New Woodworker - Japanese or Western

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Forum topic by Texchappy posted 04-27-2012 02:22 PM 1495 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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252 posts in 2219 days

04-27-2012 02:22 PM

Hello – first post.

I’m just about to start woodworking in earnest. For various reasons, I want to start with primarily hand tools. My experience is watching Roy Underhill on and off for several years along with various other shows like it. My only real experience in pulling a saw in anger is shorting dowel rods for the closet and super tiny saws building balsa wood airplanes.

Alright, so finally to my question, as I start buying hand tools should I buy Japanese or Western? I’m highly drawn to the Japanese tools but before I spend the money want to know the pros and cons of each.


-- Wood is not velveeta

12 replies so far

View Loren's profile (online now)


10391 posts in 3646 days

#1 posted 04-27-2012 03:30 PM

I use both. I recommend a bowsaw, which comes from both
Europe and Asia, for most joinery. A dozuki and a ryoba come in
handy too. I haven’t developed much skill with a Western
tenon saw myself. It seems to me the ones that can do good
cuts are overpriced. For the price of one fancy tenon saw
you can make your own bowsaw and buy a Gyocucho dozuki
and ryob, probably with money left over.

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2881 days

#2 posted 04-27-2012 03:41 PM

I think it really comes down to personal preference as there are master craftsmen on this site that swear by either. I gather by your post that you are meaning saws and not chisels or handplanes? I have just started using handtools and have several western style saws which work well, will probably buy a Japanese style saw in the future just to try it.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View waho6o9's profile


8190 posts in 2575 days

#3 posted 04-27-2012 03:44 PM

Great idea on making a bow saw Loren. I made one and it’s a lot of fun. The hardware can be purchased
at Gramercy for a reasonable price.

View Loren's profile (online now)


10391 posts in 3646 days

#4 posted 04-27-2012 03:47 PM

If you’re thinking of cutting dovetails the problem with
Japan saws is 1) the dozukis don’t rip very fast and you
can get fatigued and sloppy, and 2) sawdust comes out
at you, which obscures the line.

Now their are dozukis for dovetailing specifically with rip
teeth, but they still pull the dust back towards you.

View Bertha's profile


13528 posts in 2691 days

#5 posted 04-27-2012 03:50 PM

Funny story, Loren: I generally use pullsaws and I own a bowsaw. I actually told a friend of mine that I wish they made a bowsaw that cut on the pull stroke.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Texchappy's profile


252 posts in 2219 days

#6 posted 04-27-2012 04:20 PM

Thanks for the replies so far. I was actually thinking of planes and maybe chisels as well as saws.

-- Wood is not velveeta

View Loren's profile (online now)


10391 posts in 3646 days

#7 posted 04-27-2012 04:29 PM

That’s funny. You know you can turn one end of a long
bowsaw blade 90 degrees and cut out dovetails with the
same saw and then just nick out the corners with a chisel?

Frank Klaus does it. Pretty cool.

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2291 days

#8 posted 04-27-2012 04:33 PM

Real simple: Do you live in America or Japan, or are you an American or a Japanese? My position is simple: Learn your own country/native’s skills, traditions and crafts before exploring another culture. May not be politically correct, but as I’ve said for years: “Political correctness is the short road to social suicide!”

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View ecmkno1's profile


4 posts in 2224 days

#9 posted 04-27-2012 07:19 PM

Buy tools that are a convenience for you,if you are in the U.S then buy here that way if problems arise you get faster service,returns etc.Just be smart and do your homework to ensure you buy quality tools.Like the saying goes you get what you pay for.

-- Ellis,Freeport Bahamas,

View Loren's profile (online now)


10391 posts in 3646 days

#10 posted 04-27-2012 07:55 PM

Japan planes require some knowledge to set up and maintain.
There are books about how to do it. The standard pitches
of Japan planes also cut softwoods best. They can be
modified to work hardwoods. Japan planes are always pulled
whereas Western planes are usually pushed but can be
pulled but not with the same speed and intensity as
Japan planes.

There’s a lot to it with the Japanese planes and chisels. The
chisels you’ll have to regrind to work with hardwoods as
the edges don’t tolerate micro-bevels. Nor do the plane
irons. Information and instruction on using Western tools
is easier to find in N. America.

I am not saying you should be scared of Japanese tools
but you should understand that maintenance and setup
procedures for them are different from what you’ll find
described by texts oriented towards the Western woodworking

That said, I learned how to use waterstones in the Japanese
style and it has made my work with honing all tool edges
faster and more exacting. Learning how to use Japanese
tools will make you a better hand tool woodworker, no
doubt about it.

The Japanese chisels have a much shorter back so they aren’t
much use for certain paring cuts. The standard English
bench chisels can be used for both paring and chopping
in more situations because of the longer blades. Japan
chisels are more like butt chisels in terms of working length.

View Texchappy's profile


252 posts in 2219 days

#11 posted 04-28-2012 02:03 PM

I’ll add another layer to the discussion. I have a bad back and fibromyalgia. Which do you think would be easier to use with that in mind?

As far as American hand-tools, besides Lie Nielsen, what are the other good brands?

Thanks for all the input so far.

-- Wood is not velveeta

View Loren's profile (online now)


10391 posts in 3646 days

#12 posted 04-28-2012 03:30 PM

Working with any style of plane will strengthen your back.

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