Making a Japanese Saw Clamp

Japanese saw clamp

This is a Japanese saw clamp I made yesterday based on sketches in Toshio Odate’s “Japanese Woodworing Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit, and Use”.  It measures 11″ wide by 11-1/2″ Long. Eleven inches was the widest piece of lumber I had on hand, but it covers the length of most of my Japanese saws.

Freshly planed maple

Here is the freshly planed maple I prepared by resawing from a thicker slab. My previous post covers the process of working from the rough sawn lumber, but it is worth while to take a look at some of the tools and techniques I use to quickly dimension lumber with hand planes.

Japaese marking gauge

I find that a marking gauge with a cutting blade gives the nicest knife line to work to. Here is one I made from some left over oak flooring. These gauges are really easy to make and its something every joiner should have a couple of. The marking blade I made from a dull sawz-all saw blade. Definitely not 0-1 tool steel, but it holds an edge quite well.

Jointing edge of board

Almost all of my planing is done on a 4×6 douglas fir beam. I added a runner to the side so that I can quickly joint and square the edge of a board (yet another great Japanese technique). It takes a bit of work to keep the surfaces properly aligned when the planing beam is dressed, but that is more than made up for by the speed you gain.

Cutting on Japanese saw horse

The planed lumber can then be cut to length. For rough cuts to length I use a cheap Stanley hard pointed saw, but for cross-cutting to final dimension I like to use a ryoba on Japanese style saw horses. Your foot holds the board down while you cut, and the ryoba saw avoids bad break-out on the bottom side.

Holes in saw clamp

The saw clamp is a very simple tool. Here I have just finished drilling four holes a little more than half way down that bind the two pieces of the clamp together. No need for anything fancy, I just used some jute cord to tie them together. The wedge was shaped once the pieces were bound and I could bring the fit in through trial and error.

Re-pointing saw teeth

All but a few of my Japanese saws are disposable blade types. Even though the teeth are induction hardened they can still be re-pointed many times with a diamond plate to joint them and a diamond feather file to file the points. Make sure you take the abrasive off the edges of the file so that you don’t knick the adjacent teeth. I find that a saw like this can be brought back to life in about ten minutes, well worth the time even with disposable blades.

A final note on sharpening disposable blade saws. While the teeth may be glass hard, the steel in the rest of the body of these saws is quite soft and without temper. I always sharpen the saw from both sides, only working the teeth leaning away from me, because the pressure from the file can bend the tooth in the direction of the file stroke. Light pressure when filing is key, as well as having your source of light in the right spot so that the flats from jointing the teeth are easily seen.

Keep your saws sharp and may all your cuts be true!

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