Zona push power

I wrote the intro for this yesterday and the questions poured in for a few reasons but different questioners and commenters were troubled by the changeover from a pull stroke to a push stroke and even the use of the term I used, “correcting the Zona saw.” Well, there are many considerations here not the least of which is the design of the teeth. The Zona saw is a brilliant little saw that cuts pristinely and is designed as a modellers saw for the main part. Modelling isn’t just small models of small things but just as much patterns for pattern making, prototyping and so on so it is an industry saw as well as creating small working models of engines and planes and trains and such.

The Zona saw is not an Asian saw but a western saw made by a western maker in the USA. Fundamentally it is a traditionally made saw following English patterns with an added spline stiffener and the design of the folded spline was developed somewhere in the pre 1700s. The teeth of the Zona saw are sharpened to cut metal and so have chisel-type teeth; the same as you find on western ripcut teeth. Of course you can use the saw as a pull or push stroke saw depending on preference and what you personally are used to. Some might say that’s backwards but it’s all about choices here. Metal cutting saws like hacksaws are technically pushed through the face of metal into the metal but there are exceptions as with fret saws. You would be stretching it to say the Zona shown here would be used like a fret saw, underhanded, but some might say that’s an underhanded way of looking at things. Another commenter said that it takes less effort to pull the stroke than push it, but I think that that seems to me to be streeeetching the reasoning just a tadddd in this case at least.

Of course the cut of the teeth make a huge difference to the defence of my case. Japanese pull-stroke saws in this comparison never really featured in my presenting the need for changing direction. I in no way “westernized” the saw. It was to present the best way to change it to meet the needs people might have for a push stroke saw that certainly works better for general metal working and it works exceptionally well for wood sawing to. For me there is no compromise whether I push or pull the cut. Both work fine, but push does give many if not most more power in this case and actually in other cases too. The teeth of most Japanese saws people introduced here are meant for cutting wood and 95% of the ones sold in the western world actually have pinnacle three sided teeth and rarely chisel teeth whereas the Zona has chisel type teeth and is actually designed for cutting a wide range of resistant materials not the least of which are metals ranging in hardness from soft metals like gold all the way through to mild steel in terms of hardness. I doubt many would want to take their Dozukis to these hard materials, not even the induction hardened models mass made to replace the real art of the Japanese saws of old. Such saws and teeth will be unlikely to give more than one stroke before the teeth snap their points or even the whole tooth. In essence we are not comparing apples for apples here.

Now in the USA, as far as I have seen, most Japanese saws are crosscut-type saws and whereas they do cut quite well with or across the grain of wood, they are not suited to metal cutting. The Zona saw works very well on the push stroke for both metal and wood and abalone, and plastics and bone, horn and so on too. A very different saw than the Japanese pull-stroke saw really.

I hope this leads to a better understanding of the two saw types. It’s not really a question of westernizing a saw or being PC with saying ” preference” rather than “correcting” but looking to see if your push packs more power than your pull.


  1. momist on 30 August 2015 at 9:38 am

    Very well said, Paul. I was rather surprised and even shocked to see some of the comments on your YouTube channel.

    I suppose now I will have to try to find space for another saw. Maybe I don’t need so many, I could sell one to make way for a Zona. :-/

  2. David Devereux on 30 August 2015 at 10:00 am

    Thanks for that explanation Paul, but it still leaves me with two questions.
    If the saw is a western design, why would Zona design it to be used on the pull stroke? They must see some advantage.
    If the main problem as you previously stated is that you get fracturing when cutting your dovetails, then surely a much simpler solution is to turn the wood, rather than the blade, round and cut from the other side!

    • Paul Sellers on 30 August 2015 at 10:20 am

      Not really. All western saws were designed to work on the push stroke from the body and away from you. No western tenon saw was ever made to be reversed. Whether the Japanese saw is the better option is very much debatable. Frame or bow saws work on both pull and push stroke depending on the work, the preference of the user and many other things. As with everything, manufacturers are influenced by sales. When the fad for Japanese tools hit the US it was a massive new sales area. The workmanship of Asian woodworkers is world renowned but so is the work of western woodworkers too. Japanese woodworkers and western woodworkers are subjected to the same physical and spiritual limitations and both can create equal standards in workmanship. I would suggest that there are times, times, when a pull stroke with a zona saw is an advantages as in tight spaces and so on. The Zona saw is as thin or thinner than most Japanese saws and could indeed be made thinner if it were practical. The limit here is that the saw must return to its pull start position. When the steel is too thin the risk of kinking the blade in a buckling return push to take a pull stroke, something most people forget, the resulting buckle becomes much higher so the Japanese are subjected to the same natural laws as we westerners. My thinking is that people were buying Japanese imports and whereas it is easy to turn the wood around, it’s just as easy for the makers to insert the blade in reverse of the bat and sell the saw all the more because, when push comes to shove, it means more sales without the makers compromising.

  3. Sylvain on 30 August 2015 at 2:22 pm

    You will find little scroll sawing kit made of a C clamp, a little board in wich a vee notch coming into a round hole has been sawed and a fret saw. This is used with the little board horizontal while seating. It makes perfect sense, with this, to saw on the pull stroke (the hand being under the little boad). The zona saw being used by modellers, they might use the same system.
    Just guessing.

  4. Kenny on 30 August 2015 at 2:33 pm

    I was shocked by some of the comments made in the previous post, as well. It seemed that some were more concerned with semantics, rather than the value, or the helpfulness of the advice given in Paul’s post. I switched the direction of the blade in my Zona saw, months ago, when I first got it, and have been happy that I did so. I find no disadvantage to having done so. Quite the opposite – it works now as I feel it should. As Paul points out; the teeth are Western style, the folded back is Western style, etc. So I would say that turning the teeth around, to cut on the push stroke, as most Western style saws do, is *indeed* a ‘correction’. After all, if you bought a Japanese style saw, with the wrapped handle, the tri-beveled teeth, etc., but found that it cut on the push stroke…! Wouldn’t you think that was ‘incorrect’? Same here, with this saw (the Zona). But as I stated above, all of that is more semantics than anything, and doesn’t address the actual merits of the tip Paul gave us.
    As for turning the work around in the vice. I think that turning the blade around on one’s saw, one time, is easier than changing, each and every time, the way we have done things, forever in the past. Not to mention that turning the work piece around in the vice, would still leave us with the problem that many of us (or at least some of us?) have with Japanese style saws – the line being obscured as we attempt to cut along it.
    I say thank you to Paul for the tip/suggestion. Why not try it, and judge the tip on its worth, rather than on the terms used? – correct vs. preference.
    And why did Zona make it that way in the first place? Who knows? Maybe email them and find out their reasoning. All I know is that if it looks like a Western saw, is designed like a Western saw, etc., I would expect it to act like a Western saw. Otherwise it’s confusing to me as much as it would be if my cat came into the room, and barked at me!

  5. Sylvain on 30 August 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Here is an example of a (kid) fret saw kit:

    This might be easier to understand then my description.

  6. Fr Parthenius on 30 August 2015 at 8:31 pm

    Yes, respect the teacher, I think. Paul is a great teacher (in the not-so-old days we would have referred to him as “Mr. Sellers”) and out of respect for his hard-earned knowledge and my lack of the same, I reversed the blade on a Zona saw that had come my way. Number 1, besides the points already made, it does stand to reason to have all of the saws you use regularly work the same -on the push stroke- rather than master a new skill for one little saw. Number 2, and off the point I suppose, is that this is a great little saw. Not expensive, and it has a decent handle, too. And made in the USA. Not bad.

  7. Brian Anderson on 31 August 2015 at 9:12 am

    I use both Japanese and Western saws, and think that it is a good idea to change the blade orientation – the saws track and start differently and one must adapt the stroke to compensate. So having a western style saw that cuts on the pull could create errors just because of the difference between what you are seeing in your hand as opposed to the stroke you need to use. Plus of course the potential tear out issue Paul talks about.

    As I understand it, Japanese saws became popular because the Western tool makers had largely abandoned making decent saws because most woodworkers had moved into power tools, and the new hand saws sold were just used for very casual or rough work. But Japanese carpenters had continued to use hand saws, and the makers continued to supply decent tools to them. Even today, despite the recent availability of very good Western saws, I have stayed with the Japanese saws for most things because I know them, and can get very respectable results using $15 disposable blades.

    Of course if one was trained to use and especially to sharpen Western hand saws, then there was never any need for moving over to the Japanese-style pull saws.

    • Paul Sellers on 31 August 2015 at 10:19 am

      Thanks for this Brian. I had thought about these things last night. It’s all true. Western makers without naming names ended up producing truly shoddy facsimiles of saws that were ugly and in many cases unusable. The Independence saw company saw the flawed work and started their company as a result and became one of the best. Ton Lie Nielsen bought the company and continued producing top notch saws but at a premium price. This jarred the UK makers and they eventually reconsidered the situation and very slowly and very gradually started to upgrade because of lost sales. Standards have improved but again at a premium price. Here’s an article from some time back on the demise if anyone’s interested: Two Cherries saws

  8. Stan P on 31 August 2015 at 8:24 pm

    I have been using a small xacto razor saw and figured that someday I would look for something better for woodworking. Your posting prompted me to go look at the Zona saws. My question is which one were you talking about in your post? also, I have seen several of your videos and they are great. You are a marvelous teacher.

    • Paul Sellers on 31 August 2015 at 8:48 pm

      They all work but 24 and 32 ppi work well for woodworking.

  9. Max™ on 25 August 2018 at 8:36 am

    I’ve got one of the 24 ppi 8 inch saws I put in a handcarved handle before I went all in and did a 10 inch crown gent’s conversion, I still really like the light and uh… pointable feel of the Zona.

    I’ve got one of the little 5 inch 32 ppi and the shallow 44 ppi one too, they slice into wood freakishly well but they get so hot it’s impossible to avoid buckle issues if you’re doing more than slipping them in to clean out the inside corners of a joint or something similar. All reversed for push stroke use after I saw your video about it, which was incidentally the first one of yours I saw!