Thursday, October 31, 2013

Au naturel - Ozuku Asagi

Ozuku asagi from Asagi means green, but this stone is more of a light tan color. Taupe?

Size 142-83-10 mm, tan/green very hard and fine

Back is very uneven, 15 mm tapering to about 8 mm. Bottom and sides varnished with poly.

Again, this one looks like solidified mud.

Mark, at, seems like a nice guy and will give you the straight talk on rocks and what he sells. They are actually real people! Very responsive and offer free shipping on orders over $60, so go spend! I find their prices are among the lowest, and when you factor in the free shipping.....AND they are good business people, meaning honest and ethical. It is sad that that is so notable, but.....

Anyway, they were out of these stones, so I wrote to ask if they would notify me when/if any came in. Mark immediately replied that they were gone and unlikely to get more, but he had ONE that he had just found, but it wasn't exactly perfect. "SEND IT!". I have since seen them selling elsewhere, and I like mine alot. When these stones are gone, you might not find them again. Prices only seem to go up and sharpening stones are consumables. Also, many people collect them, FWIW.

Very hard, uses almost no water and likes a nagura slurry to start. DMT 1200 diamond. 
T = 30 seconds (after jyunsyou)

Nice bright mirror. My kanna irons love this stone. All my tools love this stone!
This is another stone that just loves to be used. Hard, slow wearing and surprisingly fast. Maybe 10,000-12,0000 grit. Intermediate skills required, I suppose. This one is small. I need to stick it to some wood. Mostly I use it for doing the backs of plane irons and chisels. When I get rich, I will buy a full sized one. Smooth, but not too grabby. I miss it already.

Au naturel - Ink stone (not) mystery stone

Another Ebay mystery. I took a gamble and bought this stone from an Asian antiquities seller. He listed it as an ink stone, but without a well to hold ink......hmmm. The pictures showed what looked like tiny spots or holes, like you see with a suita stones, and it also had some prominent streaks of renge (red pattern). Looks like a sharpening stone to me. Luckily, it works like one too.....

Size 150-100-20 mm, olive green, evergreen, red and white. Slightly translucent!

This is the face that I use. All sides are finished, so no skin.

The spot is a low point. I REALLY didn't want to surface this thing down. It's HARD!

Uses basically no water

SUPER hard! This stone is really beautiful, lots of color and looks 3D. When I received it, it was all polished up with wax, I think. It looks like a gemstone, like a low grade jade or marble. Jadeite? Jasper? Funny to think of me sharpening old rusty tools with a semi-precious gemstone, haha. I tried it out, and the tools had a bad tendency to dig in and gouge and it felt very "grabby" or sticky. The tool would skate, then grab and gouge. Ha! Street fighter stone!

I lapped it with great difficulty using a 1200 DMT diamond stone. It forms a milky white, very thin slurry. Once it was flattened, it worked well. Needs a nagura! Expert stone, way above my pay grade. I'm still learning.

Shall we?

DMT 1200 slurry, sometimes gray, other times white.

T= 1 minute ( after jyunsyou). See the reflection in the steel?

Nice bright mirror!
Forms a creamy slurry, dries slowly and gives a crazy deep finish that just improves the longer that you use it. Surprisingly fast considering how hard it is. I have no idea what this stone is, but it acts like something special. From the photos of the 100's of other stones that I have looked at, it looks a bit like an ozuku asagi, but it is pretty well impossible to tell, especially from photos. I can't speak for everyone, but my photos suck. Ozuku is a mine in japan, asagi is just the color green, I think. It doesn't matter, but I am curious. I would buy another, but I am pretty sure that I couldn't afford it. Definitely a razor stone.

I haven't done it yet, but one of these days, I am going to do isolation tests to more accurately gauge the grit of each of my stones, as a reference piece. It is actually completely irrelevant, but when I started buying stones, I pent a lot of time looking for this type of information. I am currently working my way through Tanaka Kiyoto's  blog. He is a Japanese luthier and writes at great length about tools and sharpening stones. Oh yeah, and crafting guitars. He seems like a REALLY cool guy. I also really wish that I could read kanji. As it is, with Google translate I am only getting about 20% of the content and there is a lot to learn, if you know what to look for. I strive to learn enough to ask the right questions.

Speaking of asking questions, I am still trying to figure out what this stone is. There are some ink stones without wells, I have found.

So there ya' go.

Au naturel - Jyunsyouhonyama

Jyunsyouhonyama stone purchased from I think that means something like genuine article from the finest mountain, or some such. Disclaimer applies.

Size 145-82-15 mm green/gray with an incomplete and un-scratchy fracture

Chiseled back face, sides and bottom varnished with poly

Lightly marbled appearance, looks like solidified mud.

Moderately soft and thirsty.
This is another easy stone to use. I paid $50 with free shipping and consider it well worth the money. A good learner stone, relatively hard, needs no nagura. Dishes slightly, so you can learn good edge and corner technique if you want it to last as long as possible. Real men don't NEED to flatten (JK ;-)! Smooth, nice feedback. Finishes out at maybe 8000+? I can use this after my Suehiro rika 5000 (synthetic) and consider it good enough for carpentry. I like to go a bit finer, because I can.

Lets sharpen!

T= 30 seconds (after Tanba?)

Nice smokey mirror on steel and iron
 Not too much to say, really. I like it. I would buy larger size.

Au naturel-Aoto Tanba? (another Ebay mystery stone)

Spin the roulette wheel......Ebay IS interesting, I'll give it that. Mystery stone, looks like ones being sold as coming from Kameoka, Tanba. I named it Tanba?.

Size 220 - 65 - 70 mm, green/brown with very small dark spots and longitudinal striations

Sides and bottom have been varnished with polyurethane (gasp!)

Labels are still present but I have no idea what they say


Thirsty stone wants lots to drink

Lets put it to work, shall we?

This is where we left off after the amakusa

30 seconds on the Tanba?, lots of mud, nice even scratch pattern

Good dull mirror. A good medium coarse stone.

So, I don't actually use this stone very much. It's a good one but I fear that if I use it up, I won't be able to find a good replacement. A real catch-22. It is reasonably fast for natural stone, not quite as fast as a King 1000 but with a similar grit finish. Soft, muddy and good feedback, it feels like it is working. Easy stone. Needs no nagura. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Au naturel-Amakusa

Natural Japanese sharpening stones, purely subjective and your results will surely vary. Here are some thoughts.

Amakusa natural Japanese sharpening stone
Big A

 Big A(makusa), 220 x 70 x 60 mm, hard but feels soft and kind of "sticky" on the steel. Used by itself, the stone is slow, starts at about 800 grit or so then starts to form a thin slurry and if you leave it alone, will finish out at a final polish of around 2000-3000 grit mirror. Kind of an all-in-one stone, but it is slow. It stays pretty flat, but to speed things along, I use either a diamond plate nagura to get things started or, lately, an old favorite artificial mystery stone that gives a great hazy finish to the jigane. I bought mine cheap (about $30 or so) from Mark at and I expect it will last about forever.

Pick a side, any side.....

Looking at these photos reminds me that I need to try using a different face as the sharpening surface. Some stones work better using the flat grain side, others are best with the long grain side. The face that I have been using is neither one nor t'other but tends toward the flat/long grain, so I need to spend more time trying the shorter grain side and see how that feels.

This was my first (Japanese) natural and even though it was faster than the old clogged oil stone (or sandpaper, uggh!) that I had been using, it felt slow and rubbery (for lack of a better word) and I didn't really like it a whole lot. I have artificials in the same grit range that work very well, but for some reason I keep using this guy. Being so slow to dish, you can use it for working the backs of chisels and plane blades and it's big enough to use with a guide, which can come in handy for setting a new bevel angle. It is cheap AND you won't screw it up. Very broad range for one stone and I think that it makes a good "beginner" stone because if you focus on good technique, you will get good results. If I am prepping a new blade or a really abused tool that needs a lot of work, I will use a man made stone, but if I want to just relax and enjoy making something sharp, this is the rough stone that I use. I use it every day.

Showered up and ready for work

It may be that the reason that I use this stone everyday is because it works just fine using only a quick spritz of water. You can soak it if you want (it helps slurry production a bit) but it is very much a "splash and go" stone. It's silly but if I need to soak a stone before using it, I tend to put off sharpening till later but conversely, if I start with THIS stone, before I know it an hour has passed and my hands are stuck in this funny claw shape and won't move. Not an hour on just this one stone! God! Not even I am that masochistic! This one just gets me rollin'.

Lets sharpen something!

Start with a 1200 grit diamond stone finish
Not much happening after 30 seconds

So as I mentioned earlier, this stone works better if you use a slurry to get things started.

Use a diamond stone to make a thin slurry

30 seconds later and most of the scratches are gone
Stay with it long enough and it will give a nice, dull mirror finish
So I said that I would be sharpening stuff, and I kinda am, but most of this is just to give an idea of the surface finish that the various stones will give. Scratch patterns and the like. I have been on a sharpening stone jag lately and have been performing lots of tests of different stones. I need to write it down quickly, before I forget, and the actual tool sharpening comes in a distant second place. Bear with me, there is lots more to come. Lucky you!

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Sometimes things come full circle. 25 years ago, I bought Toshio Odate's book "Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use". I read most of it and thought "Wow, this is cool, but not for me." I had a Japanese dozuki saw and liked it a lot even though it seemed to shed teeth worse than my dog shed her hair in springtime. This was mostly my fault because at that time, all I was trying to do was cut something as quickly as possible (patience, Grasshopper) and didn't understand that sometimes slow can be quick. And the planes. BORING! No fancy Victorian antique-y metal, no giant honking block of wood that you could use to block up your car and worst of all, no rare and colorful exotic hardwoods. I was deep in my Krenov phase at the time (if you don't know, ask a woodworker) and while I truly desired to be one with the work and to create small, jeweled masterpieces, I had no patience, less skill and also no money (mostly still true). I was 20 years old, after all. You might remember that it was hard/expensive to find stuff pre-internet.

Fast forward and Japanese tools are the GOOD stuff for me. What happened? Two things, Port Orford Cedar (POC) and a new/old chisel. POC is a wonderful wood to work, smells great and has a beautiful shimmer IF planed and worked with SHARP tools. Touch sandpaper to it and it is still nice but the shimmer disappears. And tear out? Let me tell you, just when you are on your last pass with the plane.....FIATH! My tools were not up to the challenge.

I have an old Stanley 60 1/2 block plane that I have had forever and I used it all of the time. I sharpened it as best I could, and it works. I am mixing my tenses here, but the operative is past tense. I also have some crummy Craftsman bench chisels that I use as seldom as possible. The handles are clear plastic and they have a metal cap for hammer hitting. They don't stay sharp, but they work great for opening paint cans. People sell them on Ebay as "Quality vintage chisels" for $50 (makes you wonder how bad the new ones are). So a friend gives me an old English Sheffield steel paring chisel, a nice tool but nothing special, maybe 50-80 years old. This thing cuts like a lazer beam....OMG! And when you sharpen it, it actually gets sharp. Good steel. Is this how tools are SUPPOSED to be?

This is embarrassing. I consider myself a knowledgeable woodworker. I subscribed to "Fine Woodworking" magazine for for over a decade (until economic pressures caused them to drop the old large format magazine size and I got tired of reading the same re-packaged articles like "Which $300 router is for you?"). I try to build something everyday. My tools are "Scary Sharp(TM)! And I have been living a lie. I thought that my tools were sharp. To suggest that a workman's tools are dull is a grave insult (but might be true), and here I am. The lowest of the low. Dull.

This chisel is effortless to use, it cuts where you want it to cut and if you want your own, you can get one equally as good on Ebay for $10 all day long (or get a Japanese chisel and get REALLY sharp).  You don't need the collectors item, super special, highly desirable whatever it is or the newest, expensive tool steel blah blah unless you are one of those people who think that if you buy really expensive tools, some of the quality will rub off on you and make you better too. It may, who am I to talk. I had dull tools. Ohh, the shame.

Today it rains.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Pin up

So years from now *touch wood* I'll probably look back at the indignities that I've subjected my planes to with a certain amount of embarrassment, but for now, it is what it is....

Japanese planes are subtle creatures imbued with a quiet dignity. Or they are a chunk of wood with a big piece of metal inserted into the top, I'm not sure which. While I no longer feel any particular passion for those super expensive infill planes that look like jewelry and cost a second mortgage, I am not entirely immune to a bit of flair (and I don't need 37 pieces to show it!).

Out with the old...
Yeah, kinda flashy, I know. I live on the Oregon coast where everything rusts and/or turns green. You should see my car. I wash it twice a year, whether it needs it or not, but if I wait a bit longer, it should be fine with a quick mowing. This is brass or bronze brazing rod and WON'T rust, at least. It WILL turn green, however. It comes in 36" lengths and costs about $10/lb. That works out to about $0.20 I think. A decent welding shop will have a suitable size diameter. Probably not perfect, but surprisingly close, not being metric and all. The piece I used was just a teeeny bit small.

Use a small hammer
I peened over one end to tighten up the fit.

Use a nail set to get it where you want it

Now it's too tight, go figur'

And the gap is uneven

So, back to osae-gane 101. Pull the blades and figure out how to get the fit that you want. I tried messing around with peening the ends of the osae-bo just so and thought about just bending the bugger, but decided that the cleanest route would be to use a judicious bit of file work to get it perfect. Or good enough, as the case may be.

Remove material here

Nice and even
The holes for the osae-bo appear to be a bit off center and the original pin had been filed already. As you advance the osae-gane towards it's final position, it showed a slight tendency towards some left side drift and also showed an uneven wear mark on it's upper surface. You can see that a few pictures up. Obviously, I'm not the first person to decide upon the file route for this fix. It is sooo cool that someone, who knows how long ago, used this thing and thought "If I file riiiight here, it should be about right." Adjusting the fit of the pin also meant adjusting the fit of the blade to the sub-blade. More tap, bend and file work.

It works, but needs improvement
This is my rough jack style 55mm, a chu-shiko I suppose. It leaves a good finish, so not too rough, but not finish quality. I leave it set for a pretty fat shave, as you can see. If you check the shavings, you can see that they are a bit uneven in thickness and have a forward curl. Earlier in the day, the shavings were coming off clean and light, floaty (my word, I call dibs!), so the fitting work introduced a slight tension somewhere that still needs to be discovered. Or the stars are no longer in perfect alignment, that could be it!

I am really working on my sharpening and finish plane tuning and will be writing at length (Goody!) on that soon. This tuning thing is endlessly entertaining to me. It is REALLY incredible what these planes are capable of, but they are far from set-it-and-forget it tools. No such thing exists and that is a cruel joke played upon the gullible. Throwing money around doesn't help either. You can buy the nicest tool available and it will only work well until you sharpen it, if even that long. I love this stuff! My kind of puzzle.

Oh yea, I do build things on occasion....

pine box 10/10/2013
(Knotty) Pine box
A simple pine box based on a Japanese crate/ toolbox design. Bamboo pegs (yea!), glue (boo!), shellac and wax (yea!). Nothing special, I just love making boxes. What's in it? I'm not telling. Magic, maybe? Everyone loves boxes, right?


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Hello, is anyone home?......

I apologize for the prolonged absence. We recently got two new additions to the family, a couple of young cats, and right off the computer took a fatal spill. *Sigh*

So, new tablet computer in hand, i realize that these things are far from handy when it comes to typing ( not my strong suit to begin with)! I am still trying to decide where to go with this, so in the meantime, the posts will definitely have a different feel to them. SOOOOOO frustrating! Ive been busy with a number of projects, old and new, and have lots to talk about, i just need to find a reasonable means to do so.

box stock
Pine box to-be

plane speaking
More kanna tuning

Laundry room rebuild


But the new door looks good

My daughter Eliana has been busy as well.

birds de-constructed
Just hangin' out, playin' with dead stuff
We had a couple of bird strikes the other day and what does Ellie do? Pops them in the freezer, plucks the feathers for materials for a bird model/ display that she is planning, and starts researching ways to strip the flesh so that she can have some cool bird skeletons.....that's my daughter. Lest you think the blame lies solely on me, I assure you that my wife, Renee Bellinger, can be a bit odd at times as well.

 I need to start posting again or I'll have to add "inactive" to the list of adjectives that describe this thing.
Key words: inactive, obscure, irrelevant, obsolete.....confusing?

A quick shout out (does anyone say that anymore?) to my first follower. Hi Brandon! Brandon and his wonderful wife Virginia are owned by my old sailboat, a Columbia 43 ex-Oceanis now named Hagoth. Commiserate with them on their much more entertaining and well written blog....

Proud new owners

The log of Hagoth

Not to be too morbid, but prior to my MOAS (a PMP ((pseudo-myxoma peritonei)) term, Mother Of All Surgeries) when dying on the operating table was an all too real possibility, i started the divestiture process and put our sailboat up for sale at a superficially crazy cheap price. Brandon and Virginia were able to overlook the rough and have the vision and skill to give this lady a new life. I hope that they don't end up cursing me till the end of their days :-)

Brandon also gets a share of the blame for my re-kindled interest in woodworking. I'll write on that soon, as it forms a new core to the tool worship/sharpening thing that I've got going on. Now lets see if i can figure out how to include some pics.....