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Japanese Backsaws

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Japanese Backsaw

Japanese Backsaw

(c) 2007 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.
Common hand saws in North America and Europe, whether rip or crosscut models, are designed to cut on the push stroke. Japanese hand saws are designed to cut on the pull stroke. For this reason, Japanese hand saws can have a much narrower blade, as the push models require a thicker blade for stiffness when cutting.

Why is this knowledge important? The Japanese backsaws are thinner and more flexible, with a narrower kerf than their Western counterparts, making them ideal for narrow-kerf and trim cuts.
Japanese backsaws have gained popularity in the West for a number of tasks, primarily for hand-cutting tenons and dovetails as well as trimming one piece of stock flush with another. An example of using a backsaw to trim off excess dowel or plugs after the plug has been glued in place, as shown in the picture above. The backsaw's flexible saw blade makes trimming stock flush very easy and clean.

How to Use a Backsaw:

To use a backsaw, make certain that the piece to be cut is securely clamped to a shop table or saw horse. Mark the stock to be cut as with any hand saw. Align the saw with the mark and gently pull the blade across the mark to start the cut, then ease it forward and pull again to cut further. Proceed until the cut is completed.

Care for Your Backsaw:

Like all other hand saws, Japanese backsaws need to be occasionally sharpened. You may choose to have your saw professionally sharpened, but some woodworking tool suppliers offer sharpening kits. Similarly, backsaws need to be kept clean and dry in storage to protect the integrity of the saw blade.
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