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The Woodworking Blogs Aggregator

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

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Giant Cypress

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A monk asked Joshu, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China?” Joshu said, “The oak tree in the garden.”A monk asked Zhaozhou, “What is the living meaning of Zen?” Zhaozhou said, “The cypress tree in the yard.”
Updated: 1 hour 8 min ago

This is a little late for Chinese New Year, but this is a...

Thu, 02/26/2015 - 3:08am

This is a little late for Chinese New Year, but this is a terrific video from the Wall Street Journal about the Chinese New Year’s tradition of da shu hua (打樹花), which involves flinging hot molten iron against a wall in the blacksmithing town of Nuanquan. This tradition is over 500 years old, and the effect is astounding.

I think my favorite part is when the blacksmith Wang De (王德), who is 52 years old, says, “I think I can do it for another 20 years because I think I’m in pretty good health.”

At that point, he’ll be in his seventies, and still throwing around molten steel heated to 1600ºF, while wearing protective clothing made out of sheepskin for protection. That’s awesome.

(Thanks to Tools For Working Wood for the link.)

Hello Wilbur. I sharpen all of my edge tools (western and Japanese) full bevel without a grinder. I am slow at this but don't mind the time as the result is very good using a progression of 1000-5000-15000 grit Shapton stones. Many of the forum threads...

Wed, 02/25/2015 - 4:28am

Hello Bruce. Thanks for reading. I really appreciate it.

Many woodworkers who use Japanese tools whom I’ve spoken with over the years often adopt this sort of workflow: when starting, they take time to sharpen the tools that they will be using for the day. After that, they go to work.

This may seem like overattention to sharpening, or maybe not being mindful of time, but I think what gets missed is that for the most part, once the sharpening is done, they seem to be good for at least the majority of the day. There’s something to be said for getting the sharpening out of the way so that you can spend the rest of the day woodworking, rather than interrupting your progress on your project to sharpen up a tool.

I should caveat the above by noting that it’s most likely an overreach to characterize all woodworkers who use Japanese tools as following one method for their workflow. It would be like saying that all woodworkers who use western tools do the same thing as well.

Having a childhood flashback right now.

Tue, 02/24/2015 - 3:38am

Having a childhood flashback right now.

A New Theory on How Neanderthal DNA Spread in Asia

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 3:08am
A New Theory on How Neanderthal DNA Spread in Asia:

Carl Zimmer:

Researchers also have found a peculiar pattern in non-Africans: People in China, Japan and other East Asian countries have about 20 percent more Neanderthal DNA than do Europeans. 

I’m 20 percent more Neanderthal! That explains my interest in hand tools. 

新年快樂!Happy Chinese New Year from Hello Kitty and giant Cypress,...

Thu, 02/19/2015 - 4:18am

新年快樂!Happy Chinese New Year from Hello Kitty and giant Cypress, and may you have good fortune in the Year of the Sheep.

tinkeringmonkey:Not all signs we make are for corporate use - we...

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 3:18am


Not all signs we make are for corporate use - we made this one for a traditional Chinese wedding.

The long game

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 3:08am

A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to mentor a local high school student on his first woodworking project. It was a great experience for me, and I hope it was for him as well. Recently, another student from the same high school contacted me to do an interview on woodworking, and later he called me back to ask if I could be his advisor on a woodworking project for one of his classes. Of course I said yes. This past weekend, we worked on the design for the bookcase he wants to build

Every so often, there’s talk about whether woodworking is dying, and where the next generation of woodworkers will be coming from. I think that concern is overblown. Kids have an innate urge to make and create things, and many times all they need is some light guidance or supervision, and, probably more importantly, for people to just get out of the way.

This week is Get Woodworking Week 2015, and as Tom Iovino writes, this was an idea by Tom “to get folks off the sideline and into woodworking as a hobby.” You may think that this is a hard thing to do. It doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as helping a high school student through a project. And even if that student doesn’t start another woodworking project again until he’s able to settle down in his own house, the seeds of woodworking get planted.

In my case, that’s completely true. One of my earliest childhood memories is of my dad building a set of bookcases. He may not have done what some folks consider fine woodworking. He banged them together out of plywood, glue, and screws, and finished them with a heroic amount of a dark brown stain. But those bookcases taught me that you could build stuff for yourself, and they have survived three moves. It was nearly thirty years later before I was able to start setting up a shop of my own, but I can trace my urge to do woodworking back to watching my dad make those bookcases.

So if you have the opportunity to help a kid with woodworking, do so. The dividends will pay off. Play the long game. It will be completely worth it.

Upcoming seminar on Japanese tools

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 7:28am

Earlier, I had mentioned that I had the good luck to be given the opportunity to giving a talk on Japanese tools to the Chesapeake Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers for their spring meeting. The details for this have been finalized. The meeting is scheduled for May 30, 2015 at the Olde Mill Cabinet Shoppe, 1660 Camp Betty Washington Rd, in York, PA. The meeting will run from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, and my talk will start about 1:00 pm, give or take. 

I will be one of two speakers that day. Bess Naylor, the owner of Olde Mill Cabinet Shoppe, will be talking about 18th century reproduction techniques. I’ll be talking about woodworking tools from the other side of the world. The cost of attending the meeting is $25, and you get two talks for the price of one. I hope to see you there.

Out here in New Jersey, we’ve gotten some snow, and subsequent...

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 5:18am

Out here in New Jersey, we’ve gotten some snow, and subsequent delays in school openings for our kids. Having grown up in Chicago, I don’t mind the snow, but it would be a lot more fun if we could do something with it like they do at the Sapporo Snow Festival.

(Photos from Van City Buzz and Instagram.)

Japanese woodworking resources

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 9:38am


When I gave my talks on Japanese tools at Woodworking in America last fall, I put together a handout with resources for those attending the conference. In an attempt to be eco-friendly, I created a PDF file and made it available for downloading.

Yesterday, I had the great experience of giving a talk on Japanese tools to CRAFTS of New Jersey, one of the best old woodworking tool clubs around. One of the questions I got was where to get more information on Japanese woodworking. I first thought about my handout, and then it struck me that the “Links” page that’s been part of giant Cypress since the beginning needed updating.

I’ve updated and expanded that page, and to reflect its new focus, I’ve retitled it “Resources”. The link is available at the top of the page, and is as comprehensive a source for books, videos, internet resources, and tool sellers as I have been able to put together. I hope you like the update, and let me know if there is anything else that could be added.

The Great Handicraft Extinction — The Tokyo Foundation

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 3:38am
The Great Handicraft Extinction — The Tokyo Foundation:

Shiono Yonematsu, on the disappearance of traditional crafts in Japan:

Farmers began buying hoes and other implements mass-produced in factories instead of having them made to order. Since they were tailored neither to the soil in one’s field nor to one’s own body type, they were a bit harder to use, but they were so much cheaper that people decided to adapt themselves to the implement instead of the other way around. In this case they chose price over ease of use, and this made the work itself more onerous and less enjoyable. Instead of people shaping the implements, implements shaped the people.

Apparently, the Walmart effect is global.

(This is the first article of a three part series, and the whole series is well worth reading. Thanks to the Sturdy Butterfly for the link.)

It wasn’t that men couldn’t talk before. It was that before...

Wed, 01/28/2015 - 8:58am

It wasn’t that men couldn’t talk before. It was that before tools, there wasn’t anything worth talking about.

(From the January 17, 2015 episode of Wait WaitDon’t Tell Me!)

"There was also rights issues with the piano song."

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 5:38am
“There was also rights issues with the piano song.”

- Eddie Huang, producer of the new sitcom Fresh Off the Boat at the ABC TCAs, fielding this unbelievable question from a reporter: “I love the Asian culture. And I was just talking about the chopsticks, and I just love all that. Will I get to see that, or will it be more Americanized?”

Hatful of hollow, redux

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 3:18am


In a recent episode of Wood Talk, a question was asked about paring with a Japanese chisel with a single hollow. If you haven’t heard that episode (and if you’re not following the Wood Talk podcast, why aren’t you?), go to the link and fast forward to 27:18. I’ll wait.

The question was whether a wide Japanese chisel with a single hollow would cause problems when paring, since the hollow will interfere with using the back of the chisel as a reference. Here’s a photo with a 30mm Japanese chisel and a narrow strip of wood to illustrate the potential issue.


I thought that Marc, Matt, and Shannon did a fine job of fielding this question, and then this came up:

Matt: This would be a great one for, say, Wilbur. We know you’re listening.

Marc: Yeah. We do.

How could I say no? So I set up an experiment.

The first order of business was to figure out where this issue would come up. Using a Japanese chisel to chop waste from dovetails isn’t a problem, because the chisel will be narrower than the gap being made. Chopping a mortise isn’t an issue, either, since the mortise will be the size of the chisel being used to chop it.

The scenario I came up with was using a wide chisel to trim a relatively narrow tenon. If all you have is a wide chisel, this is what happens.



This board is 9/16” wide, or about 1/2 the width of the chisel. Clearly, if I was to blindly pare away at the tenon, the hollow should theoretically interfere with registering the chisel on the wood.

So I set about laying out one side of a tenon on this board. Here’s the layout.


I then sawed away the waste area. It was harder than I thought it would be to deliberately miss the lines. I assume that was because I was using a Japanese saw, since Japanese saws are so awesome that they will track a line even when you don’t want to AMIRIGHT? Even so, I managed to leave some waste that needed paring away.


I went at it with the 30mm chisel. Again, this chisel is about three times the width of the board. Even with the hollow, I was able to split my pencil lines by paring.


And the other side.


Why was I able to hit the lines even though the hollow should be getting in the way? There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First of all, the hollow on the back of a Japanese chisel is really quite shallow. As best as I can measure, the hollow is at most 1/32” deep, and that’s in the area of the hollow by the handle. The hollow near the cutting edge is only 1/64” deep. I would think that an error on this scale is certainly tolerable. And if it isn’t, there’s always the Shannon Rogers shaving trick to correct the issue.

The second thing is that, again, this issue only seems to come up when paring a narrow piece of wood with a wide chisel, which means that in the context of trimming a tenon, you would be putting the chisel on the endgrain of the tenon and pushing forward along the length of the tenon, like this.


This has got to be the most stupid way of trimming a tenon ever. I had wondered why I never seemed to run into this situation before, and it’s probably because when I normally am trimming a tenon, I’ll pare across the face of the cheek instead. Paring with the grain inherently gives you less control, since there’s always the chance that the chisel will just follow the grain, going off your line at best, and leading to an undercut at worst.

Bottom line: if you’re looking to get a wider Japanese chisel, having a single hollow won’t interfere with paring tasks. If you’re making a decision between single hollow and multiple hollows, go with the one that you think looks the coolest.

If anyone can think of another scenario where the hollow on a wide Japanese chisel might cause issues, let me know. I’ll run another experiment.

Lovely profile of Hisao Havefusa of Miya Shoji, a Japanese...

Mon, 01/19/2015 - 3:08am

Lovely profile of Hisao Havefusa of Miya Shoji, a Japanese furniture firm located in New York. Lots of Japanese tool action here.

The Honing Progression

Wed, 01/14/2015 - 6:08am
The Honing Progression:

Combine an interest in sharpening razors with a scanning electron microscope, and you get some fascinating information on what happens at the edge.

Upcoming talks on Japanese tools

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 3:38am

I’m lucky enough to have been given a couple of opportunities to talk about Japanese tools over the next few months. The first talk will be on Sunday, Feb. 1, for CRAFTS of New Jersey, at the Masonic Lodge on Ridge Road & Dennis Ave., in High Bridge, NJ. There will be tool sellers and tailgating starting at 10:00 am, and my talk is scheduled for 1:00 pm. CRAFTS is New Jersey’s premier antique tool collectors club, and is well known among woodworkers in these parts for their annual spring auction, where Frank Klausz is sure to add to his plumb bob collection.

The details of my second talk aren’t completely set yet, but I will be giving another talk on Japanese tools to the Chesapeake Chapter of the Society of American Period Furniture Makers for their spring meeting. We’re looking at an April/May timeframe at this point. I’ll be sure to give you more details as they become available.

These talks should be a lot of fun. Although it may seem like this is a repeat of my sessions at Woodworking in America, the audiences are going to be quite different. Talking with tool collectors is a bit different than talking to woodworkers, and talking to woodworkers who have a particular focus on period furniture will be a new experience for me.

Finally, Andrew Hunter will be presenting on Japanese tools and Chinese furniture at the Northeast Woodworkers Association Showcase on the weekend of March 28-29. These talks should be terrific. I’ll be there.

Reason #8 why New Jersey is better than New York

Fri, 01/09/2015 - 3:19am

When the boys went on their excursion last weekend to the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at RE-CO BKLYN, they decided to stop for some Chinese food.

The older boy decided that Brooklyn Chinese food is way overrated.

To make up for it, the younger one had dim sum in New Jersey the next day, which he says is much better.

"Writing is better if it’s kept simple. Every sentence doesn’t need to have perfect..."

Tue, 01/06/2015 - 3:28am
“Writing is better if it’s kept simple. Every sentence doesn’t need to have perfect noun/verb agreement. I’ve said “ain’t” on the air. Because I sometimes use “ain’t” when I’m talking. Cincinnati Bengals thought that they were going to go 12 and 4 this year — man, they ain’t going 12 and 4! I’ll write that because I’m going to write like I talk.”


Stuart Scott, in an interview from NPR’s On The Media in 2002.



by Dr. Radut