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Among the Japanese tools I’ve seen over the years, I haven’t seen much in the way of drills in the sense of the brad point/auger/twist bit drills that we’re familiar with in western woodworking. There are Japanese gimlets, small hand held tools used to make small holes. These holes would be used to make pilot holes for metal, wood, or bamboo nails. The business end of the tool has a square profile, and the four sides come to a point.
In use, you would hold the Japanese gimlet vertically between the palms of your hands, and roll your hands back and forth to make the gimlet spin clockwise and counterclockwise.
There’s also a version with a three pronged tip (sort of like a very aggressive spade bit, or a flat cross section of a brad point drill bit) that can create a slightly bigger hole for dowels, but it seems that the largest of these topped out at around 1/4″.
Getting ready to go over all the types of Japanese saws at Frank Klausz’s shop.
Thanks to Edith Klausz for the treats!
Getting ready to do my best to convince woodworkers to use Japanese chisels.
My car is all loaded with tools and props for shooting Japanese woodworking tool videos with Popular Woodworking Magazine this weekend at Frank Klausz’s shop.
I hear you singing through the wire.
My relationship with the oak tree in the garden is the same as the cypress tree in the yard.
On Saturday, at 3:25pm, just prior to the planing contest at NYC Kez, I was feeling pretty good. My blade was sharp, my practice runs at home that morning went well, and it had been a fun and very educational day up to that point. The one thing I noticed was that the day was quite humid, and that was causing some movement issues with the body of my plane. Throughout most of the day I decided not to deal with it too much, opting to tweak the sole of my plane right at the time of the planing contest, since doing so earlier would have just resulted in the body moving again by the time the planing contest rolled around.
Then, disaster. I needed to remove some of the wood right behind the mouth of the plane, and I forgot to back the blade a bit so I wouldn’t accidentally nick the edge of the blade. I then proceeded to accidentally nick the edge of the blade. It wasn’t much, but I could feel the nicks with the edge of my thumbnail.
This was bad. To fix this, I needed to resharpen the plane blade. If this was in my shop, that’s all that I would do, and I would move on. But for a planing contest, the alignment of the blade and body of the plane needs to be more precise, which meant that I had to redo the sole conditioning of the plane as well. And I only had five minutes.
Earlier that day, I had met Joshua Villegas. Joshua is a terrific woodworker, and all around great guy. He had the opportunity to apprentice in Japan in a chairmaking shop, where he had an immersion experience in Japanese woodworking. One of the lessons he learned was that despite the common conception of Japanese woodworkers working in a calm, zen state, the shop he worked in was all about speed. It was expected that sharpening would take five minutes, tops. I channeled my inner Joshua, and blew through the sharpening as fast as I could in five minutes. I then quickly went through the sole conditioning steps, much more quickly than I had ever done before.
When it came time for me to pull my shaving, I was pleasantly surprised. I knew I wasn’t going to win, and I knew that there were still some small nicks that would result in the shaving falling apart on the left side, but my shaving was only 8 microns thicker than the winning shaving, and that was without having the time to do a test run. The photo at the top of the post shows a shaving I took once I got home. The only additional tweaking I did was to adjust the position of the blade some more, which was the only thing I didn’t get to do at the planing contest.
My take away lesson from this is that setting up a Japanese plane doesn’t have to be a time-consuming affair. I was able to go from a nicked blade to a Japanese plane that was serviceable in 5 minutes. This jives with other aspects of Japanese tools that are thought to be finicky and takes up a lot of time. I can fit the bed of a new Japanese plane body to the blade in about 30 minutes. Conditioning the sole is pretty fast for me now, taking 10 minutes or less.
If you might be worried about using Japanese planes because there’s so much subtlety and nuance, and because using a Japanese plane takes so much dedication and attention to detail, don’t sweat it. It’s easier than you think.
Over the past weekend, I sent out a good number of photos and videos from NYC Kez, the excellent gathering of fans of Japanese woodworking and tools hosted by Yann Giguère. I used Instagram to post those photos/videos so I could send them to my blog, Twitter, and Facebook. [Insert criticism of crossposting here.] For whatever reason, the video embed didn’t want to play nicely with my blog theme, and so videos showed up as blank space if you’re looking at the desktop version of Giant Cypress.
I think I’ve fixed it, so if you scroll back, you should be able to see the videos now. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Final results. I did better than last year, even though I stupidly nicked up my plane blade right before the planing contest started.
A post shared by Wilbur Pan (@wilburpan) on Aug 5, 2017 at 1:18pm PDT
@jimblauvelt showing how it’s done. #nyckez
A post shared by Wilbur Pan (@wilburpan) on Aug 5, 2017 at 1:15pm PDT
@jbxianjr planing the heck out of this wood. #nyckez
A post shared by Wilbur Pan (@wilburpan) on Aug 5, 2017 at 1:02pm PDT
@bp.holcombe planing the heck out of this board. #nyckez
A post shared by Wilbur Pan (@wilburpan) on Aug 5, 2017 at 12:54pm PDT
Planing contest! #nyckez
Sawing a kerf between two boards butted side by side. #nyckez
Chiseling out pilot holes for boat building nails. #nyckez
Douglas Brooks demonstrating Japanese boat building methods. #nyckez