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Japanese-style saws a cut above


One product that tends to get overlooked in an era of eco-friendly products is the handsaw. It doesn’t require electrical outlets or batteries and can perform many of the jobs portable and power saws do.

And nothing has driven the handsaw market during the past few years like Japanese-style pull saws and flat saws. Long used by woodworkers and carpenters in Japan, the saws are different from American models because they cut on the pull stroke instead of the push stroke. This allows them to have thinner blades—since they’re under tension instead of compression when cutting—and makes them lighter and easier to handle than traditional saws.

The saws fall into four separate categories which each have a unique function. One of the most popular models is the Ryoba, a double-edged saw that has a cross-cutting blade on one side and a ripping blade on the other. There’s also the Dozuki backsaw, the Azebiki curved saw and the Mawashibiki, a Japanese version of the keyhole saw that’s ultra-thin and used for cutting curves.

Irwin Industrial Tool Co., a division of Newell Rubber-maid, has a new line of Japanese-style saws that targets carpenters and woodworkers. They include the Irwin Double Edge Saw that’s designed for carpentry flush cutting and cutting new floor tile, and the Irwin Dovetail Detail Saw that’s used for fine detail work like interior trim cutting.

The company decided to enter the market when it saw demand growing in a category that started with imported saws from tool manufacturers based in Japan. “We always want to make sure we have a complete line of products that meet the demands of our customers,” said Melissa Grambill, communications manager for Irwin Tool.

Irwin is one of several American suppliers creating its own saw lines. “They’ve been around in Japan for years but they’re a fairly new product in America,” said Mark Delaney, an analyst with The NPD Group. “And we’re seeing more U.S. manufacturers coming out with their own lines this year.”

Traditional Woodworker is selling a three-piece set of small, medium and large Ryoba saws for $79.95 along with Dozuki and Kataba saws in its new merchandise mix. Shark Tools launched its debut line of saws in Sears with a 9.5-inch double-blade pull saw and 12-inch pull saw for bigger jobs.

And Japanese companies still control a good chunk of the market as they continue to launch new products. Kenzo has a full line of saws including its Kenzo 270 Fine Tooth Ryoba and Gomboy has its 360 Folding Saw for hard-to-reach places.

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