Introduction: How to Sharpen a Japanese Saw

Picture of How to Sharpen a Japanese Saw

Japanese pull saws. I love them!

After receiving my Japanese saw as an Instructables prize, and after using it for the past year, I feel it isn't as razor sharp as it was when I first received it.

You can think of a saw in a way where it's basically a holder for a several dozen teeth and every tooth of the saw is a chisel. You can strop the edge of a chisel frequently to keep it razor sharp constantly, or sharpen it and use until it's way too dull to use. Unlike a western saw, the teeth of a Japanese saw are hardened, meaning that they can't they can't be sharpened with a regular steel file and can't be remade completely, and you can't buy really miniature sharpening stones that will fit between the tiny teeth of the saw. So the only way of keeping a Japanese saw sharp is to never let it get dull - not hitting nails or staples - and re-sharpening it once in a while.

In this Instructable, I will show you how to sharpen Japanese pull saws by yourself.

Let's get started!

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(Watch the YouTube video: LINK FOR MOBILE VIEWERS!)

Step 1: What You'll Need

Picture of What You'll Need

Hardware, Materials & Consumables:

Rotary tool cloth wheels, there are many different kinds on eBay, but most cost <$0.25

Polishing compound (Chromium Oxide), $1 of this stuff on eBay will last forever

Toilet paper

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Tools:

A vise with soft jaws (in my case, my homemade wooden vise)

A rotary tool or drill

Safety goggles or glasses

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You also might want to wear some type of eye protection, since tiny bits of the compound do fly off of the wheel.

Step 2: Secure the Saw in a Vise

Picture of Secure the Saw in a Vise

Since I can't really tell you in which way a rotary tool spins since it depends if you look at it from the front or from behind, I can only say that if you're able to drill a hole with a regular right-hand drill bit, clamp your pull saw with the teeth pointing to the left - the handle on your left.

If you clamp it the saw backward, the cloth wheel could catch, making a big mess or possibly even breaking a tooth, sending it flying off and possibly even killing a few germs when it lands.

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Step 3: Sharpen!

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After appying some of the green compound onto the cloth wheel, move back and forth slowly with the Dremel at its lowest speed, just like you could sharpen any other tool.

I would recommend first experimenting on the teeth that are either the farthest or the closest from the handle, since if you accidentally do something wrong, such as over-sharpening them and removing too much of the tooth or anything else, since these are the teeth that are normally used the least when sawing.

If you don't stop you will slowly grind away the tooth!

I suppose you could also smear some compound onto a small piece of leather and move it from right to left by hand, but I will have to experiment with it more.

Step 4: Remove the Leftover Honing Compound

Picture of Remove the Leftover Honing Compound

Some honing compound might get stuck between the teeth, and you want might to remove it unless, that is, you want free dark green paint on your projects!

I find that it can be removed easily with some toilet paper, but I suppose an air compressor could work better if you have one.

After they're all clean, you should be able to feel how sharp it is. PLEASE. DO. NOT. USE. SAW. AS. CHAIR.

Step 5: Use!

Picture of Use!

Look at what has been waiting for me! Butter! I mean what wood feels like when you use a sharp Japanese saw!


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Comments

bpark1000 (author)2017-12-04

The secret to these saws is the small slanted facet on the tip of each tooth. The edges of this facet must be very sharp. I use a small handstone to sharpen it, or a small grinding wheel on a Dremel tool. Normally, abrasive on a cloth wheel rounds edges. How do you get the cloth wheel to sharpen the facets?

avocadostains (author)bpark10002017-12-12

I think it's the same concept as stepping on someone's foot with a sneaker vs. a high heel. Yes, you will get more resharpenings by accurately following the geometry of each tooth, but simply making each tooth slightly smaller, regardless of shape will have the effect of making each tooth feel sharper. Plus, if the teeth are rounded, pressure/sanding that rounded surfaces will tend to flatten it, because the area receiving the most force of sanding will be the highest part of the rounded shape, thus flattening it, which was it's original geometry, perfectly flat.

Yonatan24 (author)bpark10002017-12-07

Do you, by any chance have a video of sharpening it? I don't see how that's possible and would love to learn :)

The stronger/harder the wheel is, the less it bends, the less it rounds edges too...

bpark1000 (author)Yonatan242017-12-07

I have no video, but can explain how I did it. In this case it was tree pruning saw of the sane tooth style as Japanese saw, except blade is curved concave and teeth are coarser. I set rest on "standard" bench grinder to be perpendicular to wheel, placed blade on rest, at angle to match facet angle, and VERY LIGHTLY touch to wheel, just enough to make a noise. Then move to the next tooth.
Grinding wheel must be dressed very square on edge. Otherwise, there is risk of hitting side of next tooth. I use a "tool sharpening" wheel, not a "utility" wheel (that would be used on lawnmower blades).
On fine saw such as you showed, this would be more difficult. I would most likely use small handstone and some sort of jig.
Some saws of this type have the facets angled across the blade, not just along the blade. For those, set the rest not perpendicular, and sharpen every other tooth, then flip blade over and sharpen the remainder.

Yonatan24 (author)bpark10002017-12-08

Oh, like the saw that I showed in the last step. I could probably sharpen it too with a rotary tool.

gm280 (author)2017-12-04

Usually a Dremel type rotary tool with a very thin cutter disk will angle in to sharpen most any saw with some finesse, even harden steel as well. Just saying...

Yonatan24 (author)gm2802017-12-07

WHAT!

How?

The teeth are so small! I can't even get the right angle when holding the disc in my hand, let alone hold the Dremel while it's running! Video please :)

gm280 (author)Yonatan242017-12-07

Please understand that I am neither condemning or complaining how you presented your sharpening technique. All I am saying is I have a lot of hand tools and I sharpen (when needed) hand saws using multiple techniques depending what is needed. Also, remember, if your saw was initially sharpened by a cutting or grinding method, you have to think how you can dubplicate that effort. That's all. :-)

Yonatan24 (author)gm2802017-12-08

Oh, like the saw that I showed in the last step. I could probably sharpen it too with a rotary tool.

MillennialDIYer (author)2017-12-04

I'm not sure if this is how I'd sharpen my hand saws...but I just wanted to say that the bokeh in the pictures is nice, lol.

Thank you :)

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Bio: 15 year old, sick with a deadly disease called DIY-itis!
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