Hand Tool Headlines
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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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...
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 all over the interwebs, but folks keep sending me the link, so here you go.
(Thanks to everyone who sent me this link.)
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.
Every time I say it’s done, I lie. But now it’s done. Ok, not all of it. Not every single tiny thing is done exactly the way I like it, in exactly the manner that I want it. But it’s considerably…
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
I finished my toolbox \(^-^)/
I think it turned out nicely :3
It sure did.
Horrible lighting while doing a demonstration at the Woodworking Show a couple of weekends ago in Somerset, NJ.
Hey, longtime reader here: I'm about to start buying Japanese tools on Ebay, and I'd like to know, how do I go about this safely? I've never used Ebay before.
Thanks for reading all this time. I really appreciate it.
Most of the Japanese tools I have I’ve bought from eBay. I think the same rules apply to buying Japanese tools as they do for buying vintage western tools.
- Look for listings with lots of good quality photos, and if there isn’t a photo of a particular part of the tool, assume that the seller is hiding something.
- Spend some time just looking at listings so you can get a feel for what price Japanese tools are selling at. I have an eBay search that looks for the term “Japanese” in the Collectibles → Tools, Hardware, and Locks category, which is quite useful.
- Try to buy from sellers that have a good eBay reputation.
- And finally, take your time. Despite the number of listings for Japanese tools that are labelled as “rare”, things do come up again.
I’m very excited to have the opportunity to give a talk on Japanese planes to the North Jersey Woodworkers Association at 7 pm on Monday, March 16 at the at the Allwood Community Church, 100 Chelsea Road, in Clifton, NJ. The NJWA is a great bunch of woodworkers, and if you live in the northern part of New Jersey and don’t belong to a woodworking club, you should join these guys.
Spock: science officer, first officer and subsequently commander of the Enterprise, Federation ambassador, and builder of giant pole lathes.
Dear Giant Cypress, I've been a long-time fan of your blog. Do you know anywhere I can find reviews for Japanese tools? I've been saving up my money for a while now, and I can finally afford the 240mm Koshino Shoku ryoba from Japan Woodworker; I just...
Thanks for reading, and for the nice comments. I really appreciate it.
There aren’t many Japanese tool reviews out there, probably because there aren’t many new Japanese tools coming onto the market, which is when tools are most likely to be reviewed. Also, there aren’t going to be many Fine Woodworking-style Japanese tool shootouts anytime soon. I think this is a good thing, as I think the utility of head-to-head comparisons is minimal.
My usual advice for buying Japanese tools is to contact the various Japanese tool sellers and talk to them about the type of tool you’re interested in and your budget. They all will give you useful information, but one of them is going to resonate with you more than the others. Buy your tools from that seller to start. You may not get the most bargain price for the tool you’re interested in, but you’ll be developing a relationship with a tool seller, which is going to be more valuable in the long run. This has worked very well for me.
As far as the 240mm Koshino Shoku ryoba goes, you may want to consider getting a 210mm ryoba, depending on what you want to do with the saw. If you really want a 240mm ryoba, but don’t want to deal with sharpening just yet, look into getting a Gyokucho #611 or #651 ryoba. Those models have replaceable blades, so you don’t have to worry about sharpening. I’ve used both of those saws, and they are very good in North American hardwoods.
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...
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.