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Types of Japanese Saws

Japanese saws, called nokogiri, have teeth filed to cut on the 'pull' stroke versus the 'push' stroke. Today, the reasoning for pull stroke saws has been lost, and there is much speculation as to why Japanese woodworkers originally filed the saw teeth to cut on the pull stroke. A widely accepted theory holds that Japanese woodworkers, squatting near the floor, found a pull stroke less cumbersome and easier to execute. Advantages for today’s woodworker: a blade made from thinner material and the pull stroke keeps the blade under “tension,” resulting in a thinner, straighter kerf. Types of common nokogiri are:
    Ryoba, meaning double-edged, is a saw with cutting teeth on each side of the blade. Typically, the teeth on one side of the blade are filed for crosscutting, while the teeth on the other side are for rip cutting. In some cases the ryoba saws have teeth on one side for cutting softwoods and teeth for cutting hardwoods on the other side. To keep a ryoba saw from binding, the blade is ground thinner toward the middle than at the edges, but careful examination of the teeth will reveal similar size and set of teeth on each edge. The actual size and number of teeth will vary, depending upon the length of the blade.

    Kataba has no back and is single-edged with teeth on one edge only. A great general-purpose saw, this saw has a thicker blade, which reduces the need for a back, and teeth that are filed for ripping and crosscutting. The ripping kataba may have smaller teeth to the rear of the blade (for starting the cut)and larger teeth near the front (for faster cutting).

    Dozuki, meaning tenon, is a kataba-style saw with a stiff back spine. The spine, while ensuring a straight blade for fine, precision joinery cuts, does limit the depth of cut. The dozuki is the most widely recognized and most used Japanese saw on both hardwood and softwood. The blade of the dozuki is the same thickness over its entire width and, similar to a crosscut saw, the teeth will have the size and minimal set across the length of the blade.

    Azebiki saws are most often found in the ryoba style and have a short, curved blade with teeth on each side. This saw is typically used for starting a cut in the center of a panel. The short blade allows easy access into tight spots too.

    Kugihiki, meaning to cut nails, features a blade with teeth having no set and is designed for flush-cutting “wooden” nails or dowels. The blade is thinner at the tip for easy bending and to finesse cuts for less chance of surface damage and thicker at the rear for better stability when cutting more aggressively.

    Sokomawashibiki, meaning bottom, is a curve cutting saw originally used for cutting the bottom for a wooden bucket. The curvature of the blade facilitates cutting a curved profile and can be used for hardwood or softwood.

    Anahiki is a log or beam cutting saw for cutting green and seasoned woods. Typically, this saw is used for general construction or timber framing but can be used in the shop for rough-cutting of rough-sawn hardwood or softwood lumber.

    Mawashibiki, meaning turning cut, is a narrow, thick-bladed saw that is useful for cutting curves or keyholes.