Resawing Face-Off

  • Advertise with us
Blog entry by Scott R. Turner posted 06-26-2012 02:17 AM 6004 reads 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I recently bought a plane blade and a marking knife from Japan Woodworker and almost on a whim bought a double-edged Japanese saw as well. I’ve since been using it regularly ever since and have basically given up on Western-style saws for my cutting needs.

Recently I made a spill plan for my father-in-law. I bought an old skew rabbet plane off of Ebay, re-soled it (mostly to close up the mouth), and added a fence set for 3/4” stock. With the blade set for a medium-heavy cut it does a nice job of creating a spill.

At some point I’ll put up a blog about making the spill plane.

In the meantime, I wanted to make a gift box for the plane. I decided to use a piece of poplar that I had harvested from a fallen tree on our property. I rough cut it with a chainsaw and stuck it in the garage to dry for a few years. It was really just an experiment, but it turned out okay. (It does have one long check making some of it unusable.) Given that I’d harvested and dried the poplar myself, I decided to build the box entirely by hand.

This involved resawing 1/2” boards out of the poplar. The poplar’s only about 2 feet long (and for various reasons I ended up resawing most of the boards out of half the piece), so this isn’t terribly impressive, but it was still a large amount of hand sawing for me! Since I was going to be doing several boards, I thought it was a good chance to pit my Japanese Ryoba saw against my traditional Western saw (a Disston from Bad Axe Toolworks). So I cut several boards each way and here are my thoughts.

Overall, the Japanese saw was much easier to use. Most of the advantage I attribute to the tiny kerf. The Japanese saw cut a kerf about 1/3 the size of the Disston. As a result it was simply a lot easier to use. It also produced a lot less sawdust! The long handle of the Japanese saw also made it easier to use both arms. (A two-handed Disston rip saw would also have this advantage, but I have a D-7.)

However, in some ways the thin flexible plate of the Japanese saw was a disadvantage. I made my cuts in both cases by scribing a line around the stock and then cutting diagonally down each side, overlapping the cuts in roughly the middle of the board.

Here I am working one side of the cut; then I flip the stock around and work the other side, back and forth.

With the Japanese saw if the two cuts were off even a tiny bit, the saw would bind if it went at all flat across the cut. The Disston, with its wider kerf and stronger plate, had little problem with this situation. I could connect the two cuts and saw flat across them to remove the middle of the stock. When I had sawn far enough with the Japanese saw I could insert a wedge to open the kerf up, but because of the long diagonal I was sawing upon I couldn’t do this until about 8 inches into the cut.

Another odd and unexpected problem with the Japanese saw was its tendency to start a new kerf. Again, if the two kerfs were misaligned, rather than bend a little into the other kerf, the Japanese saw would start cutting a new kerf on the far side of the stock where it was difficult to see. And the saw cut so easily it was nearly impossible to tell that it had started a new kerf. This even happened entirely in the middle of the stock, as shown here:

After this happened the first time, I thought, “Oh, interesting. I need to watch out for that!” After the next two times it happened I thought, “I may need a mirror to watch the far side if I’m going to resaw with this Japanese saw!” I did eventually get the hang of avoiding that, but it isn’t easy.

There wasn’t really much to choose between the quality of the saw cuts. Both are rough and will require clean up. Here they are for comparison:

The Disston cut is on the left.

Overall, I ended up preferring the Japanese saw. There’s some satisfaction in really leaning into a cut the way you can with a Western saw, but after an hour of resawing I was happy to stick with the quiet efficiency of the Japanese saw. A bandsaw is probably a better choice in any case :-)

And just for fun, here are two of the bookmatched boards that will probably end up being the lid of the box:

4 comments so far

View A Slice of Wood Workshop's profile

A Slice of Wood Workshop

1126 posts in 4516 days

#1 posted 06-26-2012 02:57 AM

Very cool comparison. I like the bookmatched picture and how it shows the resaw marks.

-- Follow me on YouTube-

View whitewulf's profile


456 posts in 4279 days

#2 posted 06-28-2012 02:31 AM

I was under the impression, that a spill plane needed much more skew, and made much tighter curls almost interlocking.

Never cut poplar with my Oreintal pull saws,but I never had that problem ripping, just lucky I guess.

My saw is 300mm by 9 ppi.

-- "ButI'mMuchBetterNow"

View Scott R. Turner's profile

Scott R. Turner

276 posts in 4531 days

#3 posted 06-28-2012 03:35 AM

It’s hard to find a lot of definitive information on spill planes, but my impression agrees with yours about the skew. I did a prototype of a bench-type spill plane which had more skew and produced tighter curls. But most of the spills from this plane are tighter than the one shown above, and at any rate work fine for transferring a flame!

View whitewulf's profile


456 posts in 4279 days

#4 posted 06-28-2012 03:43 AM


At least you made one, I have old wood joinner with 2 1/2” iron. I hot(hobby) glued fences on the sole clamped it upside down On bench, got a little tighter curl but I would have to cut mouth thru side for them to get out, 2 1/2” aren’t long enough. I burn fingers….lol!

-- "ButI'mMuchBetterNow"

Have your say...

You must be signed in to post the comments.

DISCLAIMER: Any posts on LJ are posted by individuals acting in their own right and do not necessarily reflect the views of LJ. LJ will not be held liable for the actions of any user.

Latest Projects | Latest Blog Entries | Latest Forum Topics