A Yataiki saw arrives.
For years now - I have owned, used and struggled with various Japanese saws. Specifically Dozuki's. Struggled because I could not quite get the hang of using them. I always thought it was because I had spent too much time using western style saws and could not change my habits. So my few Dozuki's hung on the wall. I looked over at them from time to time - and even tried them every now and again - with similar disappointing results.
I was lamenting this situation to a good friend a while ago and he offered to send me one of his saws to try out. The saw arrived on January 7. Now this is not just any saw - it was made by Yataiki. I was pretty overwhelmed when it arrived - partly because of my track record with Japanese saws - but mainly because of who had made it (and has since retired from sawmaking).
There were quite a few details of the saw that really caught my attention. The first was how fine the teeth were - about 19 ppi. And the set... or should I say lack of set - there is virtually none to speak of. The blade is extremely thin - and absolutely perfectly strait.
There is a texture to the blade that is quite remarkable. The blade is tensioned by tens of thousands of little hammer strikes and then burnished. Yup - this was not an average saw.
The saw stayed in my shop for many days as I contemplated using it. Normally I don't wait to long to try out a new tool, but this one was different. I emailed my friend to let him know it had arrived safe and sound, but also to get any advise on using the saw. There were many emails sent back and forth all of which were helpful and set the stage for the first use. There were a few key pieces of advise - a relaxed grip, don't try to muscle the saw and let the saw do the work. A "relaxed grip" was described like holding a hammer. If you hold a hammer too rigidly, the striking (vibration) will hurt your arm. The grip should be relaxed enough to still control the hammer, but loose enough to keep the vibration from your wrist and arm. That was a brilliant piece of advise!
I practiced using the saw in my head - trying to anticipate how it would work. I had a few "free" hours on Jan 16th and decided to work on a few kitchen drawers. I took a deep breath - and finally tried the saw. I was not prepared for the results - it was perfect. I mean truly perfect! The start of the cut was smooth and clean and the saw tracked flawlessly leaving a clean and very thin kerf. And it cut fast. I was using the saw to cut the tails on the 1/2" hard maple drawer sides.
As I was using the saw, I noticed I was feeling for the straightest pull stroke - making sure I was not introducing a twist or lateral forces on the blade. The lack of set makes this really really easy to do. I cut a few kerfs and they all turned out perfectly. There was one kerf that did not follow the line perfectly, but instead of trying to correct for it - I let the saw cut along the started path. The words of my friend not to muscle the saw were ringing through my head at this point. In the end, that kerf was only off by a degree or two - all part of the story of hand cut dovetails.
I decided to stack four, 1/2" thick drawer sides together and try a cut or two. Pictured above is that first kerf... just as perfect as all the others.
And another shot of another 4 drawer sides.
Here is a shot of the 4-up drawer sides in my Tucker vice. A really nice feature of this vice and set up is that I can rotate the vice so I am sawing perpendicular to the floor.
Now for the really sad news. As I mentioned earlier, Yataiki is now retired - he is no longer making saws. As far as I know - he did not have an apprentice. If you ever have an opportunity to try one of his saws - or a handmade saw from another maker - you owe it to yourself to try it. I feel incredibly blessed to have been given this opportunity to use one of his saws.