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26 May 1999 - 26 May 2015
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I've finally been able to start on the bench building project, having got my little tool collection up to scratch at last.
I've started out building traditional sawbenches, partly to practise the joints for the bench, and partly to give me a platform upon which to build the bench itself.
But, I'm starting to wonder how much use these are using Japanese saws. It's much easier to cut with the handle pointed towards the floor (the opposite of the Western saw) but this isn't really possible without a quite high platform.
So, my question is - how do you rip long boards with Japanese saws? How do the Japanese do it?
Here's a little secret for you.
Ever seen a resaw blade for a bandsaw? One from Europe or America?
They're dinky toys. Babies. Hardly worth a considering if you have access to the stuff that goes as a 'resaw' blade here in Japan.
I have a small resaw blade on my 10" bandsaw now. It's truly 'small' being 1" wide, with about 1.5 tpi. Will chew up and spit out anything I've seen from OS that's called a resaw blade. The 'proper' blade for resawing on my size saw is 3" wide/deep with stellite or tungsten tipped teeth. That one won't physically fit on my saw, so I have to use the 1" wide version, which it was made for.
And that's how it's done here. Folks don't do it by hand, you use your band saw with a stupid big blade in it.
But seriously, you use a support to get the hunk of wood up high, and saw at chest/head level, pulling down to cut. Makes life a lot easier when cutting, you get to see the entire cut as you make it and the support doesn't need to be anything special, just enough so that it doesn't rock in use. An "A" frame is plenty good enough.
And you use a stoopit big saw to do it properly as well. They're not often seen...
The Tools from Japan Blog (about Japanese tools and such)
The Tools from Japan Store.
In Japan long rips from a few inches to 20 feet or more are done with the board raised up about a foot or higher off the floor on blocks. A good dark sumi ink line helps as does a sharp saw. All the cutting is done bending over and pulling the saw handle up to your chest as you are walking backwards on the top of the lumber. Out of respect for the wood and to keep it clean I take off my shoes and you are trained to do this. If you are ripping a narrow board you can have a second board alongside for stability, but your foot pressure near the cut prevents chattering. The cut line does not progress between your feet but out beyond your forward foot and you shuffle backwards instead of walking backwards. Have a good ink line to follow and also ink the endgrain clearly with your vertical line. You will need to blow off the sawdust as you go along with strong puffs.
To start the cut it is good practice to while looking down, lean over the end of the stock and at the bottom/underside of your drawn line on the endgrain, accurately nip the bottom/edge of the board on the endgrain surface with a shallow cut on the side of the line you are going to follow. This is most easily done with the crosscut teeth because they are finer, nip the bottom edge then nip the tip or corner of the top edge endgrain, then go back and nip the bottom edge a bit more so you begin to build the cut line as it develops on the endgrain up from bottom to top until they meet in the middle of the end for the board. This makes a shallow accurate cut line on the end of the lumber. In this way your first full power strokes will be perfectly vertical while riding in the shallow accurate cut line you just made. Don't get too anxious with the first strokes, keep them light and accurate.
Remember that your power strokes are on the pull and that your most accurate nip strokes are also on the pull. On heavy timbers this endgrain set-up is obvious, but even on sheeting or thin stock it is good to always follow the same method. This first vertical power cut stroke from the underside to the topside at the end of the lumber has to be true or you are screwed to whole way. It is not a bad idea to have a line snapped on the underside of the board too so you can check for drift in your cut as you go along by flipping the board over. If you cut consistently drifts left or right then you saw set is off or you have a missing tooth or a broken tooth tip or two. With a well tuned saw you can cut forever on one side of the line with no problem of drift. Don't cut down the middle of the line, bad form. Cut on the waste side so you can plane or finish the cut surface later to dimension the wood. For westerners with long legs you find that a lot of japanese hand work is hard on the back because so much is done at floor level or bending over, the tools are designed this way, but with a developed sawing stroke ripping this way is very accurate and much of your labor is taken up with the larger leg muscles. good luck, Alx
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