs (cuts). However, a couple of concerns I have with them: 1. They are almost impossible for the average woodworker to resharpen–a quality, but dull, Japanese saw must be shipped back to Japan for service, and 2. They are very delicate and can be easily dented and bent, making them useless. Thus, I’ll stick with my antique (and sturdy) Disston and Atkins saws, which can make pretty fine cuts, too, if you know how to use them properly.

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A slight digression into Japanese woodworking saws.

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