Cutting A 7 Foot Log With Massive Japanese Handsaws

This log is from a 30 year old tree that had to be cut down because the original owners of our house planted it near a wall.  It was too thick to use the chainsaw mill, but not for the maebiki oga (Whaleback Large Saw).  How long did it take?  You’ll see in the video.

What Didn’t Work

The Chainsaw?

I guess technically the chainsaw would have worked by freehanding the cut from each side.  Where’s a fun video about how long it took people to cut huge timbers to make ancient structures if I did that?

Cutting Straight Up

It’s not so much about using the Japanese whaleback saw straight up but the thickness of what you’re cutting.  The log I was cutting went from 26 inches to 20 inches in diameter.  In the thicker area the saw couldn’t cut all the way through so you have to cut from both sides.  That’s why I had to flip the log in the video to cut from the other side.

On a smaller log or piece of timber that is elevated cutting straight up with the maebiki oga (whaleback large saw) wouldn’t be a problem.  Below are a couple of woodblock prints by Hokusai showing timbers being cut.  There was no easy way for me to elevate the log I was cutting.  I can’t imagine what it took to raise up those logs.

‘In the Totomi Mountains’ by Katsushika Hokusai (1830-1833) From the series – Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji

‘In the Totomi Mountains’ by Katsushika Hokusai (1830-1833)
From the series – Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji


Sawyers cutting a log by Katsushika Hokusai 1839

Sawyers cutting a log by Katsushika Hokusai 1839

What Worked

Tons Of Wedges

Wedging the heck out of the log as soon as the whole blade fit in made things easier.  A viewer suggested using paraffin wax as a lubricant.  I’ll have to give that a try next time.

Keeping The Blade Sharp

The major cut took 3 days to finish.  It finally clicked during the last day that I could do a light sharpening with a 200mm feather file on the saw blade and get a break at the same time.  Once I started doing that combined with using wedges effectively, I really started to make progress on the cut.


Sharpening Japanese Whaleback Saw

Sharpening Japanese Whaleback Saw


Maebiki Oga (whaleback timber saw) Teeth Closeup

Maebiki Oga (whaleback large saw) Teeth Closeup

Not really sure what my problem is.  I seem to like cutting lumber with large Japanese handsaws.  There’s still one more cut that needs to be done on that log.  It’ll have to wait for another day though.

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