Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Japanese Tools 1 -- Nokogiri (Saws)

"Form follows function" is a truism, so where do we find it lacking explanatory power? Several familiar tools take interesting twists in design in Japan. For instance, while Western saws cut on the push stroke, Japanese cut on the pull, placing the blade under tension and keeping it straight.

Let me relate the story of this impressive saw. Before the advent of mechanised milling, these Maebiki-Nokogiri were used in Japan to mill raw lumber down to flat boards. The huge flat body is to guide the blade straight along the entire length of the tree. Note also the teeth -- smaller near the handle for initiating the cut then more coarse further along, a standard feature of Japanese saws. It was said that the sawyer who used the one in the picture was over six feet tall and ate two litres of rice at each meal. Said also that he, a master of his trade, would serve tea to his apprentice. How cool.

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