So here is one of the saws that I have recently received.....a monster madonoko ("window saw", I believe....referring to the deep gullet that were cut into the saw plate to better facilitate chip clearance).
The original auction photo from Yahoo Japan auctions.
If you want Japanese tools, GREAT tools for WAY cheaper than anywhere else, it's the place to go. One small problem though....basically every seller will only sell within Japan. You need an agent. You can choose the official option, Buyee, but you will pay through the nose for the privilege, both in shipping and in associated incidental fees. A slightly cheaper option is to use.....
Murakami is THE MAN! and is a great guy, completely honest/truthful/helpful....the honourifics can go on, but he is a decent person. Be aware, though his English is good, it is a bit limited (although compared to my nonexistent Japanese....). He will find the cheapest options for shipping, advise on quality, and take a stab at what an item might sell for, so that you can best decide how much to bid. When you do bid, it will be a "sniper" bid, the only sane way that anyone should bid these thing, so there will be no foolishness about escalating bid wars. Just decide what you are willing to spend and call it good.
If you miss your chance, don't worry, because there will be MANY more opportunities. These old Japanese tools sell shockingly cheap (compared to if you buy your tools from catalogs), and there are LOTS of tools out there still. Also.....the general quality of the tools in the auctions will be much higher than most of what you can buy new. Hand crafted tools were the norm until just a few decades ago, so if you want a kanna that has a blade that was forged by an actual human being, sitting in front of the charcoal fire,....it's not that hard to find.
The same goes for the Japanese saws. All the best saws are hand forged, have scarfed, forge welded tangs, and have been carefully shaped by hand, using a Sen. If you can, buy one new, because there are only a handful of guys who still know how to do that and we all need to encourage the preservation of knowledge, and.......SECRET......You can buy a decent, hand made saw for under $100 usd. Even I consider that an insane bargain.
If you are poor like me.....you buy old tools at auction, through Murakami. The standard disclaimers does apply here, though. Expect the worst, and you will probably be pleasantly surprised.
So, it arrived. And......it got here in only 5 days! It's a big honking saw!
It came with an awesome wooden sheath (although the sheath needs some repair).
It's one of the bigger madonoko that I've seen come up at a auction.
It's in excellent straight condition, and sharp as hell. It continually amazes me how the old American tools you buy will be trashed and abused, while the Japanese tools are almost exclusively sharp and ready for use.
There must be a message there.
Signatures galore, but no idea what they mean. I should've asked Murakami how the kanji reads. Kanji is tough though, and many Japanese people can only recognize a relatively few characters, the others having fallen by the wayside hundreds of years ago. The hand carved kanji would be especially tough to decipher.
The flip side has more info, but the part I like.....that's the beautiful nearly-but-not-quite straight forge weld of the body to the tang. Evidence of the makers hand.
Really nice work. Maybe someday I can do half as well. Also interesting....notice the differing rates of corrosion, soft iron and hard steel.
This saw takes big bites, And is by far the largest saw that I've ever used. It has a pronounced tendency to dig in if you get the cutting angles wrong, so there is a level of skill to be learned. Once you get going, the sawing itself is easy. It's the holding down of the workpiece....that's the challenge.
The saw "dust" isn't actually dust per-se. It's more like long curled ribbons of planed wood.
You know that sound that a well tuned kanna makes as it rips off a perfect shaving? That "Skriieeench" sound? This saw sounds just like that, when things are working perfectly. I attempted to keep the cut on line, but I had to keep reminding myself not to pull too hard with my right arm, to balance the pull between both arms. The saw tried it's best to make up for my lack, but it was severely challenged.
The hardest part was the holding down the workpiece. The saw cut pretty fast, considering my struggles with jumping logs and my poor form. It took about 1 hour to rip cut this very hard and dense Ohia member. The cut was roughly 8" x 42" long. If I had a proper grip on the work it probably would've only taken 20 minutes.
I had made a saw horse for Renee, but the thing turned out so monstrously heavy that, rather than make a second "too heavy" saw horse, I took the one that was already constructed, ripped the thing in two, then cut some additional legs. That conserves resources, and the saw horses were too damn heavy to begin with.
I found it QUITE interesting, that despite my extremely poor form in using the monster madonoko, the surface that it left is generally smooth. Shockingly, considering how course the tooth pattern of is. The surface feels planed, or maybe more like sanded, about 60 grit.
The sawing itself was wonderful, much like working out on a rowing bench. For some reason, I've been craving exactly this type of movement, so not only will I be getting some much needed excercise, I'll also be gaining some wonderful new lumber. Productive excercise!
There is much skill hidden in this simple seeming task, so I expect to be writing more shortly. There are a few aspects of the madonoko saw design that I had been questioning, and even with my brief exposure to this saw, I'm getting it. If you look at the teeth of this saw, you will notice that the primary tooth pattern is two alternating knife-like teeth that score the wood fibres, followed by a third raker tooth that removes the waste. The deep gullet that gives this style of saw its name is necessary because the saw cuts so aggressively, it removes a lot of wood with each stroke and the waste needs somewhere to go without getting in the way.
At the front and rear of the saw though, the tooth pattern is the more standard Japanese crosscut design. That there are no raker teeth at the heel of the saw makes sense, because this is where you are starting the cut from. Rakers would make starting the cut nearly impossible. But why do you see the same thing at the front of the blade? Well, I ended up "steering" the cut quite a bit, using the front of the saw. Also, when there was something hanging up in the middle of the log, something that I couldn't see, I could pull most of the blade out and only use the nose to get the offending area worked down.
I have been holding off on buying a big "whale-back" Maebiki-oga (a special purpose rip-cut saw for big timbers) because I have been wondering if this style of saw would serve both purposes, cut both rip and crosscut. It's looking like it might work that way. This saw weighs about 7 pounds. A heavy maebiki might ultimately cut faster. What do you think Gabe? And what do your Maebiki-oga weigh?
I still want one though.
Oh crap, almost forgot. This saw cost about $40 usd, not including shipping (about $60 there) and there were no other bidders. Imagine what this monster would go for new.