Ripping a Board – This is for You, Wilbur

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13 thoughts on “Ripping a Board – This is for You, Wilbur

  1. Seems to me if one is ripping for speed there’s a tendency to rush and/or force the saw somewhat. Western saws are more able to absorb a sloppy stroke and don’t bend as easily so maybe in Wilbur’s experiments, his technique suffers when he’s trying to maximize speed and the Japanese saws don’t tolerate that as readily. Just a guess.

    • Nah. Neither of us is ripping for speed. Rather just comparing normal sawing speed. Wilbur suggested that his time was much longer than my normal time. My guess is that the difference is caused by two things: difference in work holding methods and length of saw blade. Both of our saws have about the same number of PPI.

      • I would be willing to be that work holding methods have a greater effect than length of saw blade. Once I made a saw bench, and learned to use my body my sawing improved a hundred fold. That and a good saw, but my sawing improved vastly with an old crappy saw when I moved to a saw bench.

      • Thanks, I have a Pax 5 1/2 PPI saw that I use for ripping 4/4 stock into 1/2″ boards for boxes, and I can usually make pretty good time. It is faster than my bandsaw, but that’s a false comparison because my band saw is crap and has never cut a straight line. ever, no matter what I’ve done to it.

        Besides I get a good upper body work out. 🙂

        Ripping is easier than I expected. once I got a good saw. I think next stage is to sharpen it up a bit though. Next thing to learn I guess.

  2. I’ve used Japanese saws, Anglo-American handsaws, and Continental European framesaws. In my experiences, the inherent advantage of the pullsaw and framesaw designs (the ability to use a thinner plate) were overwhelmed by the mechanical advantage of the Western handsaw (a long plate sized to the user’s stroke). For a fixed stroke length, thinner plates remove more material (obviously). But a 28″ Western plate is still going to remove more material per stroke than a 12″ Japanese plate, and since the 28″ stroke doesn’t really take that much longer than the 12″ stroke, the longer plate cuts faster. That’s also why British and American woodworkers use full-size handsaws for longer cuts, even though the shorter panel saws could be made with thinner plates.

    To be fair, my “experiments” were hardly subjective; in fact, they were quite biased towards the Western handsaw:
    * The disposable-blade Japanese saws and the modern German-made framesaws are quality tools, but it’s hardly fair to compare them to a vintage Disston #12 (forged by the High Elves in the First Age, etc.).
    * I’m 6’5” and use a 28” handaw. I was never able to find a framesaw long enough to fit my stroke.
    * Japanese saws designed for long rips/resaws have longer plates and coarser teeth than the typical ryoba, but I’ve never had the chance to try one.

  3. My first thought was that the length of the saw plate would make the difference, but I see that in your video you are only using the first 2/3 of the saw for most strokes, which brings the used length closer to that of the Japanese saw.

    Given this, perhaps it is the workholding. Since you are bearing down with your arm and shoulder on the western saw, the teeth are probably biting more than the Japanese saw that is generally less forced into the work, and more gently pulled through.

    It is also interesting that comparing the large board-making saws used (giant rip saws vs pit saws) the Japanese still have significantly shorter saws. Based on some videos I’ve seen, it also seems that the Japanese workmen using these saws worked at a more relaxed pace than the pitsawers. The pitsawers were also using gravity and body weight to their advantage when driving the blades through the wood, whereas the large Japanese rip saws seem to have been used on their sides quite frequently, using only the strength of the sawyer to drive the saw.

  4. Bob,

    I know that I can definitely rip faster with my Disston D-7 (27″, 5 1/2 tpi) than with my Japanese rip saw (300mm, 4-8 tpi), even though the latter has a thinner kerf. I think the greater speed of the D-7 comes from the longer stroke, and being able to put my body weight into the stroke, consistent with what Dan and Simon are saying.

    A related issue: It is often assumed that, all else equal, cutting resistance is a simple multiple of kerf width – twice the kerf gives twice the cutting resistance. I don’t think this is so, thinking about the physics of it, and I would not estimate that to be so based on personal experience.

    To cut through wood, a saw has to shear/slice (rip/crosscut) away tiny chunks of wood in a row to make a kerf. The job of separating the wood is the same for a thin- or thick-kerf saw. Only the destruction of the wood that occupied the central part of the kerf is a greater task for the thick-kerf saw.

    It’s not twice as hard to take a 1″ bite as it is to take a 1/2″ bite out of an apple. Yes, it probably is twice as hard to chew up the 1″ bite, but an efficient saw is not doing that too much.

    Interesting topic. Now that you’ve got me going on it, Bob, I think I’ll get around to bringing it up on my blog soon too.


  5. Excellent points by Simon and Rob. Since we’re talking about mechanics and physics, I’ll add that the change of direction at the beginning and end of the stroke not only takes time, but consumes a fair amount of energy. You’re fighting the inertia of both the saw and your arm. So (all other things being equal) a longer saw is not only faster, but less tiring (which makes it psychologically faster!).

  6. This series has been an eye-opener particularly in the approach to work holding.

    As was mentioned above, I think the methods you’ve shown – bringing the tool to bear on the wood –
    are efficient and effective in getting through milling steps quickly, so that we can make things.

    I consider this resource invaluable and applaud your efforts.
    Westport, MA

  7. I have been thinking about this, and experimenting a bit. I notice in this situation the timber still moves about some. We don’t generally plane wood holding the piece with one hand … I’m thinking perhaps sawing can be done better or faster when the piece is held solidly by a holdfast or whatever.(?)
    Perth, W. Australia

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