. . . with a slight tweak here and another tweak there, you might just amaze yourself.
I regularly hear from people that they struggle to get their western saws to work smoothly. I have been preparing some saw articles to try to help. Many of you swear by your Japanese pull-stroke saws and say that they work better “for me.” This hasn’t bothered me much but the contradiction for me is this. They are 95-98% disposable saws because they cannot usually be sharpened by hand filing. The list of what people say usually go like this`: One, the kerf is much thinner. My research finds this not to be true at all. They are often the same or even greater and I accept that this could be the mass-made versions that most woodworkers buy. Two, they are easier to start because they work on the pull stroke instead of the push. Probably there is something wrong with how the western saws you may have tried have been sharpened. Three, Japanese saws have no back and so they are unlimited in any depth of cut. I can’t think of many cuts I make that need much more than a few inches. Working from both sides of a section of wood means that I could if needed, cut through a 5″ by 5″ section of wood. But I would most likely switch to a backless handsaw like a panel saw anyway which puts me into the unlimited depth of cut category anyway. And so the list goes on. The truth often is what we are introduced to first impresses us the most and we usually stay with what we know first.
I in no way want to pitch one cultural preference against another. That is not where my interest lies. I simply want to point out that a saw made for thrust cuts can be fine-tuned to suit every task with just one or two minor tweaks, once you understand some of the dynamics at play. Whether I am equal to the task will be for you to judge. Some of the things I do to my saws make them work like poetry in the cut. I might even say that you cannot help but cut straight and square using one, but that’s a little too ambitious. I think that I can say that they will cut with ease at accuracy levels you want in your work and that each cut you make will be exponentially improved multidimensionally. That’s what most woodworkers want. Let’s not just throw away our western resharpenables just yet. What if, like me, you might be using the same saw for 57 years and on a daily basis? I’m going to give this my best shot.