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Oriental Hand Tools

Western Saws or Japanese Saws for Beginners?

Giant Cypress - Thu, 02/23/2017 - 3:08am
Western Saws or Japanese Saws for Beginners?:

Bob Rozaieski:

I am by no means an expert on Japanese tools. I own a few, and I have had the opportunity to try many different Japanese saws, chisels and hand planes. However, I do not work with them enough to consider myself worthy of giving you advice on them.

Bob then proceeds to show that he’s a fibber by making a lot of smart observations about Japanese saws. He also made me blush.

(Bob, if you’re reading this, for some reason my RSS reader lost your feed. I fixed that, and I’m having a good time getting caught up on your blog.)

Well-known Japanese saw aficionado Ron Herman, at the...

Giant Cypress - Tue, 02/21/2017 - 4:28am




Well-known Japanese saw aficionado Ron Herman, at the Woodworking Show in New Jersey last weekend, explaining how he sets up saws and scrapers (!) differently for softwood and hardwood species, with an example of some of his crosscut saws. 

And you thought only crazy Japanese woodworkers would go to that much trouble tweaking the setup of their tools.

The Woodworking Show, Somerset, NJ

Giant Cypress - Thu, 02/16/2017 - 6:18pm

giantcypress:

In case anyone is going to the Woodworking Show in Somerset, NJ, on the weekend of Feb. 17, my woodworking club, the Central Jersey Woodworkers Association, will be there. We’ll have a booth there and an ongoing series of demonstrations.

I’ll be there all day on Friday, Feb. 17, and Saturday morning (Feb. 18) demoing Japanese tools (of course). I’ll be showing how to use Japanese tools to cut joinery, even if you have a workshop already set up in the western tradition.

Hope to see you there!

Just a reminder, if you’re in the area. See you tomorrow!

Feeling validated. If Christopher Schwarz can teach Chinese,...

Giant Cypress - Wed, 02/15/2017 - 3:18am


Feeling validated. If Christopher Schwarz can teach Chinese, then I can do the same for woodworking.

(Photo from the Lost Art Press blog.)

Psychologists Explain Why Ikea Is a Relationship Death-Trap

Giant Cypress - Tue, 02/14/2017 - 11:58am
Psychologists Explain Why Ikea Is a Relationship Death-Trap:

For your woodworking Valentine’s Day pleasure, here’s Cari Romm on how Ikea breaks up couples:

The Ikea website currently lists more than 30 different types of side tables alone, and a side table’s one of the least consequential types of furniture you can get. And once you land on the model you want in the price point you want, there are supplementary decisions to make — size, color, etc.

There’s some debate surrounding the concept of ego depletion — the idea that you have a finite amount of mental energy to spend before you become decision-fatigued — but even for someone with infinite willpower, making all those choices with a partner can be a fraught, highly delicate balancing act, says psychology professor Julie Peterson, who leads the Self and Close Relationships Lab at the University of New England. Shopping for a high-stakes item is stressful even when you’re on your own, “but then you add a relationship partner to that — who you care about, love, ostensibly want to please in some way — and it it just compounds it even more,” she says.

And it gets even worse:

Here’s the cruelest of all the cruel jokes Ikea plays on its customers: If — if — you and your significant other still make it out of there with minimal strife and all the furniture you need, you still have to go home and assemble it.

Abstract for yesterday’s article

Giant Cypress - Thu, 02/09/2017 - 11:48am

TL;DR version of yesterday’s post:

If you’re interested in interacting with other Japanese tool fans, check out the Piedmont Japanese Carpentry Club and Japanese Woodworking Tools, Techniques, and Interests pages on Facebook. Get a Facebook account if you have to. It will be completely worth it.

Where have all the forums gone?

Giant Cypress - Wed, 02/08/2017 - 3:08am
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When I started out in woodworking, one of the resources I drew upon were woodworking forums. They were a great source of information, and I learned a lot from them. In addition, they worked well with my day job. I’m a pediatric oncologist, and checking in on a woodworking forum was a great way to fill the time between patients, or when I was up at night on call waiting for the emergency room to get back to me.

Recently, the idea that woodworking forums are dead has popped up from time to time. Fine Woodworking is closing down their woodworking forum, if it isn’t already shut down. And although I can’t quantify this, it seems that activity on the woodworking forums I usually look in on has been tailing off.

I don’t think, however, that internet discussion of woodworking is going away. Like many things on the internet, social media seems to be the place to be. First, it’s one less thing for you to do. Have a Facebook account? You can check in on an online gathering of woodworkers without having to go to another website. It will be right there in your feed.

Second, woodworking is a very visual hobby. In woodworking discussions, a picture is at least 1,000 words. It is far easier to embed a picture in a post on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr (which is the backbone of Giant Cypress), which gives these platforms a big advantage compared to woodworking forums. In the case of Instagram, photos are the raison d’être of that platform. With woodworking forums, you often had to upload photos to a hosting service, then link to that service within your forum post using BBCode. Alternatively, some woodworking forums allow you to upload photos directly to their sites, but then they might try to pull something like reselling your photos as a way of generating revenue, as Sawmill Creek tried to do several years ago.

It seems, then, that woodworking forums aren’t really dying out as much as they are moving. There was a Japanese woodworking forum that really seems to have died out. But there are two very active Japanese woodworking groups on Facebook which are well worth checking out, if you have a Facebook account: the Piedmont Japanese Carpentry Club, and the Japanese Woodworking Tools, Techniques and Interests page. If you have a Facebook account, you should definitely take a look.

Tapping Out a Japanese Plane Blade with Andrew Hunter

Giant Cypress - Fri, 02/03/2017 - 3:18am
Tapping Out a Japanese Plane Blade with Andrew Hunter:

Really nice video from Andrew Hunter and Ben Strano showing how to tap out a Japanese plane blade.

Here’s my take on this task. And here’s a video I made, albeit with far lower production standards.

Andrew’s giving some talks on Japanese tools at Fine Woodworking Live in April. He gives a great talk, and is a great guy. Go see him if you can.

The Woodworking Show, Somerset, NJ

Giant Cypress - Thu, 02/02/2017 - 3:58am

In case anyone is going to the Woodworking Show in Somerset, NJ, on the weekend of  Feb. 17, my woodworking club, the Central Jersey Woodworkers Association, will be there. We’ll have a booth there and an ongoing series of demonstrations.

I’ll be there all day on Friday, Feb. 17, and Saturday morning (Feb. 18) demoing Japanese tools (of course). I’ll be showing how to use Japanese tools to cut joinery, even if you have a workshop already set up in the western tradition.

Hope to see you there!

It’s hard to tell from the audio, but best as I can tell, here’s...

Giant Cypress - Wed, 02/01/2017 - 3:48am


It’s hard to tell from the audio, but best as I can tell, here’s a 4 year old boy playing solo drums along with a Japanese metal track (check out the double pedal action) to entertain a nursing home. In other words, an Asian who rocks.

The Ergonomic Rocking Chair

Giant Cypress - Mon, 01/30/2017 - 3:28am
The Ergonomic Rocking Chair:

Marshall Jon Fisher:

He had sold only a few chairs before he met a potential customer with a lower-back problem, Maloof told me recently. He took a piece of wood, held it against his own back, and curved it to fit, creating what has become his trademark ergonomic spindle. He lowered the seat to relax the angle of the sitter’s legs; raised the arms, which encourages deeper breathing; and completed a design that has found its way into the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the White House, the Vice President’s mansion, and President Jimmy Carter’s office in Atlanta.

Just in case you thought the Maloof rocker was just an exercise in style.

Happy Chinese New Year from Giant Cypress and these soldiers of...

Giant Cypress - Sat, 01/28/2017 - 3:28am


Happy Chinese New Year from Giant Cypress and these soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army.

Undivided Attention

Giant Cypress - Wed, 01/25/2017 - 5:58am
Undivided Attention:

Arlene Hirst:

For Hisao [Hanafusa, owner of Miya Shoji], making shojis is about seeing, touching, and hearing. First you must look at the wood to understand it, then you must feel it while it’s in the shop, and finally you must hear it when it is sawed. “One way it sings; the other way it screams,” he explains. For the Hanafusas, “When function serves a purpose, the beauty shows.”

What woodworking does to you: year after year, this guy makes a...

Giant Cypress - Mon, 01/23/2017 - 8:38am


What woodworking does to you: year after year, this guy makes a Pinewood Derby car, and he insists on using Gramercy Tools rasps for the project.

Hi Wilbur, can you describe how to deal with a kanna blade that is protruding unevenly as you fit to the dai? I have a couple kanna that I have been working on, and followed your instructions to fit the blade. In both cases, one corner protrudes from...

Giant Cypress - Wed, 01/11/2017 - 3:48am

There are two ways of dealing with this situation. As it turns out, one of my planes happens to have this situation. You can see that the left side of the blade protrudes a little more than the right, by the way the gap between the mouth and the edge of the blade gets wider as you go from left to right.

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The first way of dealing with this is to make a lateral adjustment, much like you would with the lateral adjustment lever on a Stanley. If we flip my plane over, the protruding part of the blade will now be on the right. A tap on the right side of the blade towards the left will even things out.

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If there isn’t enough room for the blade to move over, you can pare away the side of the groove on the left side that holds the plane to give you some space. This is more easily seen on my plane from an angle.

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It’s important to pare away the side of the groove, and not the top edge. Otherwise, the blade will become too loose.

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You should also pare away just enough wood to give the blade enough room to move laterally to account for the protrusion. Sneak up on it, like you did when fitting the blade to the bed of the dai. The gap between the sidewall and the blade when it’s in good position is only about 1/32″.

The second way of dealing with this situation is to mark the part of the blade that protrudes with a Sharpie or similar pen, grind away that part, and resharpen the blade. You don’t have to have the edge of the blade square to the sides of the blade. It’s more important that the edge is even with the leading edge of the mouth. But this is a lot more work once you’ve sharpened the blade well. That’s why I would rather give myself some more lateral room.

One comment I often hear about Japanese tools is the relatively...

Giant Cypress - Tue, 01/10/2017 - 11:08am










One comment I often hear about Japanese tools is the relatively high cost of Japanese chisels, saws, and planes in comparison to their western counterparts. I think that this is not entirely accurate. Although you can find examples of crazy expensive Japanese tools, you can get a very nice new Japanese plane for around $225, which compares favorably to bench planes from Lie-Nielsen and Veritas. Handmade Japanese ryobas can be found for around $300, which works out to $150 per saw, as a ryoba is a rip and crosscut saw all rolled into one. That compares favorably to the boutique saw dealers, where a single saw can easily be over $200.

Which brings us to Japanese chisels. When a Japanese chisel is made, the hard layer takes up the entire bottom face of the chisel. Because of this, the entire blade of the chisel can be used. The three chisels in these pictures are all perfectly functional, and you can see the presence of the lamination line in each chisel, showing that the hard steel layer is still there. Old western chisels were also made with a hard steel layer laminated to a softer steel layer on top, but often the hard steel layer only covered about half of the blade of the chisel. Once you sharpened past that, you were left with a chisel-like object.

That makes Japanese chisels a great value for your woodworking tool dollar. Not bad considering that you can find a nice Japanese chisel for around $70.

(Photos from Junji Sugita.)

Carrie Fisher:I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to...

Giant Cypress - Fri, 12/30/2016 - 7:48am


Carrie Fisher:

I don’t want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.

Debbie Reynolds:

I gave it all that I had, and it’s gratifying that others seem to be receiving it so well. 

(Thanks to my brother for the picture.)

Hone again, hone again, jiggety jig

Giant Cypress - Wed, 12/28/2016 - 7:28am

Sharpening Japanese chisels and plane blades is made easy by two features of these tools. They tend to be thicker than their western counterparts, which provides a wider surface and more stability when sharpening, and the soft layer wears away quickly, so all the work only needs to be concentrated on the thin hard layer of the tool.

Normally, I freehand sharpen. But there are occasions where I know that freehand sharpening a Japanese tool will take longer than usual, such as changing the bevel angle, setting up a new tool, rehabbing an old tool, or needing to get rid of a nick. The added time and, to be honest, the mind-numbing boredom that sets in when grinding out a nick makes it more likely that I’ll rock the chisel as I sharpen.

This is the time where using a jig can be useful. This allows consistent positioning of the tool as you’re going through the sharpening process because you don’t have to concentrate as much on holding the tool in a consistent position.

Some of the jigs that are commonly used for western tools are not ideal for Japanese tools. For example, the Eclipse clone honing guide does a decent job of holding chisels in the lower jaws, but it has trouble securely holding Japanese plane blades because of the added thickness of these tools. It can be done, but you have to take care that the tool doesn’t pop out.

I have found some honing guides that do work well with Japanese tools. For chisels, the Lee Valley Veritas Mark II sharpening guide works really well. The top clamping design holds the chisel securely, despite its thickness, and it is easy to set up the guide for the bevel angle that you want. With care, a shinogi-style chisel can be held in this jig as well.

There’s one small issue with using the Lee Valley Mark II sharpening guide with Japanese chisels. Remember, Japanese chisels (at least the better ones) are handmade objects, and as such, the sides may not be perfectly parallel. This can introduce a slight skew to the chisel as it sits in the jig. I usually check the chisel if I’m using this guide to make sure it’s as square as possible, and adjust it if it’s not. Then again, I think the importance of having a perfectly square edge on a chisel is overstated.

Plane blades are a bit tougher. Part of this is because Japanese plane blades taper slightly along their length, so that the sides are not parallel. Sharpening jigs that clamp from the side will have a little trouble maintaining a good grip on the blade because of this. Jigs that clamp from the top usually have a guide of some sort that references the side of the tool, and this will introduce a slight skew to the plane blade because of the slight taper of the sides.

There is a purpose-made jig for Japanese planes: the Grintec K2.

The Grintec has a number of elements that make it the ideal jig for sharpening Japanese plane blades. The holding mechanism (the white knob) clamps the plane blade from the top. 

There’s an adjustment (black knob) to place the side guide in the proper position depending on the width of the plane blade. The numbers on the left side correspond to the width of my plane blade. In this case, it’s 65 mm. 

There’s an additional adjustment on the side that sets the bevel angle (metal knob to the left). There are two scales that are set according to the length of the plane blade and the bevel angle desired.

I mainly sharpen plane blades freehand. But when I need to get out a nick, or need to reset the bevel angle, this jig has been invaluable.

Having said that, I’ve sharpened Japanese plane blades with both the Eclipse clone and the Lee Valley Mark II before, so it’s not impossible to use a different jig for this task. 

Merry Christmas from Giant Cypress.Given that this is about...

Giant Cypress - Sun, 12/25/2016 - 3:18am


Merry Christmas from Giant Cypress.

Given that this is about Chinese food, this should cover any readers who are celebrating Hanukkah as well.

"The tightrope most craftspeople work is using wisely the tools at their disposal while not..."

Giant Cypress - Wed, 12/21/2016 - 3:28am
“The tightrope most craftspeople work is using wisely the tools at their disposal while not undermining the unique skill required to make things.”

- Graham Haydon. So glad to see him back at writing about woodworking.

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