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