Product Review - Mitsukawa Juntaro saw set


This is a bit of a departure from my usual project-driven posts but maybe it will help somebody debating a tool purchase, plus there are not many reviews out there that I could find.

Mitsukawa Juntaro is a third generation sawmaker in Japan who creates a wide range of saw types. His saws span from machine sharpened semi-production up to traditionally forged, sharpened, and tuned works of blacksmithing art. This set is handmade (at least partly) but I do not know exact details. Usually this is a set of 5 saws, but the little shop in rural Japan I went to only had these 4: Flush trim, rip, crosscut, and hybrid (crosscut with raker teeth). Price for the set of 5 is approx $250 and you can get them at Hidatool.com and elsewhere. 


Background: 
I have had the set for 2+ years and use them regularly for smaller projects. The overall lengths of the saws are just under 16" with the flush-cut saw being 14". So actual cutting length (actual teeth on blade) is less than 7". Fine for some small work. 
I used a micrometer and feeler gauge to obtain the dimensions below. These are decent saws, so you see the typical kataba (single-sided) characteristics: tapered from toe to heel, tapered from teeth to back (across blade), thicker at the handle. This minimizes binding and provides rigidity, respectively. The handles are paulownia (kiri) and nicely crafted. Sharpening (someday) will be an issue in the US, as these require traditional "metate" sharpening service.



Flush cut


Flush cut:  5 stars

14" overall length
5.25" cutting length (teeth)
~ 26 TPI
kerf: .013"

thickness, toe: .010"
thickness, heel: .012"
thickness, at handle: .026"


I reach for this saw most often of the 4. I use it as intended for flush trim but I also use it in a small miter box to get repeat precise cuts. With no set the blade does not widen the slot(s) in the miter box and it leaves a good finish. I have cut oak dowels, Port Orford cedar, redwood, poplar, paulownia, birch, Monterey cypress - all successfully (OK, I may have made some errors). After 2+ years and a lot of cuts the saw is still sharp and leaves a clean finish. Saw feel is good, flex/rigidity is good, cutting is rapid. This saw is well suited for cutting pins, dowels, through tenons, box joints, small kumiko, and other smaller tasks.  I would buy this one again for certain. For larger jobs I have a heavier flush cut saw. Use the saw that suits the job at hand.


cross-cut kataba








Crosscut:  4 stars
15 3/4" overall length
~ 7" cutting length (teeth)
~ 25 TPI
kerf: .018"
thickness, toe: .012"
thickness heel: .012"
thickness, at handle: .026"

Although this is a small crosscut saw it cuts aggressively. Kind of surprisingly so. For comparison, I have paired it with a Gyokucho Razor Saw Dozuki. The Gyokucho has the same TPI (teeth per inch) and is a more common saw that readers may be familiar with and usually delivers good results. 
 
Let me point out the differences. Cutting speed: cutting a piece of POC took 40 strokes with the Gyokucho and 14 with the Mitsukawa. Why the diff? First, tooth height: I do not have an optical comparator, but a dial caliper has the Gyokucho at .060 and the Mitsukawa at .100, so chip buildup could slow the Gyokucho on wider cuts. You can see for yourself in this picture:
Gyokucho left, Mitsukawa right
Tooth geometry has to differ since the TPI is the same but the tooth height differs. Exactly where it differs I cannot measure. The kerf on the Mitsukawa is .018 and the Gyokucho is .014 if that could affect cutting speed inversely. Well, the proof is in the cut - surely those differ? Not so much. A little more fuzz with the Mitsukawa. Negligible. And you are still making your first cut...











Mitsukawa
Gyokucho
So the conclusion? This saw is fast and the results are good. It is small and light weight and can handle a wide array of crosscut jobs. Would I expect it to beat a dozuki for finish and accuracy? Probably not - at least not in my hands. Would I buy it again? Sure. I will even start using it more now that I see it's strengths.




Mitsukawa rip - all teeth same size - 12 tpi


Rip:  3 stars

15 3/4" overall length
<7" cutting length (teeth)
~ 12 TPI
kerf: .020"
thickness, toe: .012"
thickness, heel: .012"
thickness, at handle: .026"


I tend not to use this saw a lot because I have a rip dozuki that seems to be a lot faster, despite it being longer and heavier. I would expect a saw with less than 7" of teeth to have pretty small rip teeth but 12 TPI is not small. Maybe I do not know something about this particular saw design, but most better Japanese rip saws have graduated teeth that start small at the heel (near the handle) and get gradually larger as you approach the toe (tip). So you start the cut at the heel where teeth are small and the blade stiffest and then work out toward the toe as you proceed in the cut. That is the theory.

However, all the teeth on this Mitsukawa rip saw are the same size so starting a cut smoothly is a challenge. Once that is out of the way this saw does OK. I have to tell you that I prefer the rip dozuki pictured here. This rip dozuki has a kerf of about .012", graduated teeth, and a longer blade and it cuts rapidly. Of course, a rip dozuki has a back on it to support that thin blade, so you can't rip long, thick boards with it. Nor should you. You are not likely to use this Mitsukawa to do that either. Works fine for lighter tenons, ripping, etc.  








Hybrid (diagonal cuts):  5 stars

15 3/4" overall length
<7" cutting length (teeth)
~ 21 TPI
kerf: .020"

thickness, toe: .013"
thickness, heel: .013"
thickness, at handle: .030"


This saw is for cutting diagonally according to the kanji on the handle (naname 斜). The saw mixes crosscut teeth with a raker tooth every 5th tooth to clear the longer chips generated in a diagonal cut. The raker has a large gullet in front of it to speed chip removal. And this thing works. Very nice for cutting miters and other angled joinery. Finish is pretty good, starting cuts on any angle is easy, does not clog



Concluding remarks:

Barring the mawashibiki (keyhole) saw that I do not have to test, I think that this set fills a number of gaps in a basic saw kit. I would not buy it as a first set, but use it to augment what you may already have - dozuki's, ryoba's or other saws for larger work. It is geared toward small work in softwoods but can handle harder woods if used with care. $50 apiece is not cheap but these are quality saws that will last a long time and, with the exception of starting rip cuts, are a pleasure to use. 

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