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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: 3 min 7 sec ago

Hey what kind of straight edge do you use for tuning your planes?

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 7:14am

I have a straightedge made by Matsui. (I think that’s the name of a company, and not a blacksmith.) It has a notch cut into it so that you can place it on the sole of the plane with the blade in cutting position, which is really nice. Having said that, you can probably get the same result with a piece of extruded aluminum and a Dremel grinder.

Clouds. Soft and fluffy on the outside, turbulence monsters on...

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 7:09am

Clouds. Soft and fluffy on the outside, turbulence monsters on the inside. On my way to #handworks2017.

Jim McConnell, from his excellent blog The Daily Skep:Last week...

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 3:08am

Jim McConnell, from his excellent blog The Daily Skep:

Last week I went to visit someone in the hospital and found that nearly every surface in their room had a wood grain pattern laminated onto it. It wasn’t wood, of course, but it was made to look as wood-like as possible. The intent of the designer was to create an inviting atmosphere conducive to healing, and yet running my hand over the wood-like plastic left me confused and cold. It was a mixed message.

For me, all of this reinforces the belief that there is something deep in our psyche that thrills at the natural and dramatic variation in wood, and connects to the tactile warmth under the fingers. Consequently, there is something that comes un-moored when these touch-points are absent. This connection is so powerful that even fake wood is better than no wood for some people. For the rest of us, this is why we work with wood.

This photo is from my day job. It’s a part of the hallway in the pediatric surgery suite where the kids are rolled in and out of the operating room. Even though the kids won’t be touching the wall, since they’re on a stretcher, and even though the amount of contact time that the kids have with this section of hallway is measured in seconds as they wheel by, I find it significant that we went to the effort of making this small part of the hospital more inviting by putting these panels on the wall, even if we had to settle for fake wood.

Just in case Japanese chisels with multiple hollows weren’t...

Tue, 05/16/2017 - 3:18am

Just in case Japanese chisels with multiple hollows weren’t fancy enough for you.

(Picture from [究]刃物道.)

A new handle for a maebiki

Mon, 05/15/2017 - 3:58am

A while back I picked up this maebiki, and although it’s been a great prop for my Japanese tool talks, the handle had become loose to the point where it was easily falling off by itself.

A close look at the handle shows why. There’s a crack in the handle, and that is the back of the tang peeking through the crack. Apparently whoever made this handle positioned the slot that receives the tang in such a way that the back of the tang was just underneath the surface of the wood. Not a great design decision.

I found a scrap piece of 8/4 cherry that I thought would make a good handle.

I resawed the piece of cherry, and made a template of the tang of the saw. I positioned the tang in such a way that there would be plenty of wood on either side of it. I also used the old handle as a template to sketch out the outline of the new handle. I was careful to make the outer lines of the old handle follow the natural curve of the grain of the new handle blank.

I used chisels to chop out the slot that would receive the tang, and I used a router plane to clean up the bottom.

I then glued the pieces back together, and used the old handle as a template to mark the top and bottom of the new handle. I converted the oval shapes of the top and bottom to rough octagons, and connected the corners of the top and bottom octagons to mark the layout lines for shaping the handle.

I used my Japanese jack plane to plane away most of the waste. Note the thick shavings I was pulling off for this step. For a task like this, you don’t want to spend time creating gossamer-thin shavings that float on air. After I got close to my lines, I used a finer Japanese plane for final shaping. 

As it turned out, when I took the old handle off the maebiki, I found that the tang was bent and twisted. Despite my worst fears, after creating a makeshift anvil out of a chunk of wood. I was able to pound out the bend and twist in the tang with a hammer. The saw was perfectly straight after that. I finished the handle with some boiled linseed oil and a few coats of shellac. After that, it was just a matter of tapping the handle onto the maebiki.

Here’s the new handle. Not only is it firmly on the saw, I think it looks nicer than the old one, if I do say so myself. The new handle has a bit of a faceted appearance, but it seems to be more comfortable to hold compared to the old handle, which was more round. The more I look at the old handle the more surprised I am at how rough a job the maker did in shaping that handle. There are clear gouge marks all over it. The surface of the new handle is considerably nicer.

I might know more than your typical home center employee, but...

Fri, 05/12/2017 - 3:28am

I might know more than your typical home center employee, but not more than this guy.

Warning: rated R for language and content, and NSFW. Luckily, it’s Friday. Have a great weekend.

Giant Lion Sculpture Carved from Single Tree Trunk Took 20 People and 3 Years to Complete

Wed, 05/10/2017 - 3:58am
Giant Lion Sculpture Carved from Single Tree Trunk Took 20 People and 3 Years to Complete:

Golky, on a wooden lion sculpture installed at Fortune Plaza Times Square in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China:

The massive redwood lion was carved out of a single giant tree trunk by renowned sculptor Dengding Rui Yao and a team of 20 sculptors in Myanmar, over a period of three years. Once complete, it was transported 5,000 kilometers, arriving in China in December 2015. 

The Hardwood Derby at Fine Woodworking Live (or, Reason #68 why New Jersey is better than New York)

Mon, 05/08/2017 - 3:08am

I’m so happy to report that my Japanese plane car won the “Funniest Car” award at Fine Woodworking Live’s Hardwood Derby. Here’s how I made it.


I started with a Pinewood Derby car kit, mainly to get the wheels and axles. I took a piece of Japanese white oak that’s typically used to make a dai, milled it to the size of the pine blank for the body, and then laid out the lines needed to locate the throat and mouth of the dai. If you want to get one of these kits, go to your local Boy Scout/Cub Scout store. You can get these at hobby stores, but it’s not clear to me that the Boy Scouts or Cub Scouts benefit from those sales.


After that, it was some chopping to clear out the mortise and the mouth of the dai.


I went through the whole process of making a Japanese plane body, including sawing out the side grooves that hold the plane blade in place. The rules of the hardwood derby said that you couldn’t use metal, so I made a blade out of a piece of ebony instead.


And here’s the final result. Most Japanese planes have the blade set at a 40º effective cutting angle, but since this was a hardwood derby, I set the plane blade at 45º. That’s also why I numbered the car 45. The blade has the Chinese character for “car” carved into the face of it, just like the calligraphy you see on a Japanese plane blade. To make it clear that this was a Japanese plane car, I applied a Hello Kitty sticker to the front. And the wheels give this car two points of contact on the sole, just like a real Japanese plane.


Matt Kummel had the same idea, but with a western plane. 


Action shot.


And as you most likely have heard by now, Dyami Plotke took first place with his blue-colored Timberstrand car. I feel proud that my carpooling partner and I combined to take two of the trophies.


At an event like this, everyone is gunning to build the fastest car. The third award for Best Craftsmanship could have gone to any of the excellent craftsmen at this event. Providing the most entertainment value, however, would be the hardest thing to pull off at this race. And it was a guy from New Jersey who did that.

Upcoming talk on Chinese Furniture

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 5:58am

The North Jersey Woodworkers Association is nice enough to have me come back to give another talk. This time I’ll be covering Chinese furniture, and why western woodworkers should know and care about this great woodworking tradition from the other side of the Pacific.

The meeting is at 7 pm on Monday, May 15 at the at the Allwood Community Church, 100 Chelsea Road, in Clifton, NJ. There isn’t specific information on the talk on their website yet, but it should be there soon.

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.

Directed by Jonathan Demme.

Sat, 04/29/2017 - 2:48pm

Directed by Jonathan Demme.

Desirable brands Japanese wood chisels ?

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 3:18am

Pretty much all of them.

Here’s how I went about choosing the chisels that I use.

William, you have a good knowledge of Japanese woodworking tools even though you are base in America. I am from Borobudur, Indonesia but based in Thailand and Singapore. I like to ask where can I see your portoflio work that is done by Japanese tools....

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 3:58am

Thanks for reading! I really appreciate it.

I don’t really have a portfolio of the stuff I’ve built, but this is probably the nicest thing I’ve made so far. It’s a Bible box, an item that was common for 18th century Colonial American households to have, especially in the Pennsylvania region. Despite the western design, I made this all with Japanese tools.


I’ve only been in Singapore once, and that was for a meeting for work, so I didn’t have time to scope out woodworking resources. One thing I would highly suggest is to join a local woodworking club. Even if no one uses Japanese hand tools in particular, someone there will be into hand tools, and you can learn a lot that way. The internet is great, but there is nothing like seeing woodworking done in person to help you out.

Recently I watched a video of a Japanese woodworker using a glue called Shika TP-111 with great results. I have looked around for a supplier without luck. Have you seen this product or know where to get it? Thanks brad hanson

Wed, 04/26/2017 - 3:08am

I’m not familiar with that glue. From what I was able to Google (and I bet you did the same thing, with the same results), it doesn’t seem to be available in the U.S., which isn’t a surprise, since there are lots of things that are made overseas that don’t make it here.

I did find this page which describes the glue as an “isocyanate type wood adhesive”. Isocyanate adhesives are used in woodworking, and they appear to require a curing agent. It seems that its primary use is in making particleboard, OSB, and MDF, as opposed to joinery. The only suppliers of isocyanate adhesives that I could find are commercial agents, who don’t seem to be set up to sell to individuals.

That page also mentions this tidbit: “Since the curing agent reacts with moisture in the air, seal it immediately.” This makes this adhesive pretty similar to cyanoacrylate glues. There are some CA glues for woodworking available today for hobbyist woodworkers, so you might want to give that a try.

But I always say that liquid hide glue is the best.

An Apprentice Boat Builder in Japan

Tue, 04/25/2017 - 3:18am
An Apprentice Boat Builder in Japan:

If you’re in the New York area, Douglas Brooks will be giving a talk titled, “An Apprentice Boat Builder in Japan” on Wednesday, May 10, at 6:30 pm. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to go, but knowing his story, it should be a fantastic talk.

Tom McKenna, at the opening session of Fine Woodworking Live: I'd like to thank Rikon for sponsoring this event, and for donating the bandsaw that we'll be raffling off.

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 11:28am
Tom McKenna, at the opening session of Fine Woodworking Live: I'd like to thank Rikon for sponsoring this event, and for donating the bandsaw that we'll be raffling off.
Dyami: Can we fit that in the back of your car?
Me: We'll make it work.
Tom: I'd also like to thank Vic Tesolin for speaking.
Dyami: Can we fit Vic in the...
Me: No.