Having a hand saw is essential, especially if you enjoy carpentry or need to perform fine woodworking.
A western saw is the most common type of hand saw.
Most people know this type of hand saw and have one like this at home.
However, in recent years, Japanese hand saws have emerged, making it difficult to determine if you should own western hand saws or Japanese handsaws.
In a nutshell, you should have both western and Japanese hand saws in your workshop, since they have different purposes. The main difference is that a western hand saw can be used to make coarser cuts, while a Japanese hand saw can be used for extra fine cuts.
This article will help you understand the differences between Western and Japanese handsaws, not only in terms of design, but also in terms of how to utilize and combine them to get the best results.
- Why is it important to choose the right type of hand saw?
- What is the difference between Western and Japanese hand saws?
- Which is the best, Western or Japanese hand saw?
- How to choose the right one?
Disclosure: At zero cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon associate. Products featured are selected based on quality, performance, and reputation, regardless of affiliate relationships.
Why is it important to choose the right type of hand saw?
Some people believe that all handsaws are the same. They do what they have to do, which is cut wood.
In the end, this is right; if you look just at the end result, they do indeed provide the desired result; they make a cut in the wood.
The main difference, though, is in the details.
Choosing the right type of hand saw determines not only the degree of finish of the cut but also the journey to it. To make cutting more comfortable and ergonomic, you’ll need to utilize the right saw.
For woodworking, there are a variety of hand saws available. These are classified into two broad categories. The Western saw is one, and the Japanese saw is another. Each saw has its own set of benefits.
Before you purchase the saw, you have to know the differences between the two types. That is what I will discuss below.
What is the difference between Western and Japanese hand saws?
Both types of hand saws come in different varieties. Each design will have a unique design to solve a specific task.
I won’t go into detail on the many varieties because there’s a lot to say about it. Keep an eye on my website, since I’m working on another article on this.
However, simply comparing Western and Japanese handsaws reveals a significant difference.
Western handsaws will have a thicker blade and cut with a push stroke, but Japanese handsaws have thinner blades and cut with a pull stroke.
As a result, western saws are more commonly used for harsh cuts, whereas Japanese saws will generally be used for finer cuts. Of course, this will depend on the variety of the type of handsaw you are using
But there are more differences than just that.
Let’s take a closer look!
What are Western saws?
Western saws have been manufactured for a long time in the western world. Sounds obvious, isn’t it?
Western saws of the highest quality are made in Germany, Sweden, England, and the United States. These saws are designed in the European tool-making tradition.
A close inspection of the teeth of a western saw shows that they are positioned in alternating directions away from the saw blade. Every other tooth is tilting to the left or to the right.
Another thing you’ll notice is that the tip of a tooth bends forward, pointing to the saw’s nose. This structure allows you to cut neatly and quickly on the push stroke.
When taking a look at the handle, you can see that Western saws have a big handle, so they can be used with both hands.
Why are Western saws push stroke?
A western hand saw is almost always a push stroke hand saw.
This design helps you cut tougher and larger materials. This is because you can use your body weight to apply pressure to the saw while pushing it. It should also be safer to operate than a pull saw because you are pushing it away and the teeth of the saw blade are pointed away from you.
It is generally believed that when the saw unexpectedly locks up and releases, and you cannot control it, you are less likely to be injured.
However, I have some thoughts about this.
To begin, applying too much force on the saw when pushing might cause the blade to bend, even the blade may be thicker than the blade of a Japanese saw. Therefore, be careful and avoid using too much effort while using a push saw.
Second, whether you’re using a pull saw, a push saw, or any other tool in your workshop, you should always work as safely as possible.
Before you begin working, try to estimate all the potential accidents that can happen.
Be prepared for any accidents. Make sure you have a first aid kit in your workshop. Discover how to put together a first aid kit in this article.
What is the purpose of a western hand saw?
Western saws will be used mostly for cutting rougher wood, re-sawing by hand, or creating fast cuts due to their larger blade, alternating teeth in both directions, and being push saws.
This saw is most well-known and widely used in the construction industry.
However, there are western saws designed for finer work, like producing dovetail joints or mortise and tenon joints. More on this in an upcoming blog, where I will go into further detail.
What are Japanese saws?
Japanese saws, also known as nokogiri, are quite different from western saws. The blade on this type of saw is thinner, cut with a pull stroke, and the handle does not look like the handle of a western hand saw at all.
However, did you know that Japanese hand saws are the original woodworking tools, dating back centuries? They haven’t changed much in all that time. Although they are known as Japanese saws, they were once used in China, Korea, Nepal, and even Turkey.
Because of some of their advantages, they have been more popular all over the world in recent years, which is why many woodworkers enjoy using them.
Why are Japanese hand saws pull stroke?
The pull stroke method of cutting wood with a handsaw is performed by pulling the saw toward you, as the name indicates. It’s the opposite of what you’d do with a common western push saw.
For several reasons, Japanese handsaws employ the pull stroke method. The most frequently claimed explanation is because traditional Japanese woodworking methods need the use of fine handsaws to get the best results.
Power tools cannot be used to cut the joints because of the way Japanese joinery works. As a result, when it comes to cutting the joint parts, they must rely on a handsaw.
The blade and teeth must be as thin as possible to achieve a clean and fine cut. If this were a push saw, the saw blade may bend due to the thinness of the blade. This is no longer the case as a result of the pulling movement during sawing.
What is the purpose of a Japanese hand saw?
The basic difference between Japanese and Western handsaws is the thickness of the blade, which is thinner than Western saws.
The thinner blade of a Japanese hand saw provides more flexibility, but also removes less wood and produces less dust during the cutting process. The narrower blade’s flexibility makes it simpler to handle, but it also requires fewer blade passes to cut through your stock, resulting in less user fatigue.
They are used for finer work than Western-style saws, which are used on bigger pieces of wood.
Traditional Japanese saws are not designed for ripping through enormous amounts of hardwood, but they are excellent for difficult-to-reach tasks like trimming pieces flush to the surface or cutting dovetails.
Why do Japanese hand saws have a long handle?
The handle of a western handsaw allows you to grip it close to the blade and cut at a right angle while remaining stable.
Because the blade of Japanese handsaws is narrower, they are more versatile in usage. A Japanese saw allows you to bend the blade and cut it at an angle.
As a result, the Japanese handsaw’s handle is longer.
The longer handle of a Japanese handsaw is almost as long as the blade itself and is in line with the blade. This allows you to cut wood with a pull stroke at whatever angle the saw blade can bend while remaining stable.
Which is the best, Western or Japanese hand saw?
As can be seen from the information in this article, there is no clear winner when choosing between a western saw and a Japanese saw. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. So it all boils down to selecting the best saw for the task you are working on in your workshop.
If you need to make rough cuts or swiftly cut through a large amount of wood, the western saw with push strokes is the best choice.
A Japanese pull hand saw, on the other hand, is the best choice for making fine, crisp cuts with a high degree of finish.
Also, keep in mind that there are western saw variants that can do finer work. Later, in another article, I will discuss these distinct types more in-depth.
How to tell if your saw is a pull saw or a push saw?
It is critical to understand whether you have a push saw or a pull saw if you want to make a cut in wood with as little effort as possible.
The teeth of a push saw will be angled to the saw blade, pointing the tip of the tooth toward the nose of the blade and away from the handle.
With a pull saw, the teeth will be positioned at an angle, with the tip of the teeth pointing towards the handle.
So, if you want to cut with the least amount of effort, apply force to the saw blade while going in the direction the teeth point. Allow the saw blade to glide easily in the slot while moving it in the other direction.
However, there is a third type of tooth on a hand saw: those that point straight down. This implies you can be sawn with both a push and a pull stroke.
How to choose the right one?
The best option is determined not only by the type of job you want to do, but also by the amount of money you want to spend. Prices can vary substantially across different types and versions, as well as between different brands.
For example, this Western saw by Stanley is far less expensive on Amazon than this suizan japanese pull saw hand saw ryoba.
To determine which saw is best for you, you may compare different Japanese pull saws and western saws through the links on Amazon until you find the saw that fulfills your needs.
I myself have the Ryoba Japanese pull saw and different types of Stanley hand saws in my workshop, and these are two brands of hand saws I can recommend. Of course, there are many other brands out there who have quality hand saws as well.
I wrote this blog post to help you understand the difference between western and Japanese handsaws and to let you see that one isn’t better than the other.
Now you know there is no winner in between these two types of saws but, when they are used in combination, they can give you a winning outcome.
With the information in this post, you can make an informed decision on which one to choose based on the projects you work on.
When you decide to buy a Japanese hand saw, know you need to maintain it properly to get the most out of it and make it last longer. To help you with that, check out my article, how to maintain a Japanese hand saw. This guide will give you an overview of all the steps to take to keep a Japanese hand saw in the best condition.
If you want to go deeper into the types of handsaws that are best for woodworking, have a look at another article I wrote about which woodworking hand saws you should have in your workshop.
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Woodworking | DIY | Home decoration