Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tool haul 4-14-2014

So I have this rainy day pile of packages from Japan, just full of tools, right? And I have no earthly idea what is in them. Some of these have been sitting here for over 6 months now. Perhaps I need to take an inventory.

Wait, let me back up a moment. I finally got sick of having kanna strewn all over the top of my workbench, so I slapped together a quick rack out of some scrap lumber.

I would say that it's cute, but awfully small. Too small because it was immediately filled, and these are just my daily user planes. What about those other planes, the ones that are still in-progress? Wait a minute, how many kanna do I actually have, anyway?

I'm not ready to implicate myself quite yet, because my loving wife has been known to stop by occasionally and actually read this stuff. She is an amazingly patient and tolerant woman, but there are limits...... You know how on those YouTube videos of the old Japanese guy in his shop making tansu chests, there's a wall rack covered with tools? Let's say that it is clear where my aspirations lie.

Here is a video of my hero, Kiyoto Tanaka, doing a walkthrough of his lutherie studio. He is SUCH a dude! Amazing....

OK, old tool binge. Open all of the packages,  and see what's in there. I won't bore you with everything, but there were some notable things, I thought. All of this stuff was bought from Junji/yusui. Check out his eBay auctions here.

Another matched set of hollow/round planes, plus others in various radii.

Three (!!!) Kanna used for trimming the insides of groove/dados. I am going to write an entire post on this type of tool, something to the effect of, "The most incredible tool that nobody knows about!". Maybe I can sell an article to Fine Woodworking magazine (hahahahaha!!!).

The two on the left are LEFT hand hibukura-ganna, and are used for trimming the RIGHT inside edge of a dovetail groove. I am perplexed, but the Takena carpentry tools museum (in English!) says it is so. They would know best, I figure. I will defer. The bottom comes to a point, letting you get into tight inside corners. The one on the right is a wakitori-ganna. It has a wider base for stability, 90° to the cutting edge, so it is better for dados. 

Another hira-ganna smoothing plane (yeah, I know....). 

The interesting thing, though, is that the dai feels very grippy. I think that it was treated with hot, melted paraffin (candle wax), either soaked in or painted on. I like it!

What I DON'T like is the way that the back of the blade was flattened/sharpened.

The user didn't tap out the back at all, he just kept grinding away on the stones. This is the hard steel side, so this blade will be WAY harder to sharpen than it needs to be. It's almost impossible to get a TRULY sharp edge with a flat back blade, due to hydraulic effect and fluid support. Too much surface area! That's why things like the Charlesworth "Ruler trick" are so popular with western plane users. It's such a nice blade otherwise. I generally wouldn't buy one that was treated like this. I will fix this condition in another post.

Two molding plane with an Ovolo profile, of different radii (thankfully!). Here is one.

In western terms, it is of boxed construction, with the contact surfaces made with red bamboo. The guides are tacked on using nails. I might have to change that :-\ 

In inwardly curved rounding plane.....

....with a reverse radius.

You could use this for smoothing the outside edge of your ship's wheel, Brandon!

A new (ish) chamfer plane. The one in back is one of my old ones, of a similar style. You loosen the wing nuts to spread the two guides apart, making the chamfer wider. 

The new style has the right side guide anchored to the wing nut, so it automatically follows as you make the width adjustment. A VERY nice improvement! I had no idea!

Finally, a new (GASP!) saw, a Nakaya Eaks D210C joinery saw. The plate thickness is only 0.2mm!! I made a test cut and compared it to my other saws. The kerf is so thin that you might have to enlarge the photo.

The kerf width is half the thickness of my next finest saw, and only about 0.3mm wide. It is much thinner than a 0.5mm mechanical pencil lead. NICE SAW!!

My wife will be pleased to hear that, instead of being excited about buying a bunch of old tools, I now feel like........

A box of tools is full of a potential, but it is also an obligation. And lots of work.


  1. Jason,
    I happened onto your Blog because Wilbur Pan linked to it. I follow his blog and I now follow yours. I can't believe how good a job you did restoring that old kanna that came from Junji (Kanna ER series). Those resulting shavings were about as good as I have seen posted in Kezuroukai pictures and videos. And usually they are using some special Tsunesaburo or Tasai kanna. I can't wait to see how you fix the ura on this new kanna. Just as an experiment, I'll tell you how I would do it and we can compare methods. I would use a heatless wheel in a dremel tool to recreate the hollow but I am interested to see how you tackle the problem. Although I haven't done much woodworking in the past 10 years (which gives my wife plenty of ammo for joking about how my tools are getting dusty) I started with Japanese tools back in the 1980s when I met Robert Meadow and went to some demos by Makoto Imai. That was a long time ago and I guess I should start using the tools again.

    Thanks for the posts,

  2. Hi Dave, and thanks for your kind words! Awwwww, those guys at kezuroukai are GOOD! If only I could watch someone who REALLY knew what they were doing...... There is still so much yet to learn. Just yesterday, kuni put up a new YouTube video of his kanna in action. Now THAT guy is amazing!

    I must admit to getting a bit of a kick from tuning up these old beater planes. The overall idea is that a person can do good work without needing to mortgage your child, just to buy some boutique tools. Even the most expensive tools will need to be adjusted, tuned and sharpened, and it certainly is less nerve racking to tap out the back of a $20 kanna blade than say, a $500 whatever from Japan Woodworker. As with so many things, putting in the time to really learn your tools will make for a smoother transition to the good stuff. I guess that I want to show that most anything can be made to work (and perhaps work well!), it is just a matter taking a thoughtful approach and being confident enough to make a mistake or two. Mistakes can be fixed.

    The kanna that I refurbished was so easy to sharpen, I was concerned that the blade might be too soft, so I put it into heavy rotation to test it out. It produced one of the smoothest finished surfaces that I have ever gotten, though! Really nice! I planed some POCedar during the tuning process, then some Western red the next day, and after not TOO much time the planed surface was beginning to degrade. The edge was not dull, exactly, but starting to look a touch ragged, so I set it aside and finished the project using a different plane. The next project was made using pine and the little beater kanna had absolutely no problem, still produced a decent finish and is still hanging in there. I still haven't sharpened..... Still going strong. It's growing on me, but I'd still like a nice Funatsu......

    It's a kick to look at the old MM catalog on daiku dojo. Man, could Robert Meadow write, or what! No matter how you feel about him, he did introduce a lot of westerners to some very nice tools. My introduction to Japanese tools was the result of finding Odate's book while wandering through a Montana bookstore, also back in the 80's. Of course I had no money then, and it's only recently that I have had the time to re-discover this stuff. Kind of the reverse of your timeline, eh?

    Thanks for introducing yourself, I do appreciate it!


  3. Jason,
    I did meet Robert Major of Mahogany Masterpieces as well and even bought a Tsunesaburo plane from him early on. My wife and I lived in VT at the time he was in NH and early on he flew to Japan (nearly free because his wife was an airline employee) and met with various toolmakers that wanted to enter the US market. He would bring back sample planes, saws, and chisels that were super high quality but were unknown in the US. He did introduce a lot of fine Japanese tools to westerners but his story ended sadly.

    Robert Meadow of the Luthierie was another person. He was very skilled with Japanese tools very early on and used to have seminars at his place in Saugerties, NY back in the late 1980s. Sometimes Makoto Imai would give demonstrations. Makoto is probably the most skilled Japanese temple builder I have any knowledge of. He must be in his mid-60s now. If you look under the old "news" section of the Daiku Dojo website and hit "updates log" some of Robert Meadow's publications are listed at the 2008/06/02 spot and by Makoto at the 2007/04/17 Timber Framer's Guild way down at the bottom (237 photos).

    I don't know what happened to Be Le (Daiku Bob) of Daiku Dojo. He just sort of stopped adding to the website. I guess it's understandable because everything has a beginning and an end. I tried to contact him by email a few months ago but got no reply. Maybe his life has changed and he has moved on to something else.

    Just like you, I remember getting my copy of Toshio Odate's book back in the 1980s from a bookstore in Hanover, NH. It was thrilling at the time and I still remember paging through it while sitting in the car waiting for my wife to finish some shopping.

    You're right about what can be done with lesser expensive tools. Robert Meadow used to recommend against the super expensive tools in favor of the mid-priced ones that he called craftsman quality tools. These weren't at the bottom of the price range but not at the top either. It's pretty much all I own.

    Thanks for all your excellent posts. I have your blog in my favorites.

    1. Hi again Dave!

      Thank you for the correction, as to mix up the two Roberts would be an unfortunate error. Robert Major, masterful hyperbole........... Robert Meadow, skilled craftsmen of "The Lutherie". I have no personal knowledge of either (Heck, even my cat runs the other way when I start tool talking....), so what little I do know is gleaned from the net. Even 25 years later, there are a relative many reference to RM(MM), and only a few that I have seen to RM(The Lutherie). It seems a shame, as what I HAVE read presents Robert Meadow (lutherie) as a very thoughtful and skilled craftsmen, someone who I would have loved to meet and learn from.

      It sounds as though we subscribe to similar ideals re: craftsman quality tools. At least that is my goal. I've definitely got some, shall we say, lesser quality stuff, haha! It is interesting to try to develope an eye for quality tools in the absence of direct experience. Sometimes I fear that I ALL of these tools look the same in photos after 30 years (the good and not-so-good), and I am just fooling myself! In brief, wrought iron, clean lamination line, and a decent standard of file finish. At least, that was a good starting point for me. I would like to think that a high quality tool would be carefully used, but with seeing so many examples (photos) of tools both here and in Japan that have been functionally ruined...... It is clear that isn't the case. The "Use-a-bigger-hammer" mentality is international, it seems.

      Again, a sincere thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  4. OMG! A whole (huge!) page at Daiku dojo that I hadn't found! Thank you! The news/updates link is a great one!



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