Hand Tools Archive

Maebiki vs. Frame saw

David Weaver
So, I've gotten two Maebiki - Japanese whaleback saws.

The point of getting them was two things:
1) I hope to get a log at some point an saw it into boards
2) curiosity resawing. It seems like when I've seen someone using one in a vise, they are resawing more slowly than a 4 foot frame saw

Getting these things isn't that difficult - go to proxy auctions in japan, wait for one or three to come up with all teeth, a maker's stamp (you want to get something that someone was proud enough to put their name on) and a cheap price, and the cost with shipping for the two averaged about $75. The auction close price for the last one that I got was $22.

I've sharpened one of the two and tried it. It's not ever going to be faster than the framesaw resawing dried wood. Here's what I can conclude about them:
* they come set up to saw logs, not dried lumber. They have a fairly large amount of set and the plates on them are thick
* they are not hard like a joinery saw - they are fairly soft, probably intentionally so since they're designed for wet wood (this is good because there's a near zero chance that you won't have to sharpen what you get)
* the tall spine makes them ungainly in a resaw until the kerf is well established (like 6 inches into a cut), but they're not hard to use. nearly 100% sure that they are intended to be used just about every way except standing up on a board in a vise (e.g., standing on long with the saw below your feet, standing under a log with the saw above your head, sitting with the saw on its side sawing a log). The tooth action is off.

Better idea for someone wanting to resaw by hand to by a long fast handsaw (the longer the better) or build a frame saw.

Since I have two, I will continue to sharpen the teeth more aggressively on the one i've sharpened and hammer almost all of the set out to see what the ideal limit is resawing. Use in dry wood and use in wet wood isn't going to be the same saw.

testing the one saw on two boards and just a few inches each reminds me that we get used to (our brains and muscles) certain motions and not others. The frame saw is much heavier and I file it so that it has enough bite to have a strong filing feel in the cut (but not a fight). The maebiki is more easy to pull as set, but I could still tell that I'd done several minutes of a motion that I don't usually do when I woke up the next day - that would go away after a few sessions, but maybe it's age showing in how little it took to result in some stiffness.

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