I have never really liked sawing wood by hand, whether pruning or lumber, although pruning is more forgiving at least. I think its the imprecision of sawing, or perhaps my implementation of sawing. The table saw or miter saw or bandsaw or even the circular saw all have their own special precision.
But sometimes none of them are the right tool. Sometimes a handsaw is the only way to do the job. Now for rough cutting, any saw will do just fine as long as the teeth are sharp. Sometimes a curve is in order and a coping saw is necessary. But for a precise and smooth straight cut, a saw that produces a fine kerf and has enough stability to cut straight is needed.
Recently a friend asked me to shorten some bar chairs to fit under his table that was 37 inches in height so (human) legs could fit under the table aprons. The only reasonable approach was to clamp the chair on the workbench and use a handsaw to cut off 4” from each leg (16 in all).
A typical saw would have done the job but would have left some cleanup and maybe some tear-out. Instead I used my favorite saw, the Japanese Dozuki “Z” saw I purchased several years ago. Although I have several standard hand-saws, a back-saw, a regular dovetail saw, several coping saws, a double-sided flexible Japanese saw, and a hack saw, all of which have their particular uses, the one I go to first is the Z saw. Why? Let me count the ways.
First, the Dozuki Z is just comfortable to use. The ribbed bamboo handle is easy on the hands and not too thick. I prefer wood handles better anyway, and this one is simply comfortable and has shown almost no wear.
Second, like Japanese saws in general, the cut is on the pull, not the push. For some reason this action works way better for me. The push gets that little bit of a kerf going, then the pull does the cutting. For me, at least, this results in way less tear-out, and I can see what is happening with the cut more clearly along the cut-line.
Third, the Z actually has a stabilization rib needed for precise dovetails and other sensitive cuts. I have a flexible double-sided Japanese saw that works well in certain situations, especially for cutting dowels or other extruding wood flush to the surface, but the double-sided saw’s flexibility is also its achilles heal for making precise through cuts of wood.
Fourth—and this one is huge—most dovetail saws (and back-saws) have a stabilization rib that runs across the entire length of the saw’s top edge. Of course this helps keep the blade stiff, but the downside is that the depth of cut is limited. Once you’ve reached the two or three inches to the rib, that’s it, no more cutting. For dovetails this is just fine, but not if the cut needs to be deeper. Not the Dozuki Z. The top edge rib only runs most of the way, leaving the blade’s last couple of inches free to move all the way through the wood. To be sure, the saw stroke is limited, but as long as the wood is no more than an inch or two thick, the Z can go right through it.
Fifth, the cut quality is superb. The kerf is thin and the cut is smooth. For dovetails this is exactly what is needed. I use it for the cuts on all my hand-cut dovetails. I have read of Dozukis with a more efficient cut, but at this point I am comparing the cuts I get a with a typical dovetail saw. I love the Z.
Sixth, the Z has just enough set to cross-cut too. For those 4” leg cut-offs I mentioned above, the action was easy, efficient, and left a very smooth result with barely perceptible tear-out in a couple of instances. My cutting direction was off in a couple of cases, but that was my fault, not the saw’s! I touched up those with my Japanese rasp (a favorite tool for later).
Seventh, the price is right. For about $40-$50 this saw is economical. I am not sure about now, but mine came with an easy-to-replace extra blade. I have yet to need it. I also like the snappable cardboard sheath the Z comes in for protection. The sheath itself has held up over the years and the extra blade is in one too.
Do I need all the hand saws I have? On occasion, yes. The hack-saw is the only one that works on metal products and best for plastic pipe, and the coping saw is the only one that can deal with limited curves and tight spaces. For quick and dirty cuts the normal cross-cut or ripping saws do the job. The double sided saw allows for an absolutely flush cut-off. But for all the rest of my hand-saw needs (75%?) the Z is the one I pick up.
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