Tool Focus: Japanese Pull-Saw

09 . 11 . 21

Many of the best woodworking tools that money can buy are produced in Japan. The Japanese pull-saw is no exception and those that hang on our workshop walls here at Otter see some heavy use when making our wooden surfboards and other water craft. The ryoba saw, shown in the photos here, is a double edged saw with ripping teeth on one side for cutting with the grain, and cross-cutting teeth on the other side for cutting across the grain.

Japanese saws are thinner, lighter and cut much faster than western saws.  The action of pulling the saw under light pressure (rather than pushing it under heavy pressure) keeps the blade in tension throughout the cut.  To avoid the saw from sticking when making deeper cuts the blade is hollow ground in the middle, so the thickness tapers in and prevents the blade from binding.  The pitch of the teeth also become finer towards the heel of the blade which makes it far easier to start the cut under the tools own weight without having to exert any extra pressure.

We use our Japanese pull-saw to finish cutting out the ribs from the large sheets of plywood after the CNC router has cut them out.  They’re also used to cut the bottom and deck skins to a rough curve around the finished frame.  This is possible because of the flexibility of the saws, allowing them to form to and cut a curve accurately.  These are delicate, beautiful and highly functional tools that are a joy to use.

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