Japanese Saws: Complete Guide for Woodworking

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Home » Tools » Japanese Saws: Complete Guide for Woodworking

One of the least known saws in woodworking is the Japanese saw. Because of this saws unique design it is often overlooked as a gadget and not the precision handsaw alternative that it is. But, its far from an oddity you’ll put in the tool chest and forget. In this article learn about the different types of Japanese saws and what’s best for your woodworking projects.

If your only experience with handsaws is a standard, full-sized saw used to cut through 2×4’s then a Japanese saw will be a surprise. While a traditional handsaw pushes thru wood, a Japanese saw has an advanced tooth design that lets you PULL the saw through wood.

Which, as you might guess, gives you better control over the work piece and the saw.

In this guide we’ll cover:

  • Types of Japanese saws
  • Brand names and manufacturers
  • What projects are best for a Japanese saw
  • Dovetail saws
  • Ripping vs. crosscut configurations
  • Cutting holes in the middle of a board

BEST ALL AROUND SUIZAN 9.5-INCH –  this Made in Japan saw is built for ripping and cross cutting.

BEST FOR DOVETAILS – DOZUKI – a Dozuki saw is built for cutting dovetails.

BEST COMPACT – SUIZAN 5-INCH – is a compact Japanese saw best for flush cuts in small places.


Types of Japanese Saws

Types of Japanese Saws for Woodworking

When it comes to Japanese saws there isn’t just one type of saw. There are many varieties:

  1. Dozuki saws feature a rigid back that doesn’t allow the blade spine to flex
  2. Ryoba saws on the other hand feature a push and pull design with a double edge design
  3. Azebiki Japanese saws feature a special, short curved blade that is best for starting holes in the middle of wood.
  4. And Kataba saws have teeth on one side but lack the rigid back of the Dozuki

While there are a handful of other saw types and configurations, these four types of Japanese saws are the most common.

Lastly, there are a variety of sizes of each saw from 4″ up to 12″ in blade length.

JAPANESE PULL SAW Tooth Design

Japanese Pull Saw Tooth Design

First, and no surprise, one of the reasons woodworkers love these saws is for their ability to do flush cuts.  But, for saw designs like the Ryoba and Kataba to perform flush cuts it requires a special tooth design.

So as you can see from the close-up above, the outside of the teeth are flat to the blade edge. And, the teeth are ground and hooked backwards to allow for cutting action on the “push” and “pull”.

All of which means the saw won’t scratch the wood it’s laying flat against.

Japanese Saw Features

Japanese Pull Saw Features

Beyond the various styles of blades and back design you’ll find a few features of these saws that are unique:

  • Thin blades on a Japanese saw have a kerf of less than 1/32 of an inch
  • Straight handles are most common on these saws, giving you precise control
  • Folding blades are available to protect the blade edge and are great portability
  • Curved blades for starting cuts in the middle of a board

Japanese Pull Saw Uses

Japanese Saw Uses

By now you might be intrigued by the design of this saw, but what you can do with one?

Well, here are a few of the top uses:

  • Flush cutting thru-tenons
  • Precision small wood cuts for hobby projects
  • Starting holes in wood from the center of a board
  • Cutting curves in thin pieces of wood
  • Cutting dowels flush to the surface
  • Cleaning out corners of wood when glue or imperfections surface

Top Japanese Saws for Woodworking

So what’s the right saw for you? Well, since these saws don’t all fit into one size, blade design or even form let’s take a look at what might fit your projects.


Suizan 9-1/2 inch - Japanese Saw

#1 – Ryoba Japanese Saw: sUIZAN 9.5 iNCH

The Suizan is the classic double edged saw that features an aggressive “pull” cut. With almost 24″ in total length, a 9-1/2″ blade, cane wrapped handle it has all the features you’ll need.

Plus, it’s Made in Japan by a manufacturer with over 100 years of experience.


Suizan Dozuki Japanese Saw

#2 – Dozuki Japanese pull Saw For Dovetails: sUIZAN 6 iNCH

The Dozuki pull saw is a classic saw that operates the exact opposite of the “western style” handsaws. And this 6-inch model is a compact pull saw made by Suizan.

Lastly, as a this saw features a rigid spine and a shorter length it is a great choice for dovetail joinery.


Suizan 5 inch flush cut - Japanese Saw

#3 – Flush Cut Japanese Saw: sUIZAN 5 INCH

It’s not often in woodworking you’ll need a saw that can make a flush cut. But, when you do need to cut a dowel, tenon, or other protruding piece of wood flush then a flush cut saw is your tool of choice. Like other saws of this type, you’ll find a smooth consistent cut and teeth that are specially designed to cut inward (not outward).

And, with harder woods requiring a less aggressive cut this SUIZAN model features a side for softwoods AND hardwoods. In fact, it’s one of the few blades that features a 17 tooth-per-inch and 25 tooth-per-inch (TPI).  

The higher the TPI (eg. 25 TPI), the more teeth and the smoother the cut.


Azebiki Japanese Saw

#4 – Azebiki Japanese Saw: GYOKUDO AZEBIKI SAW

Easily the most interesting of the Japanese saws, an Azebiki is designed specifically for starting wood cuts where there’s no edge.

To accomplish this unique task, which isn’t possible with western handsaws, the blade is curved. And by using gradual back and forth motion the blade will sink deeper into the wood until it’s through. 


Suizan 9-1/2 inch - Kataba Japanese Saw

#5 – kataba Japanese Saw: sUIZAN 10.5 iNCH kATABA

The Kataba saw is a mix of both the Dozuki and Ryoba saw designs.

First, this saw features one cutting edge like the Dozuki but without the spine. Secondly, like the Ryoba it doesn’t have a spine on back edge.

All of which make for a saw that is great for a variety of cuts and able to push through the wood to the full length of the blade.

Tip: if you’re not sure, go with the Ryoba. You’ll have two cutting surfaces to choose from in case one goes dull.


Kughiki Japanese Saw

#6 – Kughiki Japanese Saw: KUGHIKI 5.25 iNCH

There’s only so many permutations of a thin, specially design that can be made. But this straight design with a short blade is a variation that can adapt to project needs. 

Perhaps its why fans of Japanese pull saws tend to own 4 or 5 and not just 1 saw.

Japanese Saws for Dovetails

Japanese Saws For Dovetails

If you’ve attempted to make dovetails with a router you know it’s a tricky process, even with a dovetail jig. 

And table saw box joints are an option (without the router and jig expense).

But, a Japanese dovetail saw offers up an alternative that allows just about any type and angle of dovetail:

  • Sunrise dovetail
  • Square dovetails
  • Through dovetails
  • And many others without limitations of a router and jig

However you’ll likely need a coping saw and small chisel to finish out your joints. Since one limitation of the Japanese pull saws are their wide blades don’t flex for the dovetail bottom joints.

Sharpening Japanese pull Saws

Sharpen Japanese Saw

Unfortunately, because the teeth on a Japanese saw are typically made of 3 angles it’s best to NOT sharpen them.

Instead:

  • Store the saw in a protective case to avoid damage to the fine teeth
  • Buy a saw that allows for a replacement blade (and buy a spare with the saw)
  • Attempting to fix a tooth or two is possible with a lot of patience, short strokes and some magnification

Japanese PUll Saw Accessories

Magnetic Tool Holders

First, with these saws unique design, you’ll want to make sure to protect them. And that includes both proper storage in the workshop but also while during transport.

But also buy a few jigs and accessories to allow you to make new projects:

  • Magnetic tool bar holder
  • Protective sleeves
  • Dovetail marker gauge
  • Wheel marking gauge for dovetail depth setting

Manufacturers

There are, of course, a number of manufacturers of Japanese saws, including:

Frequently Asked QuestionsFrequently Asked Questions

 

Summary

While most woodworking tools are common across the globe, Japanese saws break that trend by offering a regional design to enhance your woodworking. Just having the option to hand cut a dovetail with a precision saw makes it worth the investment.

Bestseller No. 1
SUIZAN Japanese Pull Saw Hand Saw 9.5 Inch Ryoba...
  • JAPANESE STYLE PULL SAW: This product is a “Pull Saw.” What most people are used to are European saws, which cut materials via pushing, thus are called “push saws.” On the other hand, Japanese saws cut materials via pulling and thus are called “pull saws,” which is what this product is. In comparison to “push saws,” “pull saws” are lighter in weight, requires less power, and the resulting edge is cleaner.
  • JAPANESE STEEL: All SUIZAN Japanese saws are consisted of top quality japanese steel. It uses high quality Japanese steel, which makes cuts to be sharp.
  • MADE IN JAPAN: All SUIZAN products are manufactured in Japan by Japanese master craftsmen.With a history of over 100 years in making japanese hand tools, all of the process gone into making tools were completed in one of Japan’s towns known for their craft making tradition: Sanjō in Niigata
  • DIVERSIFY YOUR WOODWORKING LIFE: No matter you are a master or a beginner in using saws, it gives you brand new experience from using traditional Japanese style saws and enables you to make a wider variety of woodworking products, thus change your life!
Bestseller No. 2
SUIZAN Japanese Ryoba Pull Saw 7 Inch Double Edge...
  • JAPANESE STYLE PULL SAW: This product is a “Pull Saw.” What most people are used to are European saws, which cut materials via pushing, thus are called “push saws.” On the other hand, Japanese saws cut materials via pulling and thus are called “pull saws,” which is what this product is. In comparison to “push saws,” “pull saws” are lighter in weight, requires less power, and the resulting edge is cleaner.
  • JAPANESE STEEL: All SUIZAN Japanese saws are consisted of top quality japanese steel. It uses high quality Japanese steel, which makes cuts to be sharp.
  • MADE IN JAPAN: All SUIZAN products are manufactured in Japan by Japanese master craftsmen.With a history of over 100 years in making japanese hand tools, all of the process gone into making tools were completed in one of Japan’s towns known for their craft making tradition: Sanjō in Niigata
  • DIVERSIFY YOUR WOODWORKING LIFE: No matter you are a master or a beginner in using saws, it gives you brand new experience from using traditional Japanese style saws and enables you to make a wider variety of woodworking products, thus change your life!
Bestseller No. 3
SUIZAN Japanese Dozuki Dovetail Hand Saw 6 Inch...
  • JAPANESE STYLE PULL SAW: This product is a “Pull Saw.” What most people are used to are European saws, which cut materials via pushing, thus are called “push saws.” On the other hand, Japanese saws cut materials via pulling and thus are called “pull saws,” which is what this product is. In comparison to “push saws,” “pull saws” are lighter in weight, requires less power, and the resulting edge is cleaner.
  • JAPANESE STEEL: All SUIZAN Japanese saws are consisted of top quality japanese steel. It uses high quality Japanese steel, which makes cuts to be sharp.
  • MADE IN JAPAN: All SUIZAN products are manufactured in Japan by Japanese master craftsmen.With a history of over 100 years in making japanese hand tools, all of the process gone into making tools were completed in one of Japan’s towns known for their craft making tradition: Sanjō in Niigata
  • DIVERSIFY YOUR WOODWORKING LIFE: No matter you are a master or a beginner in using saws, it gives you brand new experience from using traditional Japanese style saws and enables you to make a wider variety of woodworking products, thus change your life!
Bestseller No. 4
SUIZAN Japanese Flush Cut Trim Hand Saw 5 Inch...
  • JAPANESE STYLE PULL SAW: This product is a “Pull Saw.” What most people are used to are European saws, which cut materials via pushing, thus are called “push saws.” On the other hand, Japanese saws cut materials via pulling and thus are called “pull saws,” which is what this product is. In comparison to “push saws,” “pull saws” are lighter in weight, requires less power, and the resulting edge is cleaner.
  • JAPANESE STEEL: All Suizan japanese saws are consisted of top quality japanese steel. It uses high quality Japanese steel, which makes cuts to be sharp.
  • BLADE FOR HARDWOOD AND SOFTWOOD: You can easily cut oak, sandalwood, ebony, mahogany, maple, walnut and pine by robust blade for hardwood. The blade for softwood can be used for white cedar, Japanese cedar, larch, paulownia wood and so on.
  • MADE IN JAPAN: All SUIZAN products are manufactured in Japan by Japanese master craftsmen.With a history of over 100 years in making japanese hand tools, all of the process gone into making tools were completed in one of Japan’s towns known for their craft making tradition: Sanjō in Niigata
  • DIVERSIFY YOUR WOODWORKING LIFE: No matter you are a master or a beginner in using saws, it gives you brand new experience from using traditional Japanese style saws and enables you to make a wider variety of woodworking products, thus change your life!
Bestseller No. 5
Japanese Saw 22-1/2" Hand Flush Cut Ryoba Pull...
  • 2 Saws in 1 - The Japanese hand saw with impulse hardened teeth for extended wear. the 18 TPI triple-cut saw-teeth finer side for highly precision crosscut work the other side 6TPI to 10TPI for ripping. Ideal for medium crosscut Bamboo, Logs, Timbers, PVC&ABS pipes,MDF Plywood Materials.
  • ULTRA-THIN Replaceable Saw Blade - The 0.023 inch thick, 10 inch long blade consisted of TOP QUALITY JAPANESE STEEL Gives a Fine Kerf, handling size for highly precision work and provides accurate cuts with much less effort.Plastic head thumb screws, making it very quick and easy to release the saw down.
  • Ergonomics TPR handle - The ergonomic handles are wrapped with Thermal Plastic Rubber for a secure grip.
  • WELL ORGANIZED IN THE CARRYING BAG - The Hand Saw and Teeth Brushes are organized in the soft light weight bag. Convenient for storage, carrying and organizing the tools.
  • PREMIUM QUALITY - Each of Hand Saws has been checked, put under a durability and functionality test before shipped to you.It's a PERFECT GIFT for family & friends.

Last update on 2021-03-01 at 13:03 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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