Norm's Notebook: Japanese Handsaws
Master carpenter Norm Abram's techniques for Japanese saws featured in toolbox
When I'm using a Japanese saw, I hold the handle with my wrist straight,
my shoulder in line with the cut, and my forefinger pointed toward the blade.
Slight finger pressure is all it takes to guide this tool.
I use my Japanese saws to cut dovetails or for
other precise bench work, and let my power tools
handle most of the less refined cuts made on the
job site. Of all my Japanese saws, the one that
gets the most use is my ryoba, shown in the
photo, right. It has rip teeth on one side of the
blade and cross—cut teeth on the other, so it's
like having two saws on one handle.
You should always store a saw separately from
other tools so its teeth don't get damaged.
With Western saws, it's easy enough to hang
them on the wall by the big hole in the handle.
But Japanese saws have straight handles,
so I made a wall—mounted rack just for them. Most of the saws slide in and out of
vertical, open—ended slots cut into the edge of
the rack, but I keep my flush—cutting saw in its
own closed slot, like a kitchen knife in a block,
because the blade is short and narrow.
To begin my cuts, I place the saw blade on the cut line and rest my left thumb on the wood, next to
and just touching the side of the blade.At first, I make short strokes at a low angle (1).Once the saw is solidly in its kerf, I raise the handle and make long, efficient strokes, blowing away the sawdust as
it covers the line (2). But if I veer from that line, I'll go shallow again to correct course.
The only rule on sawing—whether it's Western or Japanese style—is to stay comfortable and loose and keep your eye on the line. Don't press down too hard; just let the saw do the work.