The Differences Between Japanese Cross Cut Saws and Japanese Rip Cut Saws: A Comprehensive Guide


Japanese woodworking tools have garnered a well-deserved reputation for their precision, efficiency, and unique design.

Among these tools, Japanese saws stand out for their exceptional craftsmanship and performance.

Two types of Japanese saws that often spark interest are the cross cut saw (nokogiri) and the rip cut saw (ryoba). While they might look similar at first glance, they are designed for very different tasks. Understanding these differences is crucial for anyone looking to excel in woodworking.

Watch this explainer video: 

Japanese Cross Cut Saw (Nokogiri)

Purpose: The Japanese cross cut saw is specifically designed for making cuts across the wood grain. This type of saw excels in creating clean, precise cuts in hardwoods and softwoods alike.


  • Teeth Configuration: The teeth on a cross cut saw are typically smaller and set in an alternating pattern. This design allows the saw to efficiently sever the wood fibers, resulting in a smooth cut.
  • Blade: The blade is often thinner compared to Western saws, reducing the amount of material removed (kerf) and making the cut more precise.


  • Cutting Across the Grain: The cross cut saw is ideal for tasks such as trimming, framing, and cutting dowels or tenons. Its design minimizes splintering and tear-out, ensuring a clean finish.
  • Precision Work: Due to its fine teeth and thin blade, this saw is perfect for detailed work where accuracy is paramount.

Japanese Rip Cut Saw (Ryoba)

Purpose: The Japanese rip cut saw is engineered for cutting along the wood grain. It’s used when you need to split a piece of wood lengthwise, such as when resizing boards or creating thinner strips of wood.


  • Teeth Configuration: The teeth on a rip cut saw are larger and less numerous than those on a cross cut saw. They are designed to chisel through the wood fibers, rather than severing them.
  • Blade: The blade of a rip cut saw is also thin, but the teeth are set in a straight line to efficiently guide the saw along the grain.


  • Cutting Along the Grain: The rip cut saw is best used for tasks like ripping boards, resawing lumber, and any application where the cut needs to follow the grain.
  • Efficient Material Removal: With its larger teeth, the rip cut saw can remove more material quickly, making it ideal for long cuts where speed and efficiency are important.

Why the Difference Matters

Understanding the distinction between a cross cut saw and a rip cut saw is essential for achieving the best results in your woodworking projects. Using the wrong saw for a particular cut can lead to rough edges, increased effort, and potential damage to the wood.

  • Precision and Finish: A cross cut saw provides a cleaner finish when cutting across the grain, while a rip cut saw ensures efficiency and smoothness when cutting along the grain.
  • Efficiency: Each saw is optimized for its specific task, making your work easier and faster. Using the correct saw reduces the physical effort required and increases the accuracy of your cuts.
  • Tool Longevity: Using the right saw for the job not only improves your results but also extends the lifespan of your tools by reducing unnecessary wear and tear.


Both the Japanese cross cut saw and the rip cut saw are indispensable tools for woodworkers. By understanding their unique purposes and designs, you can ensure that each cut you make is precise, efficient, and up to the high standards that Japanese saws are known for. Whether you're a novice or a seasoned woodworker, having these tools in your arsenal will undoubtedly enhance the quality of your projects. Happy woodworking!

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