Tool Fetish: Japanese Pruning Saws

Leave it to the Japanese to make such a fine tool as the pull stroke saw.

Japanese saws cut with a pull stroke. Compared to the conventional push stroke saw, less force is required to cut, and a cleaner cut is created because the saw blade is thinner than its Western counterpart. To make a smooth cut, hold the handle near the end and apply only slight pressure while pulling, but not while pushing. Applying too much pressure while pushing can cause the blade to snag and bend, and in the worse case scenario it can break.

Cuts made with such blades are cleaner, and heal quicker than conventional blades.

This particular blade is chrome plated but not impulse-hardened so it can be sharpened with a file

Some of the manufactuers of these blades are made by the same lineage of craftsmen that produced samurai swords in Medieval Japan. So it is no surprise that these saws are superior to western blades that have every other tooth bent out to make their cutting action, which is why their cuts are so coarse and sloppy (and the blades wear out much quicker too).

You will find various styles of Japanese pruning saws. Curved blades are excellent for fast cuts where accuracy is secondary to speed (though skill can be acquired such that one can be very precise with a curved blade. However, the straight blade is easier to handle for precision.

Blades are generally made of high carbon steel to hold the razor sharp edge but tend to be brittle. The Japanese have made them more flexible by hot bath quenching. Some blades are chemical nickled or hard chrome plated to offer greater hardness, rust proofing and prevent sap resins from sticking. Other blades are impulse hardened which heats and cools the blade within several thousandths of a second and extends the blade life by three times in normal usage. Another innovation found in some of the ARS brand blades are the curvature ARS teeth which reduces saw binding even further. A final innovation in the ARS line is the “Super Turbocut” blade with U-shaped gaps called “gullets” or “rakers” that remove saw dust to make cutting action even more rapid. Some added features on the pole saw blades are special hooks at the end of the blade to remove small twigs with a simple pulling action and the “bark cutters” at the base of the blade. This is used to jam into the underside of the limb at its attachment point on the trunk prior to cutting the limb to prevent bark from peeling and tearing on the trunk as the limb falls. This is a very handy tool to prevent tree damage during the season when the bark is slipping.

Take care of your saw: after use, saw teeth should be cleaned and wiped dry. Removing moisture and sap reduces rust and helps maintain a sharper blade. Store in a dry place out of the sun.

Get your Japanese pruning saws from Hida Tool & Hardware Co. Or just google “Silkie pruning saw”.


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