Japanese rip saw technique

<reposted from uk.d-i-y>
I have a Japanese Kataba saw (the ones in the Axminster catalogue) with a rip-cut "hassunme" profile. "Just the thing for effortlessly ripping long boards" they say... well, they would, wouldn't they!
The problem is that I find it exceptionally difficult to use, far from effortless, in fact so difficult that I assume that there must be something drastically wrong with my technique. I'm trying to rip some 20mm(ish) thick european oak, but it seems similarly difficult with pine and other woods that I have tried.
With a traditional (to us) western pattern saw you'd work from the top, sawing at an angle, and it cuts on the push stroke. So when ripping the teeth essentially chisel through the fibres at and angle, and thinking about it each fibre is supported by the one below it so it's a relatively easy, clean cut.
However, with a japanese pullsaw it seems to me that working from above means that the teeth are always digging directly into the end grain, and I can't square this with an "easy sawing action".
Sawing from underneath (if you see what I mean) is easy, the saw glides through the wood as I would expect, and I can easily see the cut line on the surface. However this isn't a comfortable working position, not practical for long boards and strikes me as not being the technique at all.
Saw from the top, but hold the saw such that the teeth form an oblique angle with the board surface? Fine, works, but how do you follow the cutting line (not that you have much chance with a ripsaw if it wanders off the line anyway)?
Or perhaps it shoudl be held so that the cutting edge is perpendicular to the board surface?
Anyone care to enlighten me on correct technique?
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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RichardS wrote:

Have you ever tried turning the board over, mark it, and then cut it? Or am I missing something?
Hoyt W.
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Hoyt Weathers wrote:

Presumably sawdust covers the line if it is on top since the saw cuts on the pull stroke.
Mitch Berkson
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That's not really the problem, though it wouldn't help. Have lungs, can blow dust away... :-)
The problem it seems to me is that if I'm cutting at an oblique angle then the saw teeth under the board will be ahead of he ones above the board, which seems intrinsically more difficult to follow the cut line.
Perhaps I'm worrying about this particular aspect too much and a little more practice is called for.
I was just hoping that someone might be able to set me straight and say "ah, yes, the reason you're finding it difficult is because you're trying to use the saw in a western way, and the technique for Japanese ripsaws is fundamentally different, and you use it like this...."
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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<snip>

Could well be. Japanese craftsmen squat or kneel at their work, I'm told, so if the plank to be ripped is on sawhorses or their equivalent, he could well be working from underneath.
Just a thought.
Frank
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wrote in message

yup, this is something that I heard about as well.
I've also read somewhere that the majority of tradional japanese woodworking would be done whilst seated, and this would give rise to markedly different techniques to western woodworking.
I'm scouring the web trying to find confirmation of this, but, with the profusion of catalogue and directory sites being returned, google just isn't as useful as it once was !!!
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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wrote in message

aha! just found this - appear to be getting somewhere...
http://home.earthlink.net/~nokogiri/FPHE.html
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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RichardS wrote:
snip, snip

Oblique angle to what? Which cut direction - towards you or away from you?
I get the sinking feeling that you are cutting AWAY from you for some unstated reason. Is this what you are doing? If so, why? Everyone I know cuts toward themselves. Cutting a board is not rocket science.
Assume you hold the saw at about 45 degrees or less to the board to be cut. Also assume there is a cut line on the top side of the board. Also assume you pull the saw towards you as you adhere to the cut line and make the rip cut. If all of those assumptions are TRUE, then the saw teeth UNDER the board could NOT be ahead of the ones ABOVE the board. No way!
The word *ahead* could have two or more meanings I suppose. One would be related to position. Another could be related to time. I assume time is not a factor in this.
Why not just play around with it on some crappie scrap? No harm done for sure.
Hoyt W.

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are you pissed I didn't fall for your ruse on Friday?
dave
Hoyt Weathers wrote:

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see below for how I arrive at this state of affairs....

don't worry - I always play around on crappie scrap when using techniques new to me. Also, when I first got this saw I started off by attempting to use it in exactly the same way as I would a push saw - ie cutting towards me, saw angled at about 45 degrees, teeth (obviously) pointing downwards. What I did not experience was any ease whatsoever in starting off the rip cut, nor in continuing it once started. The teeth would dig in, and there was huge resistance in cutting, this is why I began to wonder if my normal western technique could be completely wrong for a Japanese pullsaw when ripping.
In an attempt to describe what I mean I'll revert back to a western-style push saw for a moment:
Starting off a rip cut I would position the saw such that the teeth point downwards, the end of the board is in front of me, the angle of the saw teeth to the face of the board is at an acute angle, 45 degrees or so, I am cutting towards me. Sorry if this is stating the obvious but I really want to get back to first principles here so that there can be absolutely no misunderstanding. The cut is made on the push stroke.
Now, considering the action of the individual teeth, they have a chiselling action, cutting out kerf-width bits of the fibre, and the fibres are cut in such a way that each tooth engages with the topmost edge of the fibre, if you can see what I mean.
reverting to the japanese saw:
When I use the (rip tooth profile) pullsaw cutting in the same way above this does not seem to be the cutting action.
True, each tooth still chisels out it's piece of wood, but instead of starting on the surface of the board when it's cutting it is always digging into the end grain.
If I was to take a chisel and try to remove a bit of stock along the grain it is easy to start from the surface of the board and chop out that piece. If I was to start from the end grain and try and chop towards the surface of the board it would not be easy and the wood would probably tear out. Stupid example, perhaps, but illustrates the point.
No matter how lightly I hold the saw aganst the board it digs in.
So, I'm unfamiliar with use of this tool and start trying other techniques for it's use.
The first thing I try is to turn everything around. Start off with the board in front of me, facing the board end. Hold saw at 45 degree angle to board face, with handle pointing downards and teeth down (sorry, being explicit here again), cutting away from me. Sails through the board like butter. However, this is obviously impractical for cutting a long rip in a board. Flip the saw around so that cutting away still, but now handle above the board and teeth pointing upwards. Also sails through, but obviously you cannot see the cutting line.
So, sorry if this sounds like a really stupid question/thread, I'm just puzzled, that's all! If the answer is "use just like you would a western rip saw" then fine, I'll go away and practice until I get the technique. IMHO good woodworking is 90% technique, and I like to use correct technique and refine it until perfect results.
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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RichardS wrote:
<big snip>

<snip>
Richard, I wish I could draw on a word program but I can't.
1. Keep in mind that the teeth of a Jap saw are very, very sharp - whether they are rip or cross-cut saws.
2. Both rip and cross-cut Jap saws cut on the pull stroke.
I think it is obvious that you fully understand those two points. I do not wish to imply that I am challenging you on those.
Forget about edge grain vs. long grain for the moment. They are relevant, but not significantly so for this discussion at this time.
Yes, those sharp teeth will "dig" in as you say. For a given saw, how much and how aggressive they dig in depends almost totally upon the sharpness of the teeth and the amount of vertical pressure you exert on those teeth via the handle as you pull the saw. Same as for a western saw, except on the push stoke. Within reason the more pressure you apply, the more aggressive the saw will cut - up to a point.
Keep in mind that the Jap saw can and will bow or kink if pushed too hard and too deeply on the reverse stroke. Those saw blades are thin because they are designed to be used in tension and not in compression.
Try this:
Just put the saw with the blade resting on the edge to be cut. Do NOT put any downward pressure via the handle. Then slowly and lightly pull the saw towards you. It will try to cut, but is ineffective. It may bounce along, skipity hop, but that is expected. The teeth tend to dig in, but do not do so very much because there is almost no downward pressure to the saw teeth. They will just leave a small kerf mark on the edge. I often do this to make a starter mark.
Then do the same as the above, but with suitable [ ? ] downward pressure via the handle. Now what happens? The teeth cut into the wood. How much it cuts into the wood is a direct and proportional function of the force applied to those sharp teeth. Western physics is identical to Japanese physics.
To reverse the stroke, move the saw forward with no downward pressure at all and keeping the saw blade deep in the kerf.
Repeat as above until the saw cuts as much as you wish of the board.
I hope the above does not appear to be sophomoric to you. That is certainly not my intention. Let's keep at this until you are fully satisfied with yourself - not us.
At this point I will stop and pitch it back to you for comments and questions.
Hoyt W.
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Sorry for delay in reply, not disappeared from thread but work suddenly exploded and mind been on other things.
Had quite a bit more success this evening, will post back with more tomorrow morning, family unexpectedly turned up... doh.
It's gonna take a bit more practice, but things are progressing.
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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Mitch Berkson wrote:

The simple solution to that is just intermittently blow away the dust and keep on sawing. I do that all the time on most cuts with a Jap pull saw. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to cut a board with a pull saw.
Hoyt W.
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true. I am specifically talking about the technique for ripping a board here, and my puzzlement as to why I appear to be experiencing such difficulty.
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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RichardS wrote:

A light bulb just turned on. Perchance, are you sitting in the Japanese position BELOW the board when you try to cut it? [ I would never do that because saw dust would get all over me. ] If so, why isn't the cut line also facing you on that side of the board? If it is, then what is the problem in following the cut line?
If the cut line is on TOP of the board and you are sawing from BELOW the board, then I agree with you that the cut could be off the marked cut line.
Then my question becomes: Is there a particular reason why you wish to cut that way? To each his own I suppose.
Perhaps I am still not getting your point.
Hoyt W.
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beginning of my error in trying to use a japanese traditional tool in a western manner. Hopefully my other post might explain the progression of my experimentation a little more clearly..

thanks for your patience so far, btw!
-- Richard Sampson
email me at richard at olifant d-ot co do-t uk
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It may be that your saw is not so sharp. However, it is generally true that when the angle of the saw and the grain of the wood (on the handle side of a pull saw) is acute it is slightly more difficult to rip than when it is an obtuse angle. Change your position until you get it the way you like. You might consider clamping the wood vertically in a vise with the top of the wood somewhat below your elbow. Or if that is not achievable you could clamp it at an angle. Once you get going it shouldn't matter much.
Jack
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Jumping in late on this thread but here's something to add to the differences between push and pull saws - the former have fixed teeth per inch from handle to tip while the japanese pull saws often have much finer teeth at the handle end and graduated to larger teeth towards the tip. The blade width, not the thickness, also increases from the handle towards the tip.
So, if the cut is started with the fine teeth, light pressure and short strokes to initially establish the line of the cut using the finer teeth, the amount of wood being "bitten off" by each tooth is very small.
If you watch the motion of the blade from the side as it's used to rip you'll see the fine teeth do most of the cutting on the visible face and the coarser ones mainly cut "inside" an on the back/bottom of the cut. On the back/bottom of the cut, the teeth are cutting just like a push saw, acrossed or "with the grain"
You might want to check out Toshio Odate's book "Japanese Woodworking Tools, Their Tradition, Spirit and Use" - Linden Publishing, ISBN 0-941936-46-5 , $24.95 US, I found "kataba" and "kataba-nokogiri", kataba being a single cutting edge saw, ryoba being a double cutting edge, and "kataba- nokogiri" described as a single cutting edge rip saw.
Its interesting that the western saw requires that you push the teeth into the wood, removing it with brute force. To do that the saw must be stiff and beefy. Japanese saws works sort of like judo - the teeth pull small pieces of wood from its surroundings and less per tooth cut than on a western saw. because, in tension, the kerf is narrower because the blade is thinner and the set is narrower.
It's kind of like provoking a response versus evoking a response. You can try to push the bully over backwards, but, with proper technique, it's easier to to get him to contribute most of the energy required to put him on the ground. Less grunting and sweating letting the saw do most of the work - but it requires a bit more focused attention on the task.
babble mode off
charlie b
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Perhaps the answer to ease in cutting is to clamp the board horizontal... Find the best angle for the cut doing it sideways, maybe away from the line as not to not obscure it. A small sliding wedge would prevent binding as the cut progresses.
--
Chipper Wood

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