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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: 14 min 21 sec ago

@joshvillegas94 demonstrating how to make a Japanese plane body...

Fri, 08/04/2017 - 7:54am

@joshvillegas94 demonstrating how to make a Japanese plane body at #NYCKez

Let’s Plane!

Thu, 08/03/2017 - 9:08am
Let’s Plane!:

Brian Holcombe wrote a post on the lengths he will go to to kick my butt in the planing competition at the NYC Kez this weekend.

In all seriousness, this is a terrific writeup on how to make the body for a Japanese plane.

And again, if you haven’t signed up for the NYC Kez, there’s still time to do so. Hope to see you there.

NYC | KEZ | 2017 - MOKUCHI >>

Tue, 08/01/2017 - 9:28am
NYC | KEZ | 2017 - MOKUCHI >>:


Yann Giguère just announced the date for this year’s NYC Kez. It’s on Saturday, August 5, 2017, with a pre-Kez workshop on Friday, August 4. It’s a great event. Hope to see you there.

Just a reminder that NYC Kez is happening this weekend. Click on the link for information and tickets. I’ll be there Friday and Saturday. Hope to see you there. It’s completely worth it. 

Life on Earth on Twitter

Mon, 07/31/2017 - 7:48am
Life on Earth on Twitter:

Japanese woodworking does have its downsides.

I don’t have much background information on this video,...

Thu, 07/20/2017 - 1:08am

I don’t have much background information on this video, but it appears to be a German film showing how a chipbreaker works while planing a piece of wood in a manner similar to the Kawai-Kato chipbreaker video. Many of the factors demonstrated are still the same: the need to have the chipbreaker close to the edge of the blade, the effect of the angle of the leading edge of the chipbreaker, and what happens if the chipbreaker is set too close. You can also see the effect of the mouth, and my favorite bit, what happens when the chipbreaker isn’t set well on the blade.

This past weekend I had the good fortune to visit Frank Klausz...

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 3:28am

This past weekend I had the good fortune to visit Frank Klausz and his shop in preparation for shooting some videos on Japanese woodworking tools for Popular Woodworking in August. It was a great time, and Frank and his wife Edith were completely gracious hosts to me and my sons. 

Those of you who know our history might be surprised at this, but us New Jersey guys stick together, in the end.

Imagining Daniel Day-Lewis In A Life Without Acting

Fri, 07/14/2017 - 3:18am
Imagining Daniel Day-Lewis In A Life Without Acting:

Melissa Block, on Daniel Day-Lewis retiring from acting: 

So what will he be doing?

Well, we know that Day-Lewis has a number of deep passions outside of acting. Woodworking for one, dating back to when he was in boarding school.

Back then, he imagined a life making furniture and even applied for an apprenticeship with a cabinetmaker — before drama drew him in.

I’m always interested when people who you never would have thought would be a woodworker turn out to be one. This probably speaks to the universal appeal of the craft.

Although I currently use a Fuji X-Pro 1 as my main camera, I...

Thu, 07/13/2017 - 7:28am

Although I currently use a Fuji X-Pro 1 as my main camera, I learned photography on a Nikon F. I still have that camera and the 50/1.8 lens it came with.

(Picture from and poster available from Level Press, along with other posters of iconic Nikon cameras.)

NYC KEZ, August 5th, 2017

Wed, 07/12/2017 - 4:08am
NYC KEZ, August 5th, 2017:

Just a reminder that Yann Giguère is hosting the 4th annual NYC KEZ. It’s a full day of Japanese tool fun, with plenty of opportunity to try these tools hands on. There is a planing contest for those who are interested, and classes throughout that week as well as a one day workshop on Friday. Click on the link above for the full schedule.

Tickets are limited, but still available. I’ll be there Friday and Saturday, and hope to see you there, too. 

Cracked ice, East to West

Thu, 07/06/2017 - 3:28am

I’ve written an article on Chinese furniture for Popular Woodworking which should come out at the end of the year or the beginning of next year, if all goes well. One of the things that I didn’t have space for in the article was a motif called “cracked ice”. It’s a random pattern of triangles and other polygons that is mounted on the inside of a frame. They can be small scale as in the window above, or larger, as in the panel below.


They can incorporate an interior frame, as seen below.


The cracked ice pattern shows up in furniture pieces as well.


This pattern is meant to resemble cracks that form in ice covering a pond as the temperature goes up. This pattern also appears in other Chinese art, most notably in ceramics. In this case, the glaze naturally cracks during the firing process, resulting in the pattern on this vase.


Besides being a design motif that I find very attractive, I’m also intrigued by the process of laying this design out. Intrigued in the sense that I’ve been thinking about how I would lay out a pattern like this for at least 5 years now, and I still have no idea how to do it. It’s easy to lay out a random pattern of triangles and polygons. It’s much harder to do that in a way that looks good, and in the case of woodworking, good enough so that you can look at it for a few decades and not find it annoying. 

I’ve had a number of conversations with George Walker over the years, and more recently Jim Tolpin, about this design. They haven’t figured it out, either. We’re all sure that there are some sort of guidelines that can direct how to lay out this pattern. We just don’t know what it is.

Two weeks ago I was on vacation in Barcelona. And when you’re in Barcelona, you wind up looking at a lot of things built by Antoni Gaudí, designer of the  Sagrada Família, the Park Güell, and other famous Barcelona landmarks. One of the buildings we visited was the Palau Güell, which is a fabulous seven-story mansion in the heart of Barcelona. As we headed to the top, I was quite surprised to see this.


These are interior stained glass windows that face the top of a hall used for social events and musical concerts. It is said that Asian design was an early influence on him, but I don’t have any evidence that Gaudí deliberately was using the cracked ice design. In any case, Gaudí wasn’t the only Barcelona architect to use this sort of element in his architecture.


This is a stained glass panel in the Palau de la Música Catalana, designed by Lluís Domènech I Montaner, Unlike how Chinese woodworkers used this pattern, the cracked ice pattern is identical from panel to panel. In Chinese design, each panel would have had its own cracked ice pattern.

Even if Gaudí and Domènech I Montaner weren’t cribbing directly from Chinese design, they both were interested in incorporating design elements from nature into their work, so it may not be completely surprising that this design pops up in turn of the century Barcelona, given the natural inspiration for this design. 

Some woodworkers like to keep the hollow on the back of Japanese...

Wed, 07/05/2017 - 3:08am

Some woodworkers like to keep the hollow on the back of Japanese plane blades and chisels as wide as possible, resulting in the outside edge being really thin. Apparently this blacksmith wanted to frustrate those woodworkers.

(Photos from Nobori Hamono.)

Why A Workshop of Our Own is a Necessity (and Needs Your Support)

Thu, 06/29/2017 - 8:48am
Why A Workshop of Our Own is a Necessity (and Needs Your Support):

Megan Fitzpatrick:

Right now, A Workshop of Our Own has the opportunity to buy the building in which it’s located – but time is short. The collective needs to raise $100,000 overall and there are five days remaining in the Indiegogo campaign. Not only will you be supporting a good and necessary step toward equality, you can get some cool stuff in return. Check out the rewards, check your checkbook, and see if you can’t find a few dollars to help.

I sent in a contribution a while back. I hope you all can do the same.