Friday, 1 February 2008

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.


Anonymous Denis Chénard said...

Amazing saw, isn't it?

I asked Kayoko over a year ago if Yataiki still made saws, and placed an order. My two saws (one rip, like yours, the other one crosscut) arrived last month, I was expecting them in the spring, talk about a wonderful Christmas present!

The rip saw is everything you said, and more... As a test, I made end grain cuts in a really hard piece of 5/8" maple, with the board protruding about 8" above the vise. I first made a cut with the LV Rip Dozuki (the best machine made saw I know of, and I've tried a good number of them). The LV saw skipped and chattered for the first few strokes at the beginning of the cut, which is to be expected with the setup I had. Then I tried the Yataiki. No chattering, no skipping, the saw just went to work... Amazing...

I don't know if it's wishful thinking, but it's as if you feel which tooth is doing the cut at any point in the stroke, such is the feedback of that saw...

The crosscut saw is another marvel. That someone can file complex teeth that small, by hand, just blows me away. And the cut... I swear that it's as if the surface of the cut has been polished! There's no way I can get such smoothness on end grain from my planes... Maybe I'll have to get one of yours :-)

The sad part is that such saws are not available anymore. I feel blessed to have been able to obtain them.


1 February 2008 at 13:31  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Denis,

I had read about your 2 saws - I think on WC. We are both very lucky people!

Karen was just here - left an hour ago - and she tried it out. She had a similar experience - totally blown away. A great comment about the feedback - I know exactly what you mean.

When Karen was wasting out the test pins she was cutting - the sides of the wedges (waste) were like planed surfaces. I can see myself edging towards dovetails right off the saw - no paring. Great... I just dropped the gauntlet didn't I:)

Hopefully by the 15th kitchen drawers I will be a little bit closer.


2 February 2008 at 11:35  
Anonymous Jim Shaver said...

Sounds like a great way to test drive that wonderful saw....I like the Tucker set up as well.

Denis, You are one lucky dog my friend!

2 February 2008 at 12:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Konrad--

I think I have a pretty good idea who sent you their Yataiki saw to try...

So have you worked out a "trade" yet where you can keep it since it seems to have your name all over it now?!

BTW, I placed an order a few weeks back for a larger Imai slick, so I'm gaining on you. It was nice to correspond with our dear friend, Kayoko, again. They sure don't come any nicer than her.

Hope all is well and talk to you soon.


2 February 2008 at 14:09  
Anonymous Michael Rogen said...

What saw(s) did you predominantly use before getting yer mitts on this one? And if one was not able to track down a Yataiki which Japanese saw would you recommend.

Take care,


2 February 2008 at 19:56  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Adam,

I suspect you are correct.

What sized slick did you order? My 3 mortising chisels arrived a week ago. They are stunning as usual - and with boxwood handles.

Kayoko certianly is as fine as they come.

Take care,

2 February 2008 at 20:33  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Michael,

I have been using Adria saws for years with very good success. I have also used old Distons in the past.

As far as other Japanese saws - I am not really sure. My experience is extremely limited - and now totally skewed. I have heard really good things about Mitsukawa's saws - but have not tried one. I would ask around - there are lots of people with much more experience and knowledge than I have.


2 February 2008 at 20:37  
Anonymous Michael Rogen said...

We will eventually talk one day! I'm sure of it so until then thanks for the information on the saw. I was going to ask about your chisel and how special I remember yo saying about them. Anything that you could offer as where to get them know that the have changed distribution or something like that.

So Thanks again,

2 February 2008 at 22:07  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


To be honest, I forget what size I ordered...I think about 42mm maybe. It was whatever size our devious friend and "tool enabler" recommended!

You'll have to let me know how you like the mortising chisels. I thought seriously about trying them myself, but ended up going in a different direction with a couple of the Ray Iles mortisers. I really like them a lot--massive and no-nonsense. Next time I see you, I'll bring them along for you to try out.

Hope all is well up in the North Country. We have a balmy 42 degrees F here today south of the border.

Take care,

3 February 2008 at 13:32  
Anonymous Brad McDonald said...

Yes! For once I am ahead of your greasy slope. (Thanks to your earlier entry on Imai chisels I ordered several dovetail slicks. Apparently they will be waiting for me at home this week!)

Late last year, I inquired about a Yataiki saw after finding out about Monsieur Chenard's early Christmas present. I was lucky enough to be told that there was one 210mm crosscut left.

I too admired that saw and examined it under magnification for quite some time before it touched wood. Sawing with it is smooth and effortless. The surface left behind is second to nothing I have ever seen before on endgrain!

Although I love my Western saws, the Yataiki has convinced me to expand my horizons!

4 February 2008 at 19:59  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Brad,

Greasy slope - now that is funny!

That is fantastic that you were able to get a 210mm saw! I am sure your knees are still a little wiggly like mine are. I was working on kitchen drawers on the weekend again - I am still amazed by how easily this saw cuts and tracks.

Your Imai slicks will be a perfect fit with your saw - but be warned - once you use the Imai chisels - you will be ruined... there is no going back:)

Take care,

4 February 2008 at 21:48  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Adam,

42mm is a great size - I use it all the time. To be honest - I use all of them all the time. At first I was a little cautious about using them - but am striking the finishing chisels pretty hard and they just keep cutting. I will keep you posted on the mortising chisels. I have not tuned them up yet - hopefully this week. I will bring the Imai chisels with me next time I am in Boston - maybe this spring/summer.

We have 12" of snow, it is starting to rain, and it is going to be a mess as I commute to work tomorrow morning.

Take care,

4 February 2008 at 21:52  
Blogger Brian Harrington said...

thanks for posting this, and the photos. yataiki/miyano dai endo's saws are rare, and for those who now will never be able to own one, it is something at least to see one and read about them. i would never have believed the awe and reverence these saws command had i not been so extremely fortunate to own one.
its not often in life that we are able to put to use in our craft the very very finest example of an important tool-- especially one that truly does seem to have a soul.
congratulations on your good fortune.
i had placed an order for another saw a couple years ago with kayoko, and when the blade was finally ready earlier this year, i was without the financial means to acquire it. sad, sad, sad day for me. but reading your blog makes me happy. please do tell us more about this wonder.

10 September 2008 at 17:29  
Blogger Brian Harrington said...

a wonder. one who has never had the privilege of using a yataiki saw with skill in one's craft may likely never truly understand the experience.

thanks for posting the article and the pic. please post more. these saws should not be just collector's items.

10 September 2008 at 17:31  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Brian,

My deepest thanks for your thoughts and comments. You have articulated it well - awe and reverence are the most appropriate words for his tools. I would not have believed it either - but feel it in the fiber of my being now that I have used one.

I suppose there are quite a few people out there now are now searching for one - I am certainly looking.

Warmest wishes,

10 September 2008 at 18:37  

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