Monday, April 28, 2014

Another new/old kanna---Cubs-Torasaburo Hirosada kanna

With so many tools to play with, it's a wonder that I get anything built at all.

I am in the market for a router plane. A router plane is another of those tools that you never knew that you needed. They do come in a few different sizes, so I have been straddling the fence for a while, trying to decide which size will be most useful for me. Luckily for me, I know the perfect guy to ask for some loaners.

My friend Brandon is selling off the better part of his antique tool collection, prior to sailing off into the sunset, but he still has more tools than any same person should. Fortunately, he was able to loan me a few of his router planes, so I could get an idea of what size tool I might prefer. His treasures are gradually being made available on eBay (seller ID:unionlover), so check there periodically if your tastes run to the vintage western tools.

Junji/yusui also sent a few more tools from the "Jason" box.

It amazes me that I can buy some old tool, that's been sitting for god knows how long, and the thing will actually be sharp. It's as though the craftsman actually sharpened their tools after using them. What a novel idea! These three need barely any work, just a bit of freeing-up, as the wooden bodies have shrunk some over the years and are too tight for my tastes.

So what's the story on this guy?

It has a very grimy dai, but it is almost full height still, so it hasn't seen much use and it feels like a quality tool. 

The blade is almost full height too.


Ouch!! Both blades are well made, but the main blade has a big chip knocked out of the edge and it has been sharpened very unevenly. 

The amount of skew is nearly 6mm! The broken portion is about 20mm long.

I had assumed that the edge broke during an overly enthusiastic ura-dashi session, but I don't see any hammer marks on the bevel. The blade is VERY sharp, so I'm guessing that it was one of those "Oops/Sonofabitch!!!" Moments.

The bevel is very reflective, but tarnished due to the new rust treatment that Junji has been subjecting his tools to. Rather unfortunate.

The kanji are very simple, and are unusually positioned, being very low and extending into the urasuki. 

These would have actually been stamped by the blacksmith, and the ura ground prior to heat treating/hardening. The urasuki was probably forge-black, prior to it's acid bath/de-rusting treatment.

Chris Hall (The Carpentry Way) is doing a thorough and professional series of articles (This one explains the importance shaping the ura on a new blade) that pertain to setting up a new kanna. My work deals more with damage control. 

Fat ashi and deformed blades are my lot in life, it seems. 

The back/secondary blade is very nice, and signed, but has a different title I think. The mei doesn't match. 

The head of the main blade is deformed, primarily in two areas.  On a positive note, the acid de-rusting treatment makes the wrought iron laminations very distinct! 

Dendrochronology of kanna blades. 

If you were to take a steel hammer, and whack the blade in the deformed areas.....

.....the cutting edge lines up perfectly!

Ouch! That chip is nasty. Look at the reflection, though. That steel is VERY bright!

The cutting edge is sharp..... AND the dai is true. The contact points are good.

The hollow areas on the sole of the kanna look like they were planed, not scraped. Rough and ready. 

I get the distinct sense that this carpenter belonged to the "Bigger hammer" school (as in, "Hit it with a bigger hammer. Make the Damn thing fit!").

The real bummer about this kanna. 

The blades were bashed around so much, the abutment has been damaged. This will mostly affect the tightness of the secondary blade, so I will withhold judgment for the time being. The dai is so nice otherwise, I am loath to scrap it.

So here we have a seemingly high quality tool, with well forged blades of good steel paired with a stable, well aged dai. The prior owner might have had some anger management issues, or he might just have been impatient and in a hurry to get some wood planed. He knew how to sharpen a blade, though!

Veeeeerrry interesting....... Curious...



  1. Jason, That looks to me like a very well made blade/sub-blade. Although you may have a couple slick tricks up your sleeve to save that dai, I would trash it, concentrate on rehabbing the blade, and then fit the newly restored blades to the new dai. Japanese white oak seems like the best dai material, but I made one out of Bubinga that worked pretty well. If I remember right, I used instructions in Odate's book to make my first dai. There may be something on Daiku Dojo and youtube as well. As usual, I am interested to see how this project ends up and I bet that blade will be excellent when it's fixed.


    1. Hi Dave!

      There is more of a story to the main blade, at least. Another post is soon to follow.

      The desire to rehab these old, packed up dai's is sure to be indicative of some deeper disorder rooted in my troubled psyche. I do love the Japanese white oak, though. It has such a nice combination of toughness and resilience, it feels "friendly" to me. That said, two of the kesurokai cool guys, kunimoto and craftWAKU, both use Bubinga dai's for their competition planes. They find that Bubinga's stability makes for a longer lasting tune. Purpleheart is said to work well, too.

      On a side note, is Dave Burnhard still around? I greatly enjoy reading his forum postings on the old HMS archives, and had hoped to find some additional information (website etc) but it's all gone now. Bummer.... I thought to ask you, as you are of the same cohort, sort of. I, too, am very interested in Japanese blacksmithing and metallurgy, as is Dave.

      Thanks for the encouragement!


  2. Beautiful dai! I love its darkness. Please keep us posted as you finish the tuneup.

    1. Hi Jim! I would love the darkness of the dai, too, but....... It's this nasty dark tarry stuff, not actually a darkly colored wood. Perhaps sumi ink mixed with pine pitch? You can't even call it patina, it's just...dirty, haha!

      It will be an interesting little project. I'll keep you posted.


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