A few of days ago I received an unexpected but splendid gift from Kuldeep Singh in Kyoto: a Nokogiri, a Japanese hand saw! I was astounded when I opened the parcel: the saw came in two parts, the bamboo handle and the blade. Fortunately Kuldeep had sent a link on how to put them together and it was literally a snap - as well a matter of some gentle tapping. Lo behold! I was holding what someone said looks more like a weapon than a woodworking tool.
There are many kinds of Japanese saws, including the thin blade Dozuki meant for cutting dovetails, Kataba the single sided saws, the Ryoba two sided saws and several others.
Many of these saws, I learnt, are made with disposable and interchangeable blades. The handles can last for decades, perhaps centuries. The blades unfortunately do not and are meant to be disposed after a couple of years of use. This is primarily because of the high cost of sharpening in Japan coupled with the low cost of mass produced blades. It is said that sharpening these blades by hand in the home workshop is not for the faint hearted.
Kuldeep made several points on the use of the Nokogiri:
- Like most Japanese saws it cuts on the pull stroke
- This is a rip saw with not too many teeth per inch (tpi) and thus good for aggressive ripping
- It also could be used for cutting tenons
- These saws have fine teeth and regular files cannot be used to sharpen them
- Blades of various sizes and tpi can be fitted to the handle
I tried the saw and found it cuts through hard wood quickly and aggressively. Its performance was not good with softwoods and plywood because it caused splintering. It also needed a little help to get started. For a fine cut, it is best to start the cut with a finer saw and then switch to the Nokogiri.
In all it's a handsome tool which could be very useful once I get used to cutting on the pull stroke.
16 June 2013