Jump to Navigation

Hand Tool Headlines

The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

This "aggregator" collects all of the woodworking blogs I read every day - or try to anyway!  Enjoy!

Do you have a suggestion for a hand-tool woodworking blog you would like to see here?  Tell me via the CONTACT page.  Thanks!

Be sure to visit the Hand Tool Headlines section - scores of my favorite woodworking blogs in one place.  Also, take note of Norse Woodsmith's latest feature, an Online Store, which contains only products I personally recommend.  It is secure and safe, and is powered by Amazon.

Oriental Hand Tools

Hi Wilbur, I have a set of cheap-ish chisels that I want to replace with probably Japanese chisels but I can't find many reviews about the various makers. Lee Valley sells some from Koyamaichi and I've heard of the Fujihiro but there seems to be tens...

Giant Cypress - Thu, 03/26/2015 - 3:38am

Hi Alex,

Since Japanese tools are a bit of a niche market in the woodworking world, reviews are few and far between. If you’re looking for a head-to-head shootout comparison review of Japanese chisels, you’re not going to find one. Personally, I question the utility of such reviews, but that’s another story.

I think the best approach for your situation is to decide on what size chisel to buy. I’d look at your current chisel set and pick the size you seem to use the most. Then talk to the various Japanese tool dealers out there, tell them that you want to buy a 1/2″ (or whatever size) chisel, and ask them which one would they recommend. They will probably ask you some questions about what kind of woodworking you do, your budget, and so on. One of those dealers is going to give you an answer that will resonate with you. Buy a chisel from that dealer, and see if you like it. If you do, buy more.

This approach worked really well for me when I was starting to get into Japanese tools. More importantly, you’ll get something even better than a good chisel out of this. You’ll get a relationship with a tool dealer that you can trust, and that’s going to be really valuable in the long run.

Even if you don’t see what you are looking for on a website, I would encourage you to contact the dealer anyway. One time I needed a hammer, and I contacted Iida Tool. The only hammers they had on their website were real artwork pieces, and out of my price range. I asked them if they had any other options, and long story short, two weeks later I had a hammer from them.

As far as the Fujihiro chisels go, those are the chisels I have, and I think they are terrific. For me, they hit the sweet spot between price and performance. The edges last a good long time, and they are easy to resharpen. That’s pretty much what you want in a chisel, Japanese or western. Looking at the chisels as they come out of the box, it’s clear that attention was paid to the details of making the hollow on the back and the filing of the body of the chisel. The handles are very nice, and the rings are hand forged and have a cool faceted appearance from the hammering. If you’re looking for a review, hope that helps.

This video of an impressive display of Japanese joinery has been...

Giant Cypress - Tue, 03/24/2015 - 3:28am

This video of an impressive display of Japanese joinery has been all over the interwebs, but folks keep sending me the link, so here you go.

(Thanks to everyone who sent me this link.)

Woodworking in America 2015

Giant Cypress - Mon, 03/23/2015 - 3:08am
Woodworking in America 2015:

Yours truly, on the speakers at Woodworking in America last year:

And although there are any number of terrific speakers that you can see at this year’s edition of WIA, including three (!) Cartouche Award winners, here’s one thing you’ll learn if you stop by my talks on Japanese tools: the interesting parallels between traditional methods of making Japanese tools and modern day steel technology…
It’s going to be a long time before a speaker lineup like this will be offered at a woodworking meeting.

I guess I was right, if by “a long time” I meant one year.

I thought it was an embarrassment of riches to have three Cartouche Award winners in a single speaker line up. This year, WIA has four (!) of them. Plus David Marks. You should register now.

HB Tansu #3-Progress 6

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sun, 03/22/2015 - 5:54pm

I spent Saturday completing the side rail joinery.  Basically just more of the same like I posted in Progress 5.  With the side rails completed, I turned my attention to the front and rear bearers.

The first step was to cut the five rear and the five front bearers to rough length.  This length is taken from the full-scale shop drawing.  Adding additional length for the tenons on each end.  Then I surface dressed all the pieces.  Using one piece for a master, I once again turned to the full-scale shop drawing to establish the absolute distance between the tenons.  I then clamped all the pieces together and marked the rest of the pieces from the master.

hb_tansu_rear_bearer-01I began with the joinery for the rear bearers.  The joinery for these is a little simpler and gave me a chance to warm up.  The joint is a modified saddle joint.  By adding the housed portion to the mortise and tenon, a great deal more rigidity is achieved.  It also creates additional support for the drawer as well as ensuring the post is held square.

OK, back to the rear bearer.  The layout of the joinery is done with my purpose built gauge.


First order of business is to saw the walls.  Note the reflection in the saw.  My sawing is getting better and I’m consistently sawing square.


Then chisel out the waste.


I always chamfer all of the leading edges to avoid any hangups when assembling the joints.


Lets see if it fits straight off the saw.


Not too bad.


Once I had all of the joints cut and fitted I needed to add a groove to each of the pieces.  This groove will eventually hold both the side drawer bearers and the dust panels.


Finally a dry fit of the rear frame assembly.



hb_tansu_front_bearer-01With all of the rear bearers completed I began tackling the front bearers.  This joint is similar to the rear bearer but with the addition of a bird’s beak detail.  While mostly decorative, the bird’s beak adds some additional strength, glue surface and helps to index the front bearer square.

The joint is pretty simple to cut.  The one thing that I have yet to do is create a paring guide.  The guide would make any trimming a lot less nerve-wracking.  But for this set of joints I just went freehand.

Like with the rear bearer, I began with the gauge.



A joint marked and ready for cutting.


To lay out the bird’s beak I use a miter square and a knife.  The knife registers in the shoulder  knife line and I slide the miter square up to it.


Then flip the miter square to the opposite side.



I then used a chisel to create a trough for the saw and sawed the waste.


Light paring is usually all that is needed.  Just enough to remove any discrepancy between the knifed line and the sawn waste.  So went the procedure for all of the front bearers.  Once the joinery was cut, these pieces also received a groove same as the rear bearer.

A dry fit of the front frame assembly.  I still need to fiddle with a couple of the bird’s beak joints.  Clamp pressure draws all of them tight, but I feel better about it if the set tight without the need of clamp pressure.  Maybe I’ll make that paring guide before I tackle the final fitting.


I couldn’t resist a dry fit of all the components that are completed to this point.


I have deliberately changed from my normal sequence on this build.  Normally I would have completed and glued the front and rear frames before moving on to the side rails.  I changed it up this time because I want to get some photos of the entire frame assembly sans panels.  It still amazes me just how rigid this assembly becomes when it’s assembled.

Still a lot to do.  So more yet to come.

Greg Merritt




Design Lab: Finished Workbench

Giant Cypress - Sun, 03/22/2015 - 3:48pm
Design Lab: Finished Workbench:


Some further thoughts on building out a school’s new makerspace, and what I learned about pedagogy from the process. willrichardson may be interested, and giantcypress may have some thoughts.

Here’s what Andrew Watt has to say about grading his students’ projects:

And now I know how to grade design work:
  • look for evidence of materials mastery.
  • look for evidence of tools mastery.
  • look for evidence of geometric and measured precision.
  • look for evidence of aesthetic care.

In my day job, I teach and evaluate medical students as they do their pediatric rotation. It’s really hard to evaluate students as they do activities that are at their core only evaluable in a subjective manner. I think this is a great breakdown of the factors important in evaluating design work, and personally, I’m going to think about this the next time I build something in my shop.

Gimme Danger Chicago

Giant Cypress - Thu, 03/19/2015 - 3:18am
Gimme Danger Chicago:

Raney Nelson, on why you should go to the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Jeff Miller’s shop this weekend:

Chicago’s the closest thing to the east coast in the midwest. This is a very GOOD THING. There’s amazing food, crazy people doing odd things on the sidewalks, and all sorts of sounds you won’t want to identify happening here, folks. It smells like New York with Kielbasa-powered body odor. I love cities, and Chicago’s as close to a city as you’ll find this far from the ocean.

As a Chicago native, I would say that the East Coast is a nice try at putting the Midwest on the ocean.

In any case, get over there if you’re in the area. Not only are Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Events a great place to get hands-on experience with hand tools, but talking with the other exhibitors they have at the events. Raney will be there. Stop by and talk to him, and tell him how much better Chicago deep dish pizza is than the stuff out here on the East Coast.

Heavy Handed Woodworker?

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 5:00pm

Iron-fist-hammerIf you work with hand saws then you’ve heard the oft repeated mantra:

“Let the saw do the work.”

Makes sense.  The problem is that it can’t be taught.  Told, yes, taught, no.  It is one of those things that can only be learned thru practice. How tight to grip the handle, some or no downward force.  These are things that must be experienced.  We all know it and have figured it out for ourselves.  Now, How often do you read or hear about the rest of your tools.  Let the chisel do the work?

Several months ago I was surfing thru tool porn and by chance read a statement on a Japanese tool sight.  At the time it didn’t really register and I passed it by without much thought.  I can’t even remember where exactly I read it.  My subconscious though, grabbed hold of it and kept pushing it into my thoughts.  The statement was made by a Japanese tool maker in reference to tool warranties and it went something like this:

“…heavy handed western woodworkers…”

I chuckled a little when I read it moved on.  But in the days and weeks following, the statement kept creeping into my thoughts.  The more I thought about it, the more I began to wonder.  “Am I a heavy handed western woodworker?”  So I began to deliberately ease up in all of my shop work.  I took smaller bites with the chisels and pushed them with less and less force.  I eased my grip on my saws and worked toward just pushing and pulling them.  Same approach with my planes.  Admittedly I took it to the extreme and then worked back into it to find the “sweet spot”.

What I found was quite surprising.  First, it takes a lot less force to accomplish woodworking tasks than I had ever imagined.  Second, my accuracy improved by a fairly large margin.  Third, my surfaces and joinery edges became much cleaner.  Fourth, I actually began to work faster with much less effort.  Who would have thunk it?  Heck, my tool edges are even lasting longer now.

Looking back now its hard to believe that a seemingly innocuous statement could make such a marked difference in my woodworking.  Apparently I was a “heavy handed western woodworker”.  Maybe its the inclusion of the word “work” that makes us think that building things with wood is supposed to be hard.  What I learned is that it really isn’t hard nor is it actually work.  Now I look at what I do more as “woodcoaxing” or maybe “woodnuancing”.

Here is where it gets tricky.  I’m not accusing any of you good souls of being heavy handed.  What I would like you to do is give it some thought.  More importantly, I would like you to experiment with the amount of force you use in your shop.  Not to prove my point, but in hopes that you can experience to some or greater degree the benefits that I have.  After all, I can tell you about it but I can’t teach it to you.  On the other hand, maybe I’m the last schmuck on the planet to figure it out.

Greg Merritt


This came in the mail yesterday. I told my wife, “I finally...

Giant Cypress - Wed, 03/18/2015 - 5:08am

This came in the mail yesterday. I told my wife, “I finally figured out what my mid-life crisis is going to be.”

She said, “You already had your mid-life crisis.”

I said, “What do you mean?”

She said, “Look at that shop of yours in the basement.”

A mid-life crisis isn’t supposed to be practical. I’m doing this wrong.

HB Tansu #3-Progress 5

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Mon, 03/16/2015 - 6:33pm

It was almost 70F today!  Spring is just around the corner.  Finally!

I took advantage of the warmth and spent an hour or so in the shop after work today.  Today saw the start of the from/rear rails.  I marked a master directly from the full-size drawing and them ganged all the rails together and marked them all to match.  At this point I had a decision to make.  Should I mark out all of joinery or tackle them one at a time?  I opted for the one at a time option this round.

side_rail_tenonI designed these tansu so that I could use one setting on the mortise gauge.  So I grabbed the gauge and marked out the tenons on the first piece.  The tenons on the rails are stacked tenons.  After sawing out the waste for the full-width portions I began marking out the square portion of the tenon.

A while back I wrote a post about using your chisels for marking distances.  The full-width portion of the matching mortise is 12mm deep.  So I used my 12mm mortise chisel to mark the distance on the tenon.  Since I want a slight clearance gap between the tenon and the bottom of the mortise, I sawed on the shoulder side of the line.  This effectively gives me about a 1.5mm gap.


I managed to complete two rails before I called it quits.  A quick dry fit to verify that things are as they should be.



Greg Merritt

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been working from a theory that...

Giant Cypress - Mon, 03/16/2015 - 4:48am

If you haven’t noticed, I’ve been working from a theory that there are more similarities than differences between Japanese and western woodworking tools. Here’s another one.

Apparently there are Japanese woodworkers with the bad sense to drill a hole in the end of their planes to use to hang their planes on the wall. This move, however, is not without precedent.

(Photos from eBay.)

HB Tansu #3-Progress 4

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sun, 03/15/2015 - 6:43pm

Today was basically a repeat of yesterday.  I chopped the mortises in the rear cross rails and then fit the corresponding post tenons.

One additional operation today was to layout and chop the handle rail mortises.  Nothing special about that other than to ensure they line up from post to post.  This is easily accomplished by ganging the posts together and marking them all at the same time.  The handle rail mortises were the last of the mortises that are required for this HB tansu.


A dry fit of the front and rear frame assemblies allowed me to check for squareness.  That all checked out fine.  It also allowed me to verify that the frames were identical in size as well as check them against the full-size drawing.  Happily those two points checked out just fine as well.  I can’t say this enough, a full-size shop drawing is invaluable.



If the weather continues with the warming trend, I’ll be able to start work on the front-rear  rails that tie these frame assemblies together this week.  There is a long way to go but every little bit gets me closer to the finish line.

Greg Merritt


HB Tansu #3-Progress 3

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sat, 03/14/2015 - 3:56pm

I had an easy, slow paced day in the shop.  No rush.  Just enjoyed my time working wood and making.  My goal today was to chop the mortises in the front cross rails and to fit the corresponding post tenons.

front_rail_mortiseI had set out the joinery for these pieces a few days ago and was able to jump right in with chopping the mortises.  The main mortise is a standard thru mortise.  There is a mortise that intersects with it perpendicularly.  That mortise is reduced two thirds of the way thru to a square profile.  Its this intersection that must be given attention.  I can’t just chop one mortise and then the other.  If I do so when the second mortise meets the hollow of the first there is the potential for spelching (breakout) of the unsupported fibers.  In the past I have inserted a scrap block into the first mortise and used that to support the fibers.  Today I tried something different.  Today I chopped the full width mortise only one third of the way thru from each side.  This left the center section in tact.  Then I chopped the wide section of the second mortise.  I only needed to insert the scrap block to support the fibers when chopping the small square mortise portion of the joint.  This worked great and I think made the process a little quicker.


I also used a brace and bit to remove the bulk of the waste for the square portion.


Then inserted the scrap block and chopped out the remaining waste.


With all of the mortises chopped in the two front rails, I began cutting and fitting the corresponding post tenons.  Standard SOP for these.  Just saw on the waste side of the layout line.


Something that I haven’t mentioned before is that for the last few projects I have only used a single saw.  Mostly an experiment to test the efficacy of having just a single saw.  Thus eliminating the need for multiple saws and increased expense for those starting out.  The saw that I have been using is a Japanese replaceable blade ryoba saw.  This is a pull saw and has two cutting edges.  One rip and one crosscut.  By the end of this project I think I will be ready to discuss the results of my experiment.

Obviously I’m not a hard-line traditionalist.  I own western style saws and know how to sharpen them.  I can use them without any issues.  Personally though, I find the Japanese saws more comfortable to use and I find the pull stroke more intuitive for accurate cuts.  Your mileage will vary.

Anyway, once the tenon was sawed and fitted there needs to be a mortise chopped thru it to mate with the square mortise in the rail.  Its this intersecting tenon that serves to lock the corner joint together.  To locate the mortise in the tenon I simply installed the post into the rail delineated the outline with a chisel using the rail mortise as my guide.  Then removed the post and transferred the marks to the opposite side of the tenon.  Finishing by chopping the mortise same as any other.  Again a scrap block was employed to support the tenon during the process.

post-tenon side_rail_tenon corner_joint_assembled





I then repeated the process for the remaining three corners of the front frame and dry fit the assembly.  The dry fit looks good.  The shoulders all seated and the assembly is square.



Tomorrow I’ll repeat the process on the rear frame.

Greg Merritt

Chuk Tang has made a very nice video on rehabbing a used...

Giant Cypress - Thu, 03/12/2015 - 3:18am

Chuk Tang has made a very nice video on rehabbing a used Japanese chisel, and gets it hair-splitting sharp.

That last part is not an exaggeration. Watch through to the end.

HB Tansu #3-Progress 2

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Wed, 03/11/2015 - 6:05pm

What a difference a few days make.  My electric was restored late Sunday afternoon.  Thus ending the almost four day struggle to keep the water pipes and myself from freezing.  Today the temperature climbed to almost 60F.  No complaints with that.

IMG_0039It was actually so warm outside that I was able to sneak in a little shop time after work today.  Sans heater.  That, combined with my impromptu woodworking in the house over the weekend siege, allowed me to finish the mortises and dados in all of the corner posts.  This joinery is repetitive which allows me to develop a rhythm to the work.  All of the dados in each post are tackled at once.  First I saw all of the walls, then chop all the waste, then pare all and finally pass the router plane through all to bring them to the final depth.  I don’t often listen to music in the shop, but I find it helps establish the pace for this kind of work.  Jerry Jeff Walker works for me. Your mileage may vary.

One thing that I’ve become acutely aware of is that, approach greatly affects accuracy.  A bold, deliberate approach, devoid of any hesitancy, yields greater accuracy.  I don’t mean rushed or cavalier.  That increases the chance for error.  No.  Confident and controlled is what you want.  I know this is basically common sense, but a lot of time and practice needed to pass before I was able to achieve it.  For me it finally happened.  I couldn’t tell you exactly when, but I do know its a whole new level of fun.  Maybe this is what is meant by the zen idea of becoming one with the tool.  Of course it may just be a fluke and everything will run off the rails the next time I’m in the shop. ;)


So the bulk of the post joinery is completed.  All that remains are the end tenons.  These I’ll cut to fit the mortises in the cross rails once those are complete.  To that end, I completed the layout for the front and rear cross rails today before I called it quits this evening.

Greg Merritt



Wilbur, first of all, thanks for the awesome blog. I am a huge fan. Secondly, could you recommend to me a good replaceable blade 210 mm ryoba suitable for hard and soft woods? Thanks.

Giant Cypress - Tue, 03/10/2015 - 3:38am

Thanks for reading, and thanks for the nice comment. I really appreciate it. I’m going to caveat this by saying that I haven’t used any of the saws that I’m going to mention.

You should keep in mind that the suitability of a saw for hardwoods or softwoods is really a matter of degree rather than an absolute. If you take a saw tuned for softwoods and use it on, say, maple, it will take more effort to use that saw. On the other hand, if you take a saw tuned for hardwoods and use it on pine, it will still cut, but it will be slower. Either way, you’ll be able to make a nice cut.

As far as replaceable blade ryobas go, Gyokucho makes two 210mm models (#605 and #649), and Mitsukawa makes 195mm and 225 mm replaceable blade ryobas, which are both within shouting distance of the 210 mm size. Based on specs, the Mitsukawa ryobas have a slightly finer tpi, and so may be better for hardwoods. You can find Gyokucho ryobas nearly everywhere. The Mitsukawa ryobas are available through Tools From Japan.

Wu Wei

Giant Cypress - Mon, 03/09/2015 - 6:38am
Wu Wei:

Tom Fidgen:

Allow your work to unfold.

Making Do!

Greg Merritt - By My Own Hands - Sat, 03/07/2015 - 6:16am

Wednesday night a winter storm rolled through dumping ten inches of heavy, wet snow. Thursday morning found the roads impassable and I had no electricity. No electricity means no heat. So priority number one was to keep the house warm enough so that the water pipes, my family and myself did not freeze. I resorted to running the burners on the natural gas stove, risky at best, and started shoveling snow.

I have a generator but it is stored in an out-building one hundred yards away from the house. To get it to the house I had to mount it on an old sled and drag it to the house. Not fun!  With the drive way cleared of snow and the generator moved into position it was time to take my chances on the road and fetch some gasoline. 

Winter wonderland my ass!

The trip to the store is only a mile. Downhill all the way. Which means it’s all uphill to get back. A little dicey but I made it down and back in one piece and no damage to the vehicle.
My furnace will not operate on generator power. The electricity the generator produces is too “dirty” from what I understand. So the oil-filled space heater from the shop was pressed into service.
So far so good. I’m able to maintain 60F in the house. But it is taking five gallons of gasoline per day to do it. The power company keeps changing their estimated date for restoring the electricity. Now they are up to late Sunday night.  Not good, but nothing I can do about it but wait. Ironically, the monthly power bill came today. The dirty SOB’s. 

The wife and son are staying with family and I have been left to my own devices. I have a modicum of heat and enough power to get on the Internet. I might as well do some woodworking and post about it.
Here is my make-shift set up in the house.  I’ll beg forgiveness later.  At least the lighting is good during the day. 

I would rather had brought my trestle horses in so that I wouldn’t be on the floor but carrying them uphill through shin deep snow was more than I wanted to do.  This has also taught me that I should at least build a small tool chest to carry the essentials for times like these. I’m thinking a Japanese style toolbox is now on the short list. 

For now, I’m making do!

Greg Merritt

chiisai-fukurou:I finished my toolbox \(^-^)/I think it turned...

Giant Cypress - Fri, 03/06/2015 - 3:58am


I finished my toolbox \(^-^)/

I think it turned out nicely :3 

It sure did.

Horrible lighting while doing a demonstration at the Woodworking...

Giant Cypress - Thu, 03/05/2015 - 3:38am

Horrible lighting while doing a demonstration at the Woodworking Show a couple of weekends ago in Somerset, NJ.

Kumiko Lamp - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Giant Cypress - Wed, 03/04/2015 - 3:48am
Kumiko Lamp - Popular Woodworking Magazine:

This is a terrific article by my good friend Raney Nelson on building a Japanese style lamp in this month’s issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. Grab a copy. The whole issue is well worth reading.


Subscribe to Norse Woodsmith aggregator - Oriental Hand Tools

by Dr. Radut