How to Use a Japanese Saw

The Japanese saw or Nokogiri, as it is known in Japanese, is a fine and highly efficient tool commonly used by the Japanese carpenters for hundreds of years. Nowadays due to its ultimate performance, the saw has gained worldwide popularity. Artisans find it extremely useful and are able to achieve the finest cuts possible.

Japanese Saw for Beginners

Though it may look unusual with its hardwood handle wrapped in bamboo, the Japanese saw has some major advantages over its Western counterparts. The main difference between the two types is in the way they cut. While the saws we are all familiar with cut on the push stroke, the Japanese saws cut on the pull stroke. This pulling motion appears to be quite natural. In fact, the majority of our everyday gestures involve pulling rather than pushing motions. That is how you slice bread and tomato or cut a steak.

The difference between the pull vs. push technique lies in the thinness of the blade (it is 50 percent thinner compared to those of the Western saw). When you use a thinner blade, you attain a narrower cut width which explains the less effort you will exert while using the Japanese saw. However, it is one of the reasons why novices cannot easily get used to such flexibility. The unique design of the blades, with each tooth having 3 cutting edges, will allow you to to cut faster, smoother and cleaner. Thanks to these fine teeth, the saw can make incredibly precise cuts, provided that a person invests some time beforehand in practicing how to use it.

The Cutting Technique

To successfully acquire the pull saw technique, start the cut with the back end of the blade. Use your thumb to guide the saw. With time and practice, you will find the best angle at which to hold the saw. This applies for the grip as well. Yet, it is advisable not to hold the very front of the handle but to place your hand a little further to the back. Start sawing with steady, slow and gentle pulls.

Apply little pressure; otherwise the saw will go off course or will start jamming. The result might be a broken tooth, bent blade or even a broken saw. Avoiding bends is actually very important. Once a blade gets a bend on it, it virtually becomes useless (unless replaced) since it will no longer cut perfectly. The modern Japanese saw is manufactured either with or without replacement blades. If you choose to proceed like the master Japanese carpenters, who sharpen their own blades, then you have to know that learning how to do it properly takes a lot of practice.

Instructions for Storing

The Japanese saw is a fine instrument and has to be treated as such. Avoid storing it in damp places because it is not made of stainless steel. If you are not going to use the saw for a longer period, you have to oil the blade before storing. Protect the teeth of the blade. They are longer and can easily get damaged.