A while back I had an interest in Japanese carpentry, and although I didn’t pursue it, I watched a load of related YouTube videos.
These videos highlighted two tools: the dozuki (or, dotsuki) saw and the kanna (Japanese plane).
The dozuki is a back saw, but it’s different from a western back saw (like a dovetail saw), in that it cuts on the pull, not the push.
I never used it. It was too beautiful. I stuck it in a drawer and left it to gather dust.
But the other day I needed to cut balsa wood, so I took it out.
Easy to use
The dozuki cuts on the pull stroke, making it easier to use than a traditional western saw.
If you’ve never worked with a woodworking saw, but you’d like to, the dozuki is a great tool to start with.
If you’re a veteran woodworker, you’ll get the hang of the dozuki in no time.
The Gyokucho 372 dozuki is not a heavy duty saw. It’s made for delicate woodwork.
Use it for cutting small dovetails and tenons.
Even though it’s made for fine work, I used it on pine and PVC pipe. It outperformed a western back saw by far in both those cases.
Because the dozuki cuts on the pull stroke, the blade is thinner than those found on western saws.
A pull cut does not need as sturdy a blade as a push cut. If a western saw’s blade isn’t sturdy, it’ll bend and / or break.
Since the dozuki’s blade is thinner, it cuts a thinner slit (kerf).
This is handy for delicate work, which is what the dozuki excels at.
Because the dozuki has small teeth with a small pitch, you can make narrower cuts.
There are enough teeth in contact with the work-piece for it to give a smooth cut.
Large teeth are best used on large cutting surfaces.
The dozuki saw’s blade is replaceable.
If your blade is done, remove the old one and slide in a new one.
In less than a minute your dozuki is ready for action. Easy.
How to use
I read somewhere that you’re supposed to hold a dozuki with both hands.
If that’s your thing, go for it.
I use one hand and start the cut with the dozuki at a 45 degree angle to the plane I’m cutting into, to ensure that the saw gets a good lead into the material.
Once the saw is in deep enough and I have a rhythm going, I flip the saw handle up and cut horizontal strokes.
Remember, don’t apply pressure on the push. The dozuki needs hardly any force, but if you do apply pressure, do so on the pull.
The Gyokucho 372 comes with a 19 TPI pitch.
I bought a standard, off-the-shelf MTS back saw with a pitch of 11 TPI.
There’s a remarkable difference in cutting. The dotsuki cuts much smoother.
Benefits of a fine pitch
A saw with a fine pitch takes longer to cut through a work-piece, but offers the following benefits:
- It allows you to cut narrower material.
- It’s perfect for delicate cutting.
- It doesn’t rip apart soft wood.
To test the dozuki, I cut pine, balsa and PVC.
Balsa is so soft enough to cut with a plastic knife. Pine is more challenging.
I stacked and glued 10 mm thick balsa wood. The dimensions of this block is roughly 100 mm x 50 mm x 50 mm.
I cut half of each block with the standard back saw I bought from a local shop, and the other half with the dozuki.
The two balsa blocks gave me an opportunity to rip-cut and cross-cut.
(What will I do with these blocks? Probably shape some crankbait fishing lures.)
The dozuki gave a much smoother cut with the rip-cut than the standard back saw.
The dozuki did a fantastic job with cross-cutting the balsa wood, whereas the standard back saw had a tough time making it through.
In fact, I couldn’t keep the standard back saw from going off course, while the dozuki stayed the course without much guidance.
I bought a length of 40 mm pine. The actual width and height are ~43.3 mm x ~42.4 mm.
The dozuki worked FAR better than the standard back saw on the pine.
In fact, I timed how long each tool took to cut through the pine.
It took me 150 seconds with the standard saw, while the dozuki only took 20 seconds. Vast difference.
PVC is outside the dozuki’s scope, but I wanted to see what these saws would do to plastic.
For this test I cut a 40 mm PVC tube with a wall thickness of 2 mm.
The dozuki flew through the PVC tube in five seconds, while the standard saw slogged through in 16 seconds.
Can you sharpen it?
You can attempt to sharpen the dozuki’s teeth, if you’re brave.
The model I bought has 174 minute teeth.
If you assign a sharpening and setting time of 30 seconds per tooth, that translates to 87 minutes of work.
That’s if you’re skilled at sharpening small saw teeth.
There’s one more thing. Gyokucho hardens their dotzuki’s teeth. You’ll have a tough time trying to sharpen them with standard files. You’ll need diamond coated files.
But these blades aren’t made to be sharpened. They’re made to be replaced.
How to remove the blade
Follow these steps to remove the blade:
- Loosen and remove the locking screw.
- Slide out the back and blade from the handle.
- Slide the blade from the back.
Where to buy new blades
You can buy new dozuki blades online.
Since Gyokucho hardens their blades, you can grind off the teeth of your old blades, cut them up and use them as scrapers.
Or use them as straight edges.
I couldn’t find ANY warranty info on the Gyokucho dozuki, or any of their other products, for that matter.
I emailed what looked like an official Gyokucho website. If they reply, I’ll update here.
Eastern VS western woodworking
Debates about eastern woodworking VS western woodworking abound.
Some eastern woodworking techniques make more sense than western woodworking techniques, while the reverse is also true.
In many ways eastern woodworking is far different from western woodworking.
For instance, many eastern woodworkers sit on the floor and clamp their work-piece with a foot. That’s a far cry from the lofty woodworking tables favored in the west.
It seems eastern woodworkers prefer simple tools, while western woodworkers prefer intricate tools.
A marriage is inevitable. If you’re in the western world and start using some eastern woodworking tools, you’ll value them as part of your arsenal.
But in the end, it’s personal preference that dictates what you load your toolbox with.
The Gyokucho 372 dotsuki is a lovely woodworking saw.
It’s easy to use. Because the dotsuki cuts on the pull stroke, it cuts easier than a western type saw.
It excels at delicate woodwork. The dotsuki’s blade is thinner than a western back saw’s. Its teeth are minute, and the 372’s tooth pitch so fine that it’s perfect for making delicate woodworking cuts.
The blade is replaceable. The Gyokucho dotsuki’s blade is easy to remove. But don’t try to sharpen one. Gyokucho hardens their saw blades. Buy a replaceable blade and get back to cutting in less than a minute.
If you’re looking for a beautiful woodworking saw for fine work (such as cutting small dovetails and tenons), get the Gyokucho dotsuki.