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Oriental Hand Tools

Happy Chinese New Year! Hello Kitty and Giant Cypress wish you a...

Giant Cypress - Fri, 02/16/2018 - 3:48am

Happy Chinese New Year! Hello Kitty and Giant Cypress wish you a prosperous Year of the Dog.

Check out the excellent use of a Japanese saw in the background....

Giant Cypress - Mon, 02/12/2018 - 3:18am

Check out the excellent use of a Japanese saw in the background. I can only imagine what the other guy is hammering.

Hey Schwarz, Are You Chinese? | Lost Art Press

Giant Cypress - Tue, 01/30/2018 - 3:08am
Hey Schwarz, Are You Chinese? | Lost Art Press:

Christopher Schwarz:

When I entered fifth grade at Woods Elementary, my teacher asked me in front of the class if I was Chinese. When I replied, “I don’t think so,” Mr. Williams shrugged his shoulders.

“Dark hair, dark eyes, dark skin and good at math,” he said. “Seems like Chinese.”

Terrible thing to say, especially coming from a teacher. But for the record, I think being Chinese is pretty awesome.

I just visited Tokyo and was near Tokyo Big Sight, a large convention center in the Ariake area. In front of the building is a huge statue of a hand saw - a western saw. Any idea what is up with that?

Giant Cypress - Mon, 01/29/2018 - 3:38am

I can only conclude that this is an indication of what should be done with western saws — bury them in the dirt.


Just kidding, of course. This is a sculpture by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, titled Saw, Sawing. According to their statement:

Coosje found the saw appropriate to the cross-cut effect of the layered construction surrounding the site. Also, the teeth of the saw would continue the triangular motif of the buildings. 


Since the Western saw is not a tool used in Japan, we hoped that this common object, detached from its function, would become mysterious in its foreign context, subject to surprising new interpretations of its identity.

(Photo from Tokyo Fotos.)

If I buy a plan and chisel set what sizes do I need to get basic projects done?

Giant Cypress - Fri, 01/26/2018 - 12:28pm

The standard answer is, “It depends on the exact projects you’re planning on making.” But I’ll go out on a limb and say that you can do a lot with a set of 6mm, 12mm, and 24mm Japanese chisels. For planes, the standard Japanese plane has a 70mm blade. But the plane I use most often has a 65mm blade, and the 65mm planes tend to be a bit cheaper than the 70mm planes on eBay.

"I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust..."

Giant Cypress - Thu, 01/25/2018 - 3:08am
“I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.”

- Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018), in the introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness. I wonder if Christopher Schwarz had this percolating in his subconscious when he wrote “Disobey me.”

"I think it is incumbent on all human beings to oppose injustice in every form."

Giant Cypress - Wed, 01/24/2018 - 5:08am
“I think it is incumbent on all human beings to oppose injustice in every form.”


Hugh Masekela, 1939-2018

Shawn Graham does a great job explaining how to set up a...

Giant Cypress - Mon, 01/22/2018 - 7:28am

Shawn Graham does a great job explaining how to set up a chipbreaker, and is nice enough to give a shout out to yours truly. 

It’s for a western plane, but great information, nonetheless. And be sure to check out Shawn’s YouTube channel.

More stuff about chipbreakers here and here.

bunjywunjy:trees can’t read Or, trees FTW.

Giant Cypress - Sat, 01/20/2018 - 3:28am


trees can’t read

Or, trees FTW.

Resin impregnated dai?

Giant Cypress - Tue, 01/16/2018 - 7:08am

Federico Calboli asked this question via email:

Hi Wilbur, 

Assuming I could impregnate a dai with resin (making it impervious to moisture and harder wearing), would that be a good idea? I presume it is too much trouble to do all the time by everybody, but assuming one could do it I can only see advantages.  What am I not getting (aside from ruining the mystical zen connection with the universe)?  

This is an interesting question, and I haven’t seen anyone try to do this with a Japanese plane. Resin-impreganted wood certainly seems to work well with other tools, like the chisels and mallets that Blue Spruce Toolworks makes. I think resin-impregnating a dai could certainly help with stabilization, but I think the rationale fails in two ways for this particular application.

First of all, it assumes that the process of reconditioning a dai is long and arduous, so that it’s worth looking into ways of making it easier. I’ve found that conditioning a dai is pretty easy once the initial set up is done. Also, the amount of conditioning of a dai for regular woodworking processes is not nearly as involved as what most people think of, which is for Japanese planing contests.

Second, I think the resin impregnation will make the dai behave worse in terms of locking the blade in place. The blade of a Japanese plane is held in by friction and the wedging process of the blade into the side grooves. One of the reasons Japanese oak is used for this purpose is that there’s a springiness to the oak that allows it to compress enough when tapping the blade to lock the blade in place, but then it can spring back to its original shape when the blade is retracted. The resin is sure to interfere with these properties of the dai.

Having said that, if anyone has tried this, please let me know how it turned out.

Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories

Giant Cypress - Fri, 01/12/2018 - 7:48am
Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories:

Beautiful photo essay by Christopher Payne and Sam Anderson on the way the General Pencil Company makes pencils, right here in New Jersey. This process may be mechanized woodworking, but it’s woodworking nonetheless.

The iconic pencil that most people think of is the Ticonderoga, which is now made outside the U.S. Buy General instead!

HTT016 – Are Hand Tools Really That Slow?

Giant Cypress - Tue, 01/09/2018 - 3:58am
HTT016 – Are Hand Tools Really That Slow?:

Bob Rozaieski does a great job talking about how hand tools are a lot more efficient than you may think, and how to get there with your hand tool set. And if you’re not subscribing to his podcast, you really should.

Silk purse

Giant Cypress - Mon, 01/08/2018 - 3:38am

A while back I won an eBay auction for a used Japanese chisel for $20, shipped to my door. It only took a couple of weeks to get to me. It came in a shipping packet, wrapped in bubble wrap.

When I unwrapped it, it seemed to be in okay shape. There was more surface rust than was apparent in the eBay listing. The hoop was a little loose, and the back had some rust and pitting. The ferrule wasn’t completely in line with the shaft, but that’s only a cosmetic issue.

I started on the back. I placed the entire back of the chisel on my Atoma 400 grit diamond plate, and did a couple of swipes to see what kind of condition the  back side was in. I could see that the Atoma diamond plate left scratches back where the blade met the shaft of the chisel, and at the cutting edge. This was a great sign. This showed that the chisel was slightly concave on the back. It would have meant a lot more work if the back were convex.

I used the Atoma diamond plate until I got rid of the pitting in the area of the cutting edge. Then I used my usual sharpening routine of a 1000 grit waterstone, a medium grit natural Japanese waterstone (~4000 grit), and a fine grit natural Japanese waterstone (~12000 grit). That brought the back of the chisel to a nice reflective surface.

I did consider working the back more to address the pitting in the middle of the back of the chisel. I decided against it, since I knew I would be working the back anyway as I used this chisel more, and that would take care of the rest of the pitting over time. The important thing is that there was about 3/16″ of clean, flat, polished metal making up the back at the cutting edge. 

Now it was time to address the bevel. I used a Lee Valley Mk II sharpening guide to establish a 30º bevel. Here I started out on my 1000 grit waterstone. I was pleased to see that a nice lamination line was hiding under the rust.

I went back to the Atoma diamond plate to get rid of the rust and establish the bevel surface. After that, I went up through the 1000 grit waterstone, the media grit natural Japanese waterstone, and the fine grit Japanese waterstone. Here’s the result.

To tighten up the hoop, I redid the mushroom by taking a hammer and striking glancing blows on the handle to try to reseat the hoop. That worked pretty well, but it may come loose again later. Time will tell.

There are a variety of methods to deal with the surface rust. I like using a rust eraser. 

This is a rubber eraser with some sort of fine abrasive compound embedded in it. I used it on the rusty parts of the chisel. There was an area on the ferrule that had more rust, so I used a bit of 400 grit sandpaper to knock down the rust in that area. Finally, I applied a coat of camellia oil.

Looks pretty nice, if I say so myself. All together, it took me less than an hour from beginning to end. It probably would have been about 40 minutes if I wasn’t stopping to take pictures. 

So how does it work? Here’s the obligatory end grain pine shaving picture.

I’m really happy with this chisel. For $20, I have what looks to be a very nice Japanese chisel. The only aspect of this chisel I can’t comment on yet is how well the chisel holds an edge over time. But aside from the surface rust and the misalignment of the ferrule, this looks to be a very nice Japanese chisel.

Tool List – What to Buy? (Or Wait to Try)

Giant Cypress - Fri, 01/05/2018 - 11:08am
Tool List – What to Buy? (Or Wait to Try):

Megan Fitzpatrick does a great job with a list of what tools to start with for woodworking. But then there’s this:

Bevel-edge Chisels

My absolute favorites are a Japanese make that I can never remember (so I had a reminder on my computer at PW that I could look up. Oops.), but I also don’t think they are easily available. So among chisels you can actually get, I like the Lie-Nielsen Bevel-edge Socket Chisels.

*** single tear rolls down cheek ***

Merry Christmas from Giant Cypress and the King of the Monsters.

Giant Cypress - Mon, 12/25/2017 - 3:28am

Merry Christmas from Giant Cypress and the King of the Monsters.

I bought a used Japanese chisel on eBay

Giant Cypress - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 3:38am

A while back, I wrote about things to look for when buying used Japanese chisels on eBay. I recently went through the process of looking for a 12mm Japanese chisel on eBay, bidding on it, and buying it. Here’s how I decided on the chisel I bought.

I searched for “Japanese chisel 12mm”, and found this listing, among others. Here are the photos from the listing.

In my previous article, I mention that having good photos to look at is key. These photos weren’t optimal, since a few of them were not completely in focus, but the length of the chisel was good, the handle looked good, and the hollow seemed to be in decent shape. There’s some rust, but I expect that it will clean up easily. Despite the advice in my article, there isn’t a clear picture of the bevel, but the price ($8) and shipping cost ($12) were right. So I took a chance on that part.

I use a sniping program for eBay auctions. I’ll set a maximal price for the item that I want, and walk away. This keeps me from getting caught up in auction fever, and is really the best way to deal with eBay auctions.

As it turned out, I was the only bidder on this chisel, and so I won. There are so many Japanese chisels on eBay that this often is the case. The chisel is on its way to New Jersey from Japan. When it arrives, I’ll see how well I did.

Man gets gruesome fungal lesion after snipping pimple with dirty wood tools

Giant Cypress - Thu, 12/21/2017 - 7:18am
Man gets gruesome fungal lesion after snipping pimple with dirty wood tools:

Beth Mole:

A 23-year-old man in Chicago developed a rare, festering fungal lesion on his lower lip after he reportedly “snipped a pimple” with a woodworking blade.

Doctors at the John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County treated the man, who was an otherwise healthy construction worker.

Two things stood out to me about this story. First, this probably wouldn’t have happened if the blade was really sharp. Sharp tools are clean tools. So there’s your argument for keeping your tools sharp.

Second, Cook County Hospital was one of the hospitals I trained at when I was in medical school. It does not surprise me at all that this case wound up there.

Modern Woodworkers Association Podcast - Conversations Among Woodworkers by Dyami Plotke & Sean Wisniewski

Giant Cypress - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 3:08am
Modern Woodworkers Association Podcast - Conversations Among Woodworkers by Dyami Plotke & Sean Wisniewski:

Dyami Plotke and Sean Wisniewski had yours truly as a guest on the Modern Woodworkers Association podcast. Apparently we had such a good time talking about Japanese tools that they made it a two-parter (part 1, part 2).

If you haven’t subscribed to this podcast, and are interested in woodworking at all, click on the links above to get to their listing on iTunes. The MWA podcast is really terrific.

I just purchased the video you made with Shop Woodworking on Japanese tools and I am really enjoying the details that you have dealt with. GREAT JOB! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!

Giant Cypress - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 5:28am

Thanks so much for the kind words! I really happy that you liked the video.

My video on Japanese woodworking tools is available at Shop Woodworking, Popular Woodworking’s online storefront for videos, books, and more. There are shorter videos on Japanese saws, Japanese planes, Japanese chisels, and “everything you ever wanted to know about Japanese tools but were afraid to ask”. These videos are also compiled into one longer video, available as a DVD and as a download. It might make a nice holiday present for the woodworker in your life.


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