Trying new tools #1: japanese pull saw - Suizan Ryoba Folding hand saw

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Blog entry by jamsomito posted 05-04-2020 03:27 AM 520 reads 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Trying new tools series Part 2: Thin Kerf Blade Stabilizer »

I picked up a japanese pull saw to give it a whirl. I’ve been using western push saws for my entire woodworking life (which is not a ton mind you), and I wanted to get something for quick breaking down of lumber at the start of projects, and the occasional finer use case. I was totally blown away by the prices of a good panel saw, and I eventually got lured in to checking out japanese saws due to their price. I figured worst case it will still cut, and when I just need to reach for something quick to rough cut a board in two, the cost would be justified over its years of use. And who knows, I may grow to like the style and convert all my saws over to this type. Plus, the fact that a Ryoba is essentially two saws in one (rip & crosscut) was pretty appealing two.

So I got my saw and used it today. I was thinking about writing a review, but I don’t think my experience would be fair to give it a 3-5 star rating. I’m not used to this type of tool, and there was definitely some user error going on – I can’t knock a product for something stupid I did with it. But I did want to leave my thoughts somewhere, so here you go.

Anyway, I do like this saw. It’s a Suizan Ryoba folding saw. The handle is nice, it feels thick and solid and grippy, and, having such a small shop, I appreciate that it folds to take up less space on my tool wall. Fit and finish all seem nice. The blade does move ever so slightly when it’s “locked” in place, but when you’re sawing, it shouldn’t matter. Any “backlash,” so to speak, in the mechanism is taken up on the first cut. I don’t feel as though I’d be worried about it moving using either side of the blade, and the locking mechanism is solid. Simply push the lever to release the blade and fold it back.

The blade came with a guard to put on the non-encapsulated end when it’s folded up so you don’t cut yourself grabbing it out of a bag (or off my tool wall, in my case), or whatever. I intend to keep it. The blade is removable and replaceable, but other than that everything is contained in one unit. Nice.

The blade was super sharp out of the box. It cut really well.

This is the through-cut I made, and the piece on the left is flipped over to see the tear-out. There isn’t any. I was really surprised. My cheapo rusty push saw I’ve been using splinters pretty noticeably. Understandably so, I should add, I’ve just gotten used to it.

Now, about the whole pull-saw thing. It’s an easy concept to wrap your mind around, but when you’re used to western push saws, you really do need a different mindset. I found I’d be pretty cognizant of it for the first 10 strokes or so but then my mind would wander and focus on other things like how close I was to the line, where I put my 10mm socket, what’s for dinner, etc. and this is where the saw would jam. I’d mindlessly migrate back to my typical push-saw muscle memory and at that point you realize just how different a technique these saws require. So while learning it is easy, mastering both at the same time is an entirely different challenge. Because of this, I’m really torn on this tool now.

The saw cuts great, its’ easy to pick up and use, it feels good in the hand, but it really doesn’t cut the same as I’m used to.

Unfortunately, I did manage to put an idiot mark on the blade during my fist session. When I slipped back into my push-saw ways, the saw jammed pretty good and I bent it. It’s definitely still usable, but I’d question any precision cuts with it at this point. I’m glad I can get replacement blades, but I don’t feel like dropping $20 bucks for this. At least not yet, and definitely not while I’m still learning.

As far as technique, I tried with my hands above the workpiece as well as below. It was definitely a more natural motion to keep hands below the cut line and the saw pointing upwards, but I found I was actually drifting much more in this position. I could more accurately stick to my line with my hands above the workpiece, again, probably because I’m used to the other type of saws, but this is where I would go back to my push-saw mentality and jam the blade. So bottom line is I definitely need more practice.

In short, I really like the saw, but I need more time with it to give it a fair review. It really does take a different mentality using a pull-saw than a push-saw. Time will tell if I adopt these or if I stick with the way I know and spend the big bucks to fit out a whole supply of nice push saws.

8 comments so far

View robscastle's profile


7203 posts in 2983 days

#1 posted 05-04-2020 06:06 AM

Its my prediction you will never beat this type of saw ever!

-- Regards Rob

View LittleBlackDuck's profile (online now)


4755 posts in 1600 days

#2 posted 05-04-2020 01:48 PM

jam’, what you have done is one helluva good review of Jap saws... You don’t have to be experienced to appreciate a good tool… on the contrary, you need to be experienced (or stupid) to make do with a crappy one…

Just the pull action speaks for itself and sure beats the buckling western push action. I’m not a hand tool guy and love to kill electrons, however, if the case calls for it, I can take 1mm veneers with my 日本の両葉のこぎり every time… even my Fe$tool Kapex struggles with that.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View tt1106's profile


171 posts in 3848 days

#3 posted 05-04-2020 07:01 PM

I have a double edged Shark pull saw and have had for at least a decade. I needed to use it to finish my workbench recently and could have kicked myself for not using it a thousand times over the years. It was far superior to any other wood saw I have. I think I paid 20 dollars for it as well. The drawback is those tiny teeth are razor sharp!!

-- -Todd

View CaptainKlutz's profile (online now)


3216 posts in 2274 days

#4 posted 05-04-2020 07:59 PM

The folding version saws are perfect for portable tool box. :-)

Biggest issue I have Japanese saws is hand position. I find my arthritis bothers me faster with straight handle? A Pistol grip handle is usually more comfortable to me. Tajima sells a pistol grip handle with either 265 & 300mm blade sizes, and it fits their entire array of 230mm to 300mm blades. Can occasionally find the handle as package deal with some extra blades for $40. Tajima replacement blades are cheap at $12-20 each. There are some 3rd party ‘265’ blades for less than $10. The 230mm blade is most expensive, but is has 21TPI. It works as well or better than my gents saw on dovetails.

-- If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all, - Albert King - Born Under a Bad Sign released 1967

View LittleBlackDuck's profile (online now)


4755 posts in 1600 days

#5 posted 05-04-2020 11:37 PM

... The drawback is those tiny teeth are razor sharp!!
- tt1106

You ain’t kidding tt, I am using my flush cut Jap for knocking off nubs of dowel on a recent project and a lapse in concentration quickly reminds me of my blood thinning medication even with the slightest slip,

sharper than a well honed chisel… so fine that it’s only the trail of blood that helps to find the entry wound.

-- If your first cut is too short... Take the second cut from the longer end... LBD

View LeeRoyMan's profile


1193 posts in 506 days

#6 posted 05-04-2020 11:49 PM

Yep, them damn things have got me more than I would like to say. But love them.

-- I only know what I know, nothing less, nothing more -- That doesn't count what I used to know..

View robscastle's profile


7203 posts in 2983 days

#7 posted 05-06-2020 09:00 AM

Make a cover for it and save your fingers

-- Regards Rob

View robscastle's profile


7203 posts in 2983 days

#8 posted 05-06-2020 09:03 AM

Buy a Tajima it has a curved handle

Still lops of fingers just as quick though!

-- Regards Rob

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