Saturday, July 26, 2014

Dodged a bullet.....

Long time no posts... What gives??!!

Living on the Oregon coast means that you need to make hay while the sun is shining ("What's that bright thing in the sky, Dad?). Summer is short and mercifully dry, so I've been outside working at the forge a bit, but mostly I've been making charcoal. LOTS of charcoal. That in itself is worthy of written comment, and I will, as soon as I have a good grasp. Don't hold your breath. Making good, tight, blacksmithing charcoal is hard! There is a world of nuanced particulars here. Bad charcoal is easy, I can tell you that, haha!

I haven't been in the shop too much, but the other day we did have a bit of rain, so it was time to reacquaint myself with a few back burner projects.

My most recent Japanese tools purchases will be remarkably easy fixes. More on this later.

My problem is that whenever I work on the tools, it fuels the completely ridiculous desire for MORE tools. I dodged a bullet today on two *very* interesting kanna that sold on eBay today. VERY interesting!!!

#1 looks nice.

The proportions seem just the slightest bit off.....

..... because it's HUGE! I emailed the seller for confirmation, and he said that the numbers are correct. The dai is 21.5" x 5". My longest naga-dai jointer is about 16" x 3.25", so this guy is considerably larger.

The blade is 3.75" (probably 95mm) wide x 5.125" high. This is an unusual size. My large kanna are close to 75mm wide, to continue the comparison.

I couldn't find any specific info on this big monster, but it sure looks nice to my eye.

#2 is a kanna that I actually have seen before (in pictures). "Horyu” by Miyamoto Masao. The Jeweled Dragon!

 Again, looks very nice, kinda dirty, but basically unused. I bet that it's never been sharpened by western hands. If so, they knew what they were doing. Too often you see these ridiculously nice/expensive tools that have been horribly worked over by someone who " bought the best ". Does that sounds like envy? Yep.

 The blade proportions are odd because it's huge! 

 4" (probably 105mm) wide x 4.75" high. A MONSTER! I've only seen this kanna in a 70mm width, so.....unusual, to say the least. Someone got a screaming deal.

The front is nice too.

The body of these blades are very soft wrought iron and the rounded areas are inserts of harder steel. These areas typically get all smashed up and folded over, at least if you adjust your kanna using a steel hammer. This blade will stay pretty, even if it sees hard use.

The back blade/chip-breaker is a work of art.

I love how the laminated steel of the lower edge is gently curved and symmetrical. It's perfect.

Thankfully they both sold for far more than I will spend, saving my long suffering wife the need to restrict my access to the bank account. Both of these kanna would be relegated to the display shelf, as I can't imagine actually using a 4" (105mm!!!) wide plane. GOD, imagine the pull! You need bigger stones to sharpen a blade that wide, too. I sure am curious, though. If one of you bought these kanna, please let me know how they are.....I am seriously envious!


  1. Jason, I actually took a whack at the Horyu because I remember them from Mahogany Masterpieces as being very high quality blades. I bid fairly high and thought I might win because the seller didn't describe the kanna very well and I thought maybe it wasn't seen by those in the know. Obviously I was wrong because it went for $535. Yikes!

    1. Hi Dave!

      I thought that you might be in on the action (laughing)! I was looking at one of the old MM catalogs, trying to determine the (inflated) retail price. If it was a run of the mill versions, it would've been $425 in 1986. Sword steel (tamahagane?) In a Kiri box was $1390...... But those prices were for the 70mm blade versions. If this kanna is actually a 105mm, WOW! I have no idea what that would've run then, much less now. $535 is a steal, at least for the collector value. As far as being a user, that's a lot of blade to pull! The thought of sharpening it gives me the warm tinglies, which I suppose is pretty odd.

      I won't say how much I bid, as marital bliss must be maintained, but it ended up not even making the bid roster. The action in the last few seconds wiped me of the board, haha! The funny thing is that I probably already have some kanna that are as good as the Miyamoto, but I still have the desire for a tool that I can put a makers name to. When I started buying these old beaters, I wanted to have a known quality tool to compare against, in the unlikely event that I were to buy a new/retail kanna when my skills were worthy. Now, I am more concerned that the reality might not meet my expectations, at least from a numbers standpoint, but then again, the numbers are such a small part of the whole.

      The same person won both auctions....... I wonder who? Chris Hall?

  2. Jason,
    If this is a repeat of one I already sent it's because I can't figure out whether this thing is posting to your blog or not.

    I guess you're right, to a collector $535 is a deal for a new old stock Horyu but it seemed like a lot of dough to me. It's difficult to predict who the buyer is. I remember some guys on Harrelson's forum that were professional woodworkers but also collected kanna - some had dozens of them.

    The seller is in NH, near where Mahogany Masterpieces was,so maybe he got hold of some of Robert Major's old kanna somehow but didn't know what he had. I think if he knew, he would have listed names like Horyu and Miyamoto Masao is the auction title. He also wouldn't have placed the main blade upside down in that other huge kanna for the auction pic.

    Just like you, I bid in the last 10 seconds of the auction and it didn't even post as a bid because someone outbid me at the same time. Oh well, I'm glad that I'm not trying to figure out how to use a plane that wide, and how to explain to my wife that I needed it.


    1. Haha, exactly!!! My wonderful, amazing wife is supremely tolerant of my many eccentricities, but a $600 kanna would be pushing it. My most expensive kanna to date has been $95, but most run closer to $30, if you can believe it. I saw that upside down blade too.... The gentleman who was selling them said that he had bought them both about 30 years ago, but never used them once. He hoped that the next owner might give them some use.

      I would be in a quandary, definitely! I remember reading in the old HMS tools forum about some of Jim Blauvelt's excellent users that he had bought, including a monster Tasai that was this size or bigger. Maybe 150mm (can't remember for sure), so he could finish a 6" beam in one pass? Huge!

  3. Your thoughts echoed my own on seeing these kanna up for auction. There was a Horyu on ebay last year that went for $604, so I figured this one would be equally valued if not higher. I threw my hat into the bidding frenzy, and certainly drove the prices up, but as you say the top bidder was determined. It would be both an honour and a novelty to tame one of these giants, both in sharpening and in use.

    1. Hi Mike!

      I wonder how many people did the conversion from imperial to metric in determining the size of this monsters? I wonder how many people understood that they were especially unusual? I would've loved setting up that big Horyu, but that would have probably been the best of it, as I sure don't need a kanna that big. I've got an 84mm blade somewhere, but 70mm is plenty big for what I do. Heck, 65mm is all I need, really.

      105mm..... Wow!

      Thanks for writing,



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