Chris Schwarz's Blog

Metate in Middle America

Today I’m finishing up an article on sawmaker Andrew Lunn at Eccentric Toolworks for the next issue of The Fine Tool Journal , my employer’s office is closed for the holiday so I’m getting to work on some personal projects.

So I took the Eccentric dovetail and carcase saws down to my basement shop to cut some dovetails in poplar. While I was down there I also cut some dovetails using my favorite Japanese dozuki. Before I went all “Wild West” in the saw department, this dozuki was my best friend. It’s a blacksmith-made saw, hand finished and tuned.

My wife gave it to me as a birthday present in 1998. And so I promptly destroyed several of its teeth in some white oak (and probably soiled some undergarments in the process).

It turned out to be a good thing, however. I sent the saw to Japan for sharpening and had it tuned up for cutting Western woods by a professional saw sharpener. This process is called “metate” and can be carried to extremes (read this cool article if you want to know more).

Since then, I’ve never broken a tooth, and I still use this saw for really fine cuts.

The Japanese saw has a sawplate of .012″ thin, which is even thinner than the Eccentric’s anorexic .015″.

What was remarkable was when I compared the Eccentric saws to my beloved dozuki. The Eccentric saw left a kerf that was the same (maybe even a little thinner) than the dozuki’s. As a bonus, the rip teeth of the Eccentric saw chugged through the poplar in half the strokes of the crosscut dozuki.

Take a look at the photo at the top of this entry. The left-hand kerf is the Eccentric. The right-hand kerf is the dozuki.

The Eccentric carcase saw is also impressive. The shoulder cuts it leaves are as clean and smooth as anything I’ve encountered. Check out the photo below. Look ma, no chisel work.

Andrew-san does some nice work up in central Ohio. Some day I hope to be able to sharpen a saw this well.

– Christopher Schwarz

P.S. I reviewed rip dozukis in 2004. You can download that article below.

rip_dozuki.pdf (175.61 KB)

18 thoughts on “Metate in Middle America

  1. Luis

    Well, after only some handred (or thousand) years, a western sawmaker produce a saw thin as japanese ones. And for only 350$.
    You have reason, Chris, it is really impressive.
    Now, whath the next western shocking tool? A chisel with an hollow back to reduce friction and facilitate sharpening? A wooden handplane with an essential form and without mechanical adjustment? A flexible carpenter square? Or a soft bond water sharpening stone?

    No, joking apart, this is suarly a very good saw, but even costs 350 dollars. For this price it is normal that it cut very well. It would have been impressive if it were cost $50.
    And the Lunn’s resharpening service? How much does it cost?

    And then what you do with this sure piece of jewelry? Do you only cut dovetail? My very humble opinion is that they are money wasted.

  2. Christopher Schwarz

    Al,

    I imagine it was a mirror image of what you saw in the photo above. All saws tear on the exit side.

    I was focusing on the width of the kerf. Western saws normally have a much wider kerf than my Japanese saw.

    Chris

  3. Alfred Spitzer

    If I understand the coversation correctly, we are comparing the cutting of a "Western"(a push saw) to a "Japanese" (a pull saw). My comments are not aimed against or for any type of saw, I use both types. Is there any doubt that a pull saw would leave a miniscule amount of tearout. What does the photo look like on the otherside of the exit point for the western saw. Just curious.

    Al
    Manchester,NH

  4. Christopher Schwarz

    Hey Marv,

    I’ve reviewed or used almost every Western maker in the last decade. I think that Andrew’s saws are really a notch above all those thanks to the fine-tuning. The Eccentric saws *feel* like a Japanese saw — in a good way — hence my comparison.

    Chris

  5. Marv

    Hi Chris,

    A better comparison for Andrew’s DT saw would have been several DT saws, presently being made by the more popular western saw makers. As we know, the Japanese saw is a whole different concept and manufacturing process. The process involves generations of practiced skills to produce a saw that can cut a smooth kerf that only requires the use of a small amount of the blade depth. Andrew has accomplished that in only a small portion of his life time, not to mention all the other attributes we see and experience with his creation. His saw even offers a tote that doesn’t resemble a broom handle.

    Want a pull saw that cuts just as good as Andrew’s? Ask him to reverse the rake….taaa-daaa….a pull saw.

    Marv

  6. Christopher Schwarz

    I reviewed the commonly available rip dozukis in 2004, so I have some experience with them. You can download the article above (I just added it).

    Chris

  7. Adrian

    Lee Valley sells two rip cut dozukis, a normal sized one that has been in their catalog for years, and a miniature one. However, since the normal sized rip cut dozuki is their most expensive dozuki by a fair margin, this may discourage people.

    I got a Western dovetail saw (Adria) a few years ago and it is not as nice as the ripcut dozuki from lee valley.

  8. Gordon

    Chris,
    Avdrew’s saws look great and I appreciate a new North American tool maker. However, his prices are well above my budget. As a result I now am the owner of the New Lee Valley dovetail saw which I find just as good as others I have tried including the original LV and the LN saws. Suggest you try the low end of the cost spectrum and include that in a future article.
    R/ Gordon

  9. Justin Tyson

    Manny,
    I agree with you about the companies selling crosscut dozukis as dovetail saws. When I bought my first Japanese "dovetail saw", I thought it was supposed to take 20-25 strokes to saw to the line in 3/4" pine. Then I got a fine-toothed ryoba and I can accomplish the same task in 6-7 strokes. That being said, I don’t blame Chris for comparing Andrew’s saw to a crosscut dozuki, since most of the Japanese saws sold as dovetails saws are, in fact, crosscut dozukis.

    I still have not broken down and bought a western dovetail saw (after all, my Japanese saws still work beautifully) but Chris’s frequent posts are making it harder to resist. Fortunately for him, I don’t have a spouse to be against Schwarz 🙂

    Justin

  10. Manny

    "…which are still uncommon on this side of the Pacific."

    Well, I guess that’s a true statement because places like Woodcraft outnumber the establishments that specialize in Japanese tools. However, rip dozuki have been available and are plentiful at places like Hida Tools and Japan Woodworker. I feel the places that don’t understand the tools are selling crosscut dozukis as "dovetail saws"
    You can also get some with hybrid teeth that can both crosscut and rip.
    Yeah, I didn’t see the point in comparing the number of strokes on a rip operation since Andrew’s saw is rip and the dozuki is crosscut.
    Having said that, I am really impressed with the new generation of Western saws. I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Wenzloff last weekend. I brought home three of his saws. One is a most incredible Seaton 26" "Half-Rip" with 5 ppi. It rips through a plank in nothing flat! Both myself and the hairy bearded dude in the metate link you provided (Jay VanArsdale) had a nice visit with Mike. We’re excited about the Japanese style saws that Mike is working on.

    Manny

  11. Christopher Schwarz

    Rob,

    Point taken. It has been about four years or so since I reviewed rip Dozukis, which are still uncommon on this side of the Pacific.

    Chris

  12. Rob Porcaro

    Chris,

    I understand the primary point about the excellence of Andrew’s saw, his sharpening, and the resulting kerf. However, I think the speed and tracking would be more tellingly compared with a ripcut dozuki.

    It seems he’s breaking new ground in Western saw making and hooray for him.

    Rob

  13. Christopher Schwarz

    Actually, the Lunn saw tracked better. And I think the photo demonstrates it.

    But, in the end, this is a tail cut and I’m tails-first, so it doesn’t really make much difference.

    Chris

  14. Marc

    Chris,

    When I think you fuss… you lift me up to the next level (I thought of, it wouldn’t exist).

    Perfect saw cut…

    Marc

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