I don't understand the "most efficient cutting angle" shown at all. From my
own experience, reading, and watching a proficient Japanese woodworker rip a
large thick board, I believe you would be better off laying the blade about
90 degrees in the other direction. The photos suggest you would be standing
to the right end of the board while actually sawing. If so you are trying to
pull the saw up into the wood from below and push it away from yourself.
If you flip the angle of the saw as I suggest above, and stand to the left
end of the board you will enjoy an easier task and likely attain good
results quicker. This as you would be pulling the saw up and towards you on
the cutting stroke. Also, laying the blade down in the cut will help you
stay on the line by increasing the amount of blade length in the wood (this
is much like how a long plane straightens an edge easier than a short
Regarding keeping the cut square to the face, putting a try square on the
board with the blade sticking up will give you a visual guide. After a while
you will develop a feel for it and will not need the try square.
Regarding the scratches on the cut face, it is important to keep in mind
that you should be ripping just a bit wider than the desired finished width
and then plane the edge flat, square, and to final dimension. The amount of
"a bit wider" needed will decrease as you become more proficient. See the
photos I posted under Sloyd in Action in ABPW. My boys can stay within about
1/16" of the line at this point and the younger one has split a pencil line
on cross cuts... With each project their skills grown and I'm sure you will
have a similar experience if you are studious about the process.
After reading your message, I tried another test cut using the flat angle
you suggest and the angle I "discovered". I'm sure I'm doing something
stupid, but when I put it at the flatter angle and pull towards me, I keep
getting a kind of juddering as if the saw is popping up and not cutting very
well, and the cut is much slower and more difficult. When I put it at the
angle I showed in the picture and pull from behind the direction of cut, it
seems to glide through the wood very easily. The other respondent,
RicodJour, suggested that using the tools from the bottom is best, which
kind of squares with that experience, doesn't it?
That does make sense of course, so I'll keep experimenting with this.
Thanks for the tip.
Unfortunately I can't pick up that. Have you thought of using flickr or
photobucket etc? I think it's easier.
Sounds like you are a good sawing teacher. I'll keep trying to improve on
test samples until things start looking better.
I think this is one of those things that would be real easy to demonstrate
but difficult to describe (especially late at night)! I think Charlie B's
pictures do a much better job... wish I'd had them to show. Note too that
they show the blade laid down in the cut which puts more of the saw in the
kerf which helps you saw straight.
There's one picture where it looks like you're cutting with the handle
above or below the workpiece. That's standard with western saws, but
I've found that my results are the best when I cut with the Japanese
tools from the bottom. That requires more crouching and may be more
difficult with a light bench that needs your body weight like your
Workmate. An alternative would be to clamp the workpiece vertically in
the Workmate with about six or eight inches exposed and rip downwards.
That would require more repositioning, but the goal is accuracy over
speed, right? It will also allow you to more easily see both sides of
the workpiece to make sure you're staying on course.
With a western saw which cuts on the push stroke, if you push
straight down you're cutting acrossed end grain - slow, If you
angle the handle back towards you while you're above the wood,
the teeth will be cutting "downhill" angled acrossed the grain
-faster. But with a japanese saw, the teeth cut on the pull
stroke so if you're above the board and have the blade angled
handle high - you're cutting "uphill" into the end grain first
slow and proned to tearing the grain rather than severing it.
Nora Hall, a great carver, uses the Straw Broom Analogy.
If you try and carve INTO the straw bristles from the
sweeping end the bristles the straws bend and break
rather than being cut. Cut towards the sweeping end
and there's no problem.
Or - think of using a chainsaw to cut a log - the bottom
teeth coming back at you are similar to the the teeth
of a japanese saw cutting on the pull stroke. Go here
and replace the chainsaw with your japanese pull saw.
The second set of illustrations my help you understand
why you're getting tear out as the saw exits the wood.
When ripping with a japanese pull saw - from above
the tip of the saw blade is closer to you than the
handle. When sawing from below, the handle is
closer to your than the tip of the saw blade.
It's the correct answer, and why you'll find it best to cut with the board
vertical unless you're using yourself as a vise and keeping the wood on
The form of the saw will give you the mild undercut you need if you keep the
handle close to 90 degrees to the board.
Thanks very much for your input. Because of this discussion on angles, I
went and checked a sawing book to see what it said, and it says precisely
what you suggest: 90 degree angle and board held vertically. It also
mentions using a wedge in the saw cut. I put a scan of the relevant part of
the book and some (rough) translations up here:
One trick I use for crosscut and ripsawing with my Japanese saws is
that I "precut" to the line. That is, just after I start the cut I
will lower the saw so that the teeth are almost parallel to the board's
surface and make a controlled, shallow cut right at the line. I might
make the shallow "precut" a couple of inches long, and maybe an eighth
of an inch deep. I then raise the saw and continue cutting more
aggressively. The precut portion then tends to keep the saw in line.
Alternately precutting and deep-cutting I can proceed down the board
and keep the cut right at the line.
Another very important item to consider, and you are probably already
doing it, is to eliminate chatter. Chatter slows down your cutting
considerably, and can even result in bent saw teeth if you are cutting
very aggressively. It's especially difficult to keep large pieces of
plywood stable while sawing, because plywood is less stiff than solid
wood, in general. One thing I do is to clamp my heaviest handscrews in
various places around the edge of the board I'm cutting in order to
reduce the chatter. The inertia in the handscrews reduces the
vibration frequency and magnitude in the board while I'm sawing and
results in faster, more accurate sawing.
On Wed, 27 Dec 2006 13:07:48 +0900, Ben Bullock wrote:
There are a couple items that I noted in your photos. One is the saw
angle which several people have already commented upon. I've never used a
Japanese saw so I really can't address that. After looking at the picture
of dust being vaccuumed away I found I liked the way my European
style saw clears the dust away by itself without need of blowing or
The more critical point though is that the tips of the teeth on your saw
appear very bright, indicating they're rounded. If a saw's teeth are too
blunt you will have trouble controlling the saw and getting a clean
cut. The saw's teeth should provide very little or no reflective surface
and if it does, its time to reach for a file.
I agree with JD, the sawdust gathering around the line of the cut certainly
is a nuisance. It's been a long time since I used a European style handsaw
(25 years?) so I don't remember very well.
I'm not sure which of the two saws in the photos is being referred to by JD,
but if he's talking about
then he is right. The cross cut part of that saw is pretty blunt. Funny
because I haven't used it enough that I would expect it to be blunt. In the
photos I'm cutting with the rip saw side of that saw, which I hadn't used
much until now, so the bluntness of the cross cut part doesn't matter. In
the traditional fashion of bad workmen, I blamed that tool for scratching
the cut as shown in the photo and went and bought a new single-sided blade:
This blade is made by "Zetto saw" and it cost 1500 yen, which is about $15
in US currency. With a handle it costs 1800 yen. I don't think there are any
problems with this blade. The best closeups I can do of the blades with my
cheapo digital camera are here:
Anyway it seems to cut much very much better than the double sided saw did.
I don't think I'll buy any more double sided saws.
Thanks very much indeed for making that, it's very easy to understand. I
found it on the web:
Would it be OK to put that on my flickr account (with attribution of course)
in case it's useful for other people?
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