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Japanese Ryoba Handsaw


If you haven't tried a Japanese two-sided (what is called a ryoba) saw, you should. Particularly if you are working with softwoods. There are a number of advantages over Western pattern saws:

  • The ryoba has a rip saw on one side and a cross-cut saw on the other.
  • The saw cuts on the pull stroke so it is under tension when cutting and won't bend or buckle when it sticks.
  • The blade is thinner which means less wood is cut and thus less effort is required.
  • The long handle helps you line up the cut.

The first item on the list bears a bit of explaining. Saws are designed differently according to how they will cut the wood. In general, saws to cut across the grain (cross-cut) have blades which cut the wood. The edge of the tooth is shaped more like a knife and cuts the fibers of the wood. A rip saw which cuts with the grain of the wood has teeth which are shaped more like a chisel and take bites out of the wood. You can see the difference in these two illustrations:.

e-nokoha1.jpg e-nokoha3.jpg

Of course, Western pattern saws have advantages too. I think they show up more when cutting hardwoods though. I mostly am cutting softwoods and find that the ryoba is more useful to me than the classical Western saw. But here are the advantages of the Western saw:

  • Cuts on the push stroke so you can put some of the weight of your body behind it.
  • Thicker blade means that it is stiffer and may help you get started on a straighter cut.
  • Some find the typical pistol-grip handle wo tbe more comfortable.
  • Deeper tone when playing the saw
  • Sawdust ends up on the other side of the wood from you.

There are probably some more, but for now, there aren't enough to make me switch. It takes a bit of practice and some attention to your stance to use it well, but the same is true of almost any tool.

There are a number of other patterns of Japanese saws as well. Some are rounded so you can start cutting in the middle of a panel, others have reinforced backs like a Western backsaw. If you want to learn more and see some pictures of the other types of saws, this site offers a bit of history:

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    This is a single article from STUFF dated May 14, 2006.

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