A Whale of a Saw

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Project by fissionchips posted 01-30-2012 08:24 PM 8461 views 1 time favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I am extremely lucky to have acquired a maebiki oga, also known as a whaleback saw. The saw came without a handle, giving me the opportunity to personalize and revitalize it. One often quotes the name of the Japanese blacksmith who forged a tool, but the scrawl of the maker (photo 4) is hard to work out for this hand-forged piece.

Where to begin with restoring a saw that has barely seen use since the introduction of the mechanized sawmill? Luckily there are people keeping the knowledge of these tools alive. Toshio Odate informs us that the kobiki-shokunin (japanese sawyer) preferred the soft wood of the paulownia for their saw handles. I had a piece of basswood just the right size for the job. It felt a little strange attaching an ultralight handle to a saw that tips the scale at nearly 7lbs, but it made perfect sense once I experienced the grip required to hoist this massive object in the air. Think of it as traditional ergonomics. The cushioned grip will prevent many a blister down the road!

The handle blank is carved out on one side for an exact fit with the tang. Once a good fit is achieved the two sides are glued together, and the handle shaped. A wire wrap around the top helps to keep the handle secure and prevent splitting. Lastly the handle is slid onto the tang and tapped down to seat it firmly. I finished the wood with a little beeswax to protect it.

Not averse to mixing new and old technologies, I gave the teeth a quick sharpening with a diamond disc dremel bit. The first test was to resaw a pine 1×8 in for my current toolbox project. Picture 6: Success!

Next up: bring on the 12” logs.

[ Stay tuned for a blog entry chock full of pictures and fun facts about the oga saw. ]

Make sure to check out Blake's oga restoration, and Fabrice's new oga handle.

14 comments so far

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4663 days

#1 posted 01-30-2012 09:32 PM

That’s a very impressive saw and a cool handle.


View Blake's profile


3443 posts in 4960 days

#2 posted 01-30-2012 09:46 PM

Pretty cool!

-- Happy woodworking!

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 4798 days

#3 posted 01-30-2012 10:10 PM

That…is a cool saw. Does it resaw as easily as it looks like it would hold a line?

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View fissionchips's profile


99 posts in 3544 days

#4 posted 01-30-2012 11:47 PM

Yup Will, it tracks with ease, just what the huge back is designed for. My test cut was in dry wood so not a fair comparison to green logs, but by all accounts the saw has a real knack for following a straight line.

View llwynog's profile


288 posts in 3665 days

#5 posted 01-30-2012 11:54 PM

Beautiful handle you shaped there.
These saws are a joy to use and the resulting kerf is incredibly straight.

-- Fabrice - "On est bien bĂȘte mais on sent bien quand on se fait mal" - my grandfather

View chrisstef's profile


18132 posts in 4092 days

#6 posted 01-31-2012 03:25 AM

very very badass saw

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View lewis62's profile


73 posts in 3724 days

#7 posted 01-31-2012 03:59 AM

Love my japanese saws, do not want to use that one, so cool to see, thanks.

View BTKS's profile


1989 posts in 4550 days

#8 posted 01-31-2012 06:22 AM

This saw is too cool! I’d love to try it but don’t think I’d want to do all my ripping with it. Great savem can’t wait to see the blog entry.

-- "Man's ingenuity has outrun his intelligence" (Joseph Wood Krutch)

View BigTiny's profile


1709 posts in 3974 days

#9 posted 01-31-2012 12:43 PM

Sort of looks like King Kong’s idea of a veneer saw. (grin)

The Japanese wood workers traditional tools are, in many ways, better than their western counterparts. I’d love to see this monster in action.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

View SamuelP's profile


793 posts in 3732 days

#10 posted 01-31-2012 05:48 PM

Fantastic saw.

-- -Sam - FL- "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns somthing he can in no other way" -Mark Twain

View Will Mego's profile

Will Mego

307 posts in 4798 days

#11 posted 01-31-2012 09:57 PM

ah, now I want one. The odds of one falling into my grasp without expense/effort, however = low.

-- "That which has in itself the greatest use, possesses the greatest beauty." -

View jcwalleye's profile


306 posts in 4159 days

#12 posted 02-01-2012 05:07 AM

Fun stuff. What a great looking saw

-- Trees, a wonderful gift --Joe--

View fissionchips's profile


99 posts in 3544 days

#13 posted 02-01-2012 05:16 AM

Thanks all for stopping in and having a gander.

Will, keep an eye out and you may well be surprised. Japanese tools often go at auction for very reasonable prices.

View fissionchips's profile


99 posts in 3544 days

#14 posted 06-23-2013 08:06 PM

I posted a companion blog here about the history of the oga saw:

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