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Oriental Hand Tools
Vermont Public Radio has a story on Douglas Brooks, who builds wooden boats in the Japanese tradition. Sage Van Wing:
Now, you might imagine that a boat – especially a wooden boat – would need some caulking, or glue to keep the water out. But not a Japanese boat.
“By repeatedly running, passing a saw between the planks, they get an absolute watertight fit,” Brooks explains. “It’s really quite remarkable. And in the Japanese tradition, to have the boat even leak a drop upon launching is a huge loss of face.”
Listen to the audio embedded in the link. It’s completely worth the time.
(Thanks to the reader who sent in this link.)
One of the most common questions I get is “What Japanese plane should I start with? I don’t want to spend a lot, because $300 is a lot of money.” The vast majority of the planes I have were bought used from eBay, and that’s a great way to go. The process of rehabbing a used Japanese plane is very similar to setting up a new Japanese plane out of the box, with the exception of knowing what to do if the blade protrudes too much because the bed is too low and knowing how to tighten up the mouth if it’s too wide.
A sharp one.
Seriously, I don’t have any experience with timberframing, so I don’t think I can intelligently answer this question. I would imagine that the usual chisel toolmakers are able to make good timberframing slicks, though.
(Thanks to Matt for generously sending me the video.)
Hi Wilbur, I have always wanted to try a Japanese plane and chisels. I currently use Stanley planes. I am hoping some advise from you would help a newbie. Would you recommend a smoother or scraper plane to start with. Also what would you advise for...
Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.
As far as the plane goes, if you’re feeling confident, start with a 70mm smoother. If you’re feeling less gutsy, try a 60 or 65mm plane. The narrower plane blade is a little easier to set up. A scraper plane is good for conditioning the sole of the smoother, but there are other ways to do that.
For Japanese chisels, there are a ton of good options. I have the Fujihiro brand chisels made by Imai, available at Hida Tool. I like those chisels a lot.
I think that the best way of figuring out which brand/dealer/blacksmith to go with takes a bit of a different mindset than what woodworkers are used to, mainly because no one is going to do a Fine Woodworking-style Japanese chisel shootout and award Best Overall and Best Value titles. We’re used to comparing and contrasting features and performance, and that information is not really going to be forthcoming in a way that’s meaningful.
I think that we should keep in mind that Japanese tool sellers are really not out to screw woodworkers over. All of them know that if they do a good job selling one chisel, then that woodworker is likely to buy ten more from them.
So talk to all of the dealers, and ask them for advice on a Japanese chisel. You’ll get varying answers, but one of them is going to resonate with you more than the others. Buy tools from that dealer. Again, this takes a different mindset, and requires a bit of a leap of faith. But the rewards will be great.
(Disclaimer: I don’t get any kickback for recommending tools. The Christopher Schwarz ethics policy is in effect.)
The design idea comes from the traditional Chinese medicine storage units, where all the drawers are the same size. In order to satisfy the multi- functional requirement, the designer Wang Peng from Studiout apply the principles of the Fibonacci sequence to rearrange every size of these units in series.
At Woodworking in America, a Jet bandsaw was raffled off to a lucky attendee. Since I was lucky enough to be a presenter, I was asked to sign it along with the other presenters. I couldn’t help adding a little extra note.
I blame Patrick Edwards. You can see what he wrote in the top picture, just to the left of my note.
For my talks at Woodworking in America, I created a document of resources for folks interested in Japanese woodworking. Originally, I was going to provide this as a handout, but in an effort to save trees so we can all have more lumber to use, I created a downloadable PDF file. You can download the list here. I hope you enjoy it.
Packed up and ready to head off to Woodworking in America. I am simultaneously convinced that I have brought too much and not enough stuff to demo.
At Woodworking in America 2015 2014 (for which I leave in one week…and to which I’m possibly driving the truck with the benches), in addition to the education sessions in the classrooms from such woodworking luminaries as Will Neptune, Roy Underhill, Drew Langsner, Phil Lowe, Patrick Edwards, Don Williams and more, we’re offering a variety of hour-long Shop Talk sessions in the Marketplace (included with admission).
One of the Shop Talk sessions will be Phil Fuentes showing how to set up a Japanese plane on Saturday, Sept. 13 from 2-3 pm in the Marketplace area. If you’re going to Woodworking in America just for the Marketplace, catch Phil’s talk. He knows his stuff.
And here’s a coupon, because who doesn’t love a bargain?
I had a fantastic time at the Kezurou-Kai hosted by Yann Giguère last weekend at his shop, Mokuchi Studio, in Brooklyn, and thanks to Yann for giving me the opportunity to give a talk. It was a terrific experience to be able to talk about Japanese tools to a crowd that was so knowledgeable about them, and to get feedback and engage in a discussion on these tools and their use.
The high point of the Kezurou-Kai was the planing contest, but to characterize this event as being all about gauze-like shavings would be like saying the Woodworking Shows are all about $1 router bits. Sure, $1 router bits are there at the show, and some people go to the Woodworking Shows specifically to buy $1 router bits, but there’s so much more.
The best part of the day was meeting and reconnecting with other folks that were also interested in Japanese tools and woodworking, including (but not limited to) Phil Fuentes, Jay Speetjens, Jim Blauvelt, Harrelson Stanley, and Andrew Hunter. I really hope that Yann is able to make this a regular event. I know that I’ll be in support of it, as well as others who were there.
So what did you miss? Just this.
Yann (left) welcoming the attendees as the day got underway.
Yann demonstrating marking a log for milling and cutting into slabs. Here he’s making kerf cuts in preparation for the next step.
Yann using an axe and a chona to remove waste from a log in the process of establishing a flat face.
Of course, there was a gigantic Japanese plane, called an okanna. Jim brought it along for people to try. Here’s Phil putting it to work, with Jim spotting the shaving, and the shaving that he got.
Yann made the super long nagadai kanna on the right. It’s 29” long, and was specially made for a project that required flattening a particularly long workpiece. For scale, there’s a regular kanna and a regular nagadai kanna next to it.
Yann had said that he planned on cutting down his super long nagadai kanna to a more normal length after that job was done, but never got around to it. Jim took care of that for him as a favor.
Spot the interlopers. (Confession: they’re mine. I brought them as props for my talk.)
Of course, eventually we had the planing contest.
These are the shavings from the folks that participated in the planing contest. There was a surprise entry from the Kimberly-Clark corporation, second from the right, hence the title of this post.
Jay won the planing contest, and won the prize, a 3” wide Tasai chisel with a hammered finish. These pictures can only approximate how wonderful this chisel looks in person.
Afterwards, we enjoyed some terrific ramen at Shinobi Ramen, only one block away from Yann’s shop.
Again, it was an incredibly great day. Here’s hoping it happens again next year.
My son demonstrating the interlocking mortise and tenon joint often used for connecting a leg with the rails and the top of a table in Chinese furniture, at the Red Sandalwood Museum in Beijing.
On our recent trip to China, we had a chance to visit the Red Sandalwood Museum, located about 7 miles east of the city center of Beijing. This museum had some incredible examples of antique and reproduction Chinese furniture. This model was an example of the type of mortise and tenon joinery that could be used to connect a leg to the rail and top of a table.
Regarding the recent revelation about Hello Kitty, here’s Colin Stokes:
Winnie the Pooh is not a bear. Winnie is actually a young man who dresses up as a bear in order to humor his friend Christopher Robin.
Spend the minute it will take to read this article for the shocking conclusion.
hello Wilbur, I've been looking around on Japanese workbench and realised that most of them actually work sitting down and for planing, they usually have a planning beam or if not on their workbench which is just two sawhorses and then a narrow board...
First, it’s not necessarily true that Japanese woodworkers only work on the floor or with a planing beam. Many woodworkers in Japan work using a workbench recognizable to western woodworkers at typical workbench height, such as these guys: here, here, here, and here).
Edge planing is easy with a Japanese plane. There are a couple of approaches you could use. First would be to clamp the board in a vertical position, and edge plane the top edge, much as you would with a Stanley #7. That’s what I do most often.
Another method would be to place the board to be edge planed on top of another board to elevate it off the workbench top, turn your Japanese plane on its side, and use the workbench surface as a reference to shoot the side of the board. This method assumes that the side of your plane is square to the bottom.
A third method is described in Toshio Odate’s book, where a strip of wood is nailed to the side of the planing beam about an inch or so below the surface of the planing beam. This provides a surface that the plane can ride on its side, and the edge of the board is squared that way. This would be more difficult with a wide board as you describe.
One thing to remember is that Japanese woodworkers probably didn’t have to deal with wood that wide under most circumstances. Tansu chests were usually 16” deep at most, and many times the sides were built up from narrower boards. In fact, one of the reasons Asian woodworking adopted the methods and joinery that they did was due to the relative lack of large trees from which wide boards could be obtained. The frame and panel approach seen in much of Asian woodworking gets the most out of relatively narrow pieces of stock.
One of woodworking’s enduring running jokes is about how Ikea furniture is made from termite barf. As it turns out, 75% of the furniture in Ikea catalogs isn’t even real. Kirsty Parkin:
Every year, CGSociety goes to SIGGRAPH, one of the premier conferences on innovation for the computer graphics and VFX industries in the world. In 2012, we watched as Martin Enthed, the IT Manager for the in-house communication agency of IKEA, gave a short presentation. He told us how their visualisation team had evolved from the use of traditional photography for the IKEA catalogue to a system today, where the bulk of its imagery is CG. I remember leaving the auditorium (which was packed) thinking, “Those natural-looking photographs in the IKEA catalogues are amazing. I can’t believe they’re mostly CG. It’s incredible.”
I guess the new joke will have to be how Ikea furniture is made from electrons. Which is sad, because “electrons” is not nearly as funny as “termite barf”.