Dieter Schmid's Fine Tools

Why some Japanese saws shouldn't be used by inexperienced users

Most standard Japanese saws are made of strip steel. After the computer-controlled cutter shapes the blade, the teeth are hardened with a laser treatment. The blade stays relatively soft and flexible. As Japanese style saws cut on the pull stroke, even experienced woodworkers, used to Western saws that cut on the push, can easily damage one of these saws while becoming accustomed to their use. If the saw binds in the wood, for example, the blade can be bent or cracked, although they rarely break. It is far better then, to learn on a cheaper saw, as replacement blades are relatively cheap.

With the more expensive Japanese saws, the entire blade is hardened. They are manufactured in Japan for professional Japanese woodworkers for whom the saws have become a natural extension of their hand and arm. These saws are not "beginner tolerant." It is very easy to break the hardened steel blade, and this has happened often when people use these saws without having first taken the time to become accustomed to their use.

For instance, about 25 years ago, I bought a 150 euro handmade Japanese saw. I had not become completely used to the saw, and in one second of inattention, broke the blade into three pieces. Because I had invested so much in the saw, I continued to use the remaining two-thirds of the blade for many years. But it was not an ideal situation, to say the least.

Our warranty program and returns policy does not apply to broken saw blades. So we ask you not to use the higher-quality saws until you have gained experience and confidence on a cheaper model. We always try to steer our customers toward the best tools for the job and the person. Happy customers make our business also a pleasure. Someone who breaks a 100-euro saw five minutes after taking it out of the box is not going to be happy. Please take our advice on this point.

That being said, the hardened-blade professional-level saws are wonderful to use. The speed, accuracy and cleanliness of the cut must be seen to be believed. It is an experience not to be missed once one gains some expertise in the use of these saws.

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