It's a kind of magic - Japanese saw does the seemingly impossible

John Adams
Thursday, 29th November 2012

Cutting my way out of a tricky DIY furniture moving problem with a fine toothed Japanese Ryoba saw.

Getting furniture upstairs in both modern small houses and many old ones can prove to be an almost impossible task. As it was when my son asked me to help him move a newly purchased chest of drawers into his bedroom. No problem I thought, but the master bedroom is in an attic conversion, up two flights of narrow winding stairs. He had previously got a large double bed and other furniture up there successfully and it looked as if the new chest of draws would go too. But it was not to be, much as we tried, it just wouldn't fit up even the first flight of stairs. We looked at getting in through a window but that wasn't going to work either.

What to do? This was quite an expensive, solid oak piece of furniture, that matched the rest of the bedroom. We rang the furniture shop, who confirmed there wasn't a smaller one, and also advised against my first idea, which was to try and disassemble it. The choice was to take it back for a refund and give up, or rather more radically, to cut it in half and move it in two bits. I have plenty of power tools which could have chopped it up in seconds but I knew that the result would be less than satisfactory from a visual point of view and would almost certainly remove too much wood, which would result in the draws sticking.

Having used it on a couple of other fine woodworking jobs, I was fairly confident that I could cut the chest of draws in half laterally using my Japanese Ryoba hand saw, with minimal damage. Easier said than done of course, though it was actually very straight forward. First I carefully measured round the chest of drawers and then joined the marks using a large sash cramp as a straight edge. Then I check measured it, and sure enough it was wrong. The old adage measure twice cut once, saved me again.

Now for the cut, the Royba saw has a thin flexible blade on the end of a straight handle. The blade has very fine teeth on one side and slightly courser ones for fast cutting on the other. Despite having a very long cut to make, I chose to use the finest teeth to get the least noticeable cut possible. My son couldn't look as I took a saw to his brand new £400 piece of furniture and went and did another job upstairs. Actually it went very well, once I stopped agonising over whether I was keeping the saw perfectly aligned in all planes, and settled into a steady rhythm.

And the result was almost perfect, when we put the two halves on top of each other upstairs, the join was almost imperceptible and certainly nothing a bit of furniture polish wouldn't hide. The drawers still worked perfectly, a testament to the fineness of the cut which removed no more than a mm of thickness. My son decided to fit some metal plates on the inside to keep the two halves together, rather than gluing it, so it can be dissembled if he ever decides to move.

All in all, a bit of a magic trick, very like sawing the lady in half, but with a much more permanent and pleasing result.


Japanese Ryoba saws are available from Green Shopping