Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Show and tell- 3/25/2014 (Special birthday edition!)


A few weeks ago, Junji put a REALLY nice kanna up for sale. My wife immediately told me to buy it, "If you don't, I will!", she said. Here I was, feeling all responsible and prudent for not immediately buying yet ANOTHER Japanese carpenter's plane. Besides, it was too nice, too new. My other tools would get jealous!

Well...... Actually, after seeing me wander aimlessly about the house, sighing heartfully, she finally got exasperated enough to ask, "Why the glum face?". Wisely foreseeing days of excruciating should I/shouldn't I, she decided to be proactive and kill two birds with one stone. I have a birthday coming up soon, and I am one of those people who are impossible to shop for, so she saw the perfect opportunity. Wise AND beautiful!

I have also begun my foray into high quality saws. My personal sharpening epiphany has lead me to learn how to sharpen EVERYTHING that I use. To transform a tool that merely works, into something that feels like an extension of your own hands..... Well, the thought of a disposable tool makes me a bit sad now. But EVERYONE uses disposable blade saws now, right?

Disposables work great, last a long time, AND are cheap. I, of course, need to buck the current and swim upstream. Given the choice between common and cheap over rare and difficult, I unfailingly choose the more obscure. I have been waiting a while for exactly this type of saw, a azebiki-noko, to use for cutting small joints and such. An opportunity presented itself....

A NOS Nakaya azebiki-noko. I think that it is made by Shigemon, but I'm not sure. In any event, it's here and I'm happy.

I need to make a handle.
A bit of surface rust, but no pitting, from sitting on a shelf for 30 years. One side is rip tooth, the other is crosscut.
The teeth are so tiny and sharp, they remind me of the teeth of a fish. A mean little bitey fish!
The blade(plate) is dramatically tapered in thickness. This photo is looking from the heel, towards the toe. It looks like the blade thins into nothing.
The edges are beveled and tapered, hand done. Perfect.
I happen to already have another saw (a 270mm Ryoba) made by the same blacksmith, but a different grade, more machine made than hand made.
Different sizes.....
....same signature.
I had heard about happy saws, and how they will "sing" when being used, how they resonate. The big saw will sing, true, but the little saw...... The little saw rings, clear as a bell, when you touch it. And keeps ringing, like a tuning fork. It's actually a bit unnerving.
This is my first "real" saw, a professional grade tool, and to compare the two saws, side by side, there is little to compare. They are very different. The little azebiki breaths quality. Sharpening is gonna be a b***h, though.
Now, my most expensive Japanese tool, although that's not saying much, haha! For the same price you could buy a (new) very mediocre chisel from Japan Woodworker.
72mm Kojiro hira-ganna (finishing plane).
My first plane that still has its koppa-gaeshi intact, nice and tight.
******EDIT 3/1/2015******
Doesn't this guy read his own stuff? I need to correct some terminology here,sorry. Obviously if you want to learn the proper terms, you might search elsewhere,haha. I suggest Chris hall.
I said koppa-gaeshi, but that's actually the nearly vertical ledge just in front of the blade's cutting edge.
What I meant to say.......is that the TSUTSUMI is still intact. The tsutsumi is the funny little ledge that contacts the bevel on the primary blade, and is primarily seen on the better quality dai's. After a few years of conditioning the sole of your kanna dai, the tsutsumi dwindles away to a mere flap of wood, but this kanna is virtually new still.
My apologies, my bad.
*****end edit*****
It even came with its own house!
The ura-suki has been carefully preserved, and has probably only been sharpened a few times. I love how easy the back face is to sharpen, when it hasn't been all fouled up. No fat ashi here! Ito-ura, here I come!
The soft iron ren-tetsu is VERY soft, easy to work, and sharpening will be a simple affair.
It also has a lot of figure. I expect that this is a special variety of iron.
The chip breaker blade has a spot of discoloration, where the hot (Yes, hot!) shavings and resin have gummed up the blade.

Sometimes a chip breaker blade will get almost blue from the heat of planing, certainly discolored, and you can feel the heat as you cut certain woods. I would guess that it has something to do with moisture content and all of the heat energy that is released as the water molecules change phase.

The detailed texture on the head of the blade is very deep and 3-D. I almost wonder if it was done using an arc-welder, it looks strangely familiar. It's not something that was done using a texturing hammer, in any event.
The head is a bit deformed by hammer strikes, but not badly.
Not surprisingly, I need to immediately polish it. Notice that I said polish, not sharpen. It IS sharp! And the bevel angle is already right where I want it, 30 degrees.
I head right to my best stone, the Nakayama-esque asagi.
Soooo much figure to the iron. The blacksmith used these remarkable materials to achieve this exact effect.....and this is ONLY visible if you use these stones. A true example of a functional synthesis in art, I suppose.
The bevel surface looks dull and uneven, but is actually an almost perfect mirror.
So cool.
AND the super soft wrought iron was easy to repair. It only took a handful of light hammer blows to reshape the head, back into its intended form. This is the softest metal that I have ever worked, by far. I tried to duplicate the original file marks, too.
Definitely my best birthday present, ever. How did you guess?
The danger here is that a door has been opened, a precedent has been set. If I mope enough and let slip some mournful sighs, will she buy me these oh so nice tsuki-nomi that Junji found this morning.....
20-22 inches of giant chisel, meant for fine tuning the supremely detailed joinery used in temple construction. So very pretty, two with ebony handles and what COULD be ren-tetsu bodies (very rare in chisels) and the third just, well......just nice to look at.
Sigh....... sigh.....*ahem*...SIGH!!!



  1. Hello!
    Well, my wife hasn't called me insane as of yet but I would want to take a look at all your Japanese tools. I had considered bidding on the third chisel above but resisted. So many tools from dealers like Junji that need a bit of work and so little time. Speaking of Junji, I am awaiting a package that will contain a 7mm kikai jakuri and a 14.5 motoichi, my first purchases from (him/her?) which will complete my set of groove making kanna under 24mm. If I knew, say 10 years ago what a complete collection of Japanese tools I would put together via Ebay I would have been incredulous.
    I found your blog looking for images of azebiki saws. I had the good fortune of being sold a large one a couple of years ago through a connection made on Ebay (made when it was still possible to exchange personal email addresses, which their filters now prevent). Amongst a number of very nice tools sold to me directly at his "buy it now" price was the azebiki. He said it was just a cheapy probably bought at Japan Woodworker or Hida. As I had a smaller cheap azebiki from Hida to compare it to I immediately noticed several differences: set hammer marks on the teeth, long grooves of irregular depth along the visible length, a hand engraved signature and the thickness tapering from thinest towards much thicker as the blade entered the handle. Dismounting the blade from handle the black tang was revealed to have been welded to the blade body. So, seemingly a hand made saw. I mentioned this in a future correspondence with the seller and he was surprised. My hypothesis is that he got it from Japan Woodworker and there was a mix up at the store. I used to visit it about once a year and some of the employees did not seem like were the sharpest guys around, though mostly very friendly. Compared the signature kanji to yours above......my search for the saws maker will have to continue.
    Last, the same gentleman sold me an amazing kiridashi, which I am sure you will appreciate.Not sure if I can paste a photo here but will try.
    No, photo won't paste.......

    1. Hi Michael!

      Oh yes..... It begins innocently enough.....

      "Say, that (insert common tool name here) would probably be useful."

      Then..... "Well this **** looks like it might be better than the one that I've got...and how can I pass up such a good deal?!"

      To....."FINALLY!!! The (insert name of totally obscure tool that no one has ever heard of because it was so specialized that no one needed it) of my DREAMS!!! MY PRECIOUS........ MY PRECIOUS!!!

      I already have more than I can use, it seems. I love the fixing as much as anything, but then what?

      I also love the surprise of getting a high quality tool, when you thought that you were buying something more mundane. !Score! on your azebiki-noko! It is finds like that that keep me looking. I remind my wife that it could be worse. I could be shopping for a new convertible, assault rifles, motorcycles, etc... Tools seem relatively harmless, though maybe not as fun.

      Well, I think tools are fun!



Like all of us, I am figuring this out as I go, so when you see something that is incorrect or flat out wrong (and you will!), let me know. This is a learning process. Real people and names, please. Constructive comments and questions are very welcome, but hate speak/politics are not! Life (get one!) is too short.

Thanks, Jason