Pull Saw Vs Push Saw

Not all saws are made alike. As the name implies, a pull saw cuts when you pull the saw towards you, whereas a push saw cuts during the forward stroke.

Are pull-saws better than the push type saws? Let’s find out…

What is a Pull Saw and a Push Saw?

Pull Saw vs Push Saw
There are various types of saws that are used for different jobs. However, there are also cutting saws that were created based on culture. For example, saws developed in Japan compared to the Western world differ in one important aspect.
Japanese saws cut on the pull while most Western saws either cut on the push or can cut on the push and pull stroke.

Understanding the differences will help you choose the right saw for the job. What follows is a general overview of both types of saws, their differences, and their best uses.

Overview of Japanese Pull Saws

A typical Japanese pull saw has teeth that are angled towards the handle of the saw. This means the teeth is in the opposite direction compared to standard push saws found in Western cultures. Because of the angle of the teeth, the cut is made when you pull the saw towards you.
Japanese Pull Saw
Despite the seeming limitation of having a saw that only cuts when it is pulled towards you, there do have certain advantages. Most notably, Japanese pull saws are perfect for, detailed work and for making flush cuts.

Japanese pull saws has different variations such as the Ryoba, Dozuki, Kataba, Kugihiki, etc.
The Ryoba saws have teeth on both ends. This allows for both cross cutting and rip cutting. If you purchase a higher-end version, they may include interchangeable blades and will last longer. The downside being their expense.
The Dozuki and Kataba have teeth only one side and Kugihiki is the flush cut saw with thin, flexible blade.

Overview of Western Push Saws

Conventional saws or western push saws, as the name implies, cut when the saw is being pushed away from its user. Such saws date back several centuries and have been used for a wide range of construction. Western push saws tend to be a bit larger compared to the Japanese pull saws, although sizes may vary depending on what the saw was designed to accomplish.

Man cutting wood with a handsaw (Western push saw)
The push stroke does not have the control compared to the pull stroke. However, push saws are better able to cut through tougher material. This may be related to the hardwoods of Europe compared to Japan necessitating a different type of saw.

Comparison Table

Pull Saw Push Saw Push-Pull Saw
Cuts during pull stroke. Cuts during push stroke. Cuts in both directions.
Blade teeth pointing towards handle. Teeth pointing forward and away from user. Straight teeth.
For fine woodworking, joinery, intricate profiles, flush cuts etc. General purpose saw for cutting to size. Cutting logs, green wood, drywall etc.
Pull Saw Examples:
Japanese pull saws, coping saw, fret saw.
Push Type Saws:
Crosscut saw, hacksaw, compass saw etc.
Push/pull Saws: Two man saw, drywall saw, bow saw, pruning saw.

Key Differences Between Pull Saws and Push Saws

There are considerable differences between pull and push saws starting with the type of action required to cut into the material. But that difference in terms of which type of stroke cuts the material is the most important one. It determines the remaining differences between both types of saws.

Teeth Direction

  • Pull Saw: Japanese pull saws have the teeth directed towards the user. This means that the cutting element of the saw is angled towards the person pulling on the saw.
  • Image showing the blade direction of a Japanese pull saw

  • Push Saw: For Western push saws, the teeth are angled away from the user. This allows the cut to be made as the saw is pushed forward.
  • Image indicates the push saw blade direction

  • Push-Pull Saws: These are saws with straight cutting teeth. This allows the saw to cut on both the push and the pull stroke.

Cutting Technique

The cutting technique for a Japanese pull saw requires more skill than simply pulling the saw towards you.

The correct angle must be used to properly cut the material without splitting or tearing.
This normally means an angle sharp enough to cut into the material, but not too sharp as the pressure applied may not be enough. Quite often, pull saws are used with the handle even or lower than the material so that maximum pressure can be applied while maintaining control.

For push saws, the handle is generally above the material depending on whether a rip or crosscut is being applied. The higher level of the handle means that the body weight can be better applied to the saw.

Saw Handle

  • Western push stroke saws usually have pistol grip handles which works well when you want to apply pressure on to the blade towards down. However, when it comes to making horizontal cuts, it is bit awkward to hold the saw.
  • Japanese pull saws generally come with long cylindrical handles like a file/rasp. This allows you to hold the saw in both vertical and horizontal orientation. Cutting trim along a floor is a perfect job for this type of saw.

Accuracy & Control

For the most part, pull saws are used to make precision cuts into material that tends to be more delicate in nature. The pulling action provides better accuracy and control, resulting in straighter lines and a neat finish to the material.
Carpenter using Japanese pull saw , Cutting Wooden Dowels
Push saws have less control and accuracy but can cut through tougher material with greater ease. The resulting edges are rough, and you will need to do further machining or sanding for accurate work.

If you are cutting to break apart larger pieces and will finish or refine the cuts later, then a push saw may be the right choice.


As indicated earlier, pull saws are generally used for finer woods or when sharper, more precision cuts are needed. Cutting trim and sawing smaller pieces of wood is perfect for pull saws.

While cutting larger pieces, especially hardwoods is more in line with push saws.

Which Saw Should You Get?

  • Pull Saw: Get a pull saw for fine woodworking, creating wood joints, flush cutting, etc., where accuracy and quality matters.
  • Push Saw: Ideal for sizing the lumber, construction projects, demolition work etc.

Ideally you should have both tools in your arsenal. If you have been a using the push stroke saws, I urge you to give the pull saw a try. You will be pleasantly surprised!