Resawing lumber with home made Japanese rip saw

Cutting with kataba nokogiri

This is a 350mm kataba nokogiri made from a western style saw plate. I’m resawing a piece of maple for making a Japanese saw clamp. The saw clamp is something I’ve wanted to make for quite a while now; up till now I’ve just used my large machinist vise to hold saws for sharpening, but you have to move the saw several times to support the teeth as you file. I based my saw clamp on the pictures in Toshio Odate’s “Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit, and Use”. A slab of maple cut freehand with a chainsaw was the widest piece of lumber I had on hand in hardwood.

Chainsaw milled maple

This was the first lumber I ever milled with a chainsaw, and the sawing marks show it. Even so there is a good bit of usable lumber there if you can plane it down. To do that, I use a scrub plane.

Scrub plane blade camber

I originally started with a much more aggressive radius of curvature to the blade edge, but because I most often plane parallel with the grain against a bench stop on my planning beam, I’ve found that a shallower radius is a bit more productive for me.

Pencil marking gauge

After using the scrub plane to work down the rough sawn surface, I refined it further with a smoothing plane and repeated the work on the edges and opposing face. With a nice flat piece of lumber now I can mark a line all the way around the board right in the center of the depth for resawing. I use a gauge with a pencil for this because the pencil line is about the same width as the kerf of my rip saw, and the pencil line is much more visible.

Cutting with kataba nokogiri

What can I say about this home made saw? Its horrible and wonderful at the same time. I made it for cutting the thin hipboard panels on traditional shoji screens when I didn’t have the money to buy a bandsaw. Since making it I’ve been able to get a 14″ Rikon bandsaw, but I still use my kataba nokogiri from time to time to keep my skills sharp.

When making a cut like this how you start the saw is everything. Not to mention that the saw needs to be dead sharp and correctly set.  I cut from either side alternately at a slight downward angle. I used to saw at a 45 degree angle to the length of the board, but I found that the closer to perpendicular I can get the straighter the resulting cut. Its faster too, but harder to stay on the line. My kataba nokogiri is definitely meant to be used with two hands, and I pull straight back into my core, relaxing on the return stroke.

If the teeth are dull it will not cut a straight line. If you use to much pressure in the cut (because of dull teeth) the saw plate will warp and it will not cut a straight line. If you try to twist the saw to correct back onto the line you REALLY will mess up your cut. To top it off the steel this saw plate is made from is much softer than a Japanese saw. If you cut through a knot the teeth will dull and you have to stop in the middle of the cut and re-sharpen.

That said, in softer clear wood, this saw is a beast, and I made it for the cost of the files to cut the teeth. The plate tapers about .008″ from teeth to spine edge, so the set of the teeth is as minimal as I can make it and not have problems with the plate rubbing in the cut.

Resaw and kataba nokogiri

The boards warped a little bit from cutting, but surprisingly not too much considering the flat grain of this board. You can tell from the discoloration of the handle on my saw that its seen a fair bit of use. While I would never call this a “real” Japanese saw, it gets the job done as long as you’re willing to pay in sweat. Never let the lack of an expensive power tool stop you from getting the job done!

3 thoughts on “Resawing lumber with home made Japanese rip saw”

  1. Excellent work on the previous transom, shoji, loom…..God, you make me want to actually build something, rather than just play with the tools, haha!

    That said, I LOVE your kobiki-nokogiri! Roll yer own, ha!

    Making your own tools teaches you more about what defines a good, quality tool than any amount of discussion/reading ever could. Just as important, you realize that the tools are just….tools. They aren’t magic, they are a means to efficiently get s**t done. And that’s coming from me, an obviously tool obsessed person.

    That’s not to say that the tools aren’t beautiful in their own right. Your learned eye will see more in the quality of someone else’s work than most any tool “enthusiast”.

    My hat is off. Great work.

  2. A while back I saw you discussing the Japanese handsaws, and I bought one to try out (not a nice one like yours, just the cheapest thing at the home center). Using that saw, I was finally able to get good results cutting trim with my cheap plastic miter box.

    1. That’s great! I still use a cheap $20 ryoba with a plastic handle all the time in my shop for cutting hardwoods. If I snap a tooth off I don’t feel that bad, and the saw has been going strong for over a year now.

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