It has long been on my mind to look into the world of Japanese woodworking and their tools. I have always found the Japanese culture fascinating and I admire their work ethic and techniques. So after much deliberation, I decided to purchase some Japanese tools to add to my expansive collection of tools.
6 Piece Chisel Set
This set of Japanese chisels came with a 6mm, 8mm, 12mm, 18mm, 24mm and 30mm. Although they may look the same as Western chisels, they are in fact a lot different. Western chisels consist of only two parts, the blade and the handle whereas the Japanese chisels also have a tapered ferrule and a steel hoop too.
The blade has a tang which fits into the hole in the handle; the ferrule on the Japanese chisel is then fitted around the tapered end of the handle to form a socket. By doing this it ensures that the handle is extremely secure, which is necessary for any woodworker.
The handles, like these ones, are generally made from white oak. The steel hoop is fitted at the end of the handle and then the end grain is beaten around the steel hoop, locking it in. This method is called ‘mushrooming’ or ‘mushroomed’. The steel hoop adds strength to the handle when struck with a metal hammer.
What really defines the Japanese chisel though is all in the blade. The blade is hand forged by laminating two different types of metal together. The top layer is softer and the bottom layer is thinner, harder and hollowed. The harder, thin metal:
- Stays sharper for longer,
- Able to use on a variety of materials as well as wood,
- Usually hardened to over HRC 65,
- Doesn’t require a honing edge,
- The hollowed back ensures easier and quicker sharpening. It also reduces friction.
The thing that I love about these is the look. Just beautiful to look at.
Hassunme Crosscut Saw
When it comes to Japanese Saws, generally each saw is specifically designed to do a particular job although you can purchase multi-purpose saws too. As I love collecting tools, I decided to purchase job specific tools so that I had an excuse to buy more!
This is the Hassunme Crosscut Saw. As the name may give it away, it’s designed to do crossuts and leave a fantastic finish. This an easily cut through thick timber if used correctly. I like to Square a line around the timber, cut down opposite sides and then essentially use them cuts as a guide for the blade to follow through… if that makes sense??
The blade is replaceable and can you do this by turning the blade upside down so that the teeth are facing up, then on the corner of a hard surface you want to hit the back of the blade a few times to release it from the short spine. Then to put the new blade on you have to do everything in reverse except from you have to hit the spine onto a hard surface and not the blade. By hitting the spine, it forces the blade to squeeze tightly into the spine with the harsh and sudden impact.
Ikedame Dovetail Saw
This dovetail saw is a very small tool and may be difficult for western tool users to get to grips with it, literally. Dovetails are a very fine, precise and awkward joint to master and if you’ve never used a Japanese straight handle saw before then you are going to require a few practice runs.
Where as we get taught to hold the saw with our fore finger pointing towards the blade to ensure a straight cut, Japanese saws are held differently. You simply grasp the end of the handle with all fingers wrapped around and long gentle strokes. I am still trying to master the technique but its going to take time.
The width of the blade is thinner towards the handle which allows more natural and smoother cuts. It has very fine teeth 19 tpi (teeth per inch) which produces extremely fine cuts. There is nothing like it, personally. Unlike the other saws, this blade is not replaceable. It’s a shame but Western saws are exactly the same in that way.
Dozuki-Me Tenon Saw
This is the Dozuki me Tenon Saw. It serves the same purpose as our Tenon Saws but the different is that Japanese Tenon Saw blades are not as deep. Due to the 0.5mm thick blade, it will have a tendency to wonder off cuts, bend the blade if cutting too fast and generally the cut may not be executed that great. The spine ensures that the blade is stiff and the cut will be very smooth and helps with ensuring a straighter cut.
The blade changing is the same as the Crosscut Saw I bought too, except for the longer spine. Other than that, they are the virtually the same.
I use this saw at work when I’m cutting some features that require a perfect cut edge because its is brilliant. When having to cut through vital features that have no room for error, this saw leaves a perfect cut edge. I highly recommend it, seriously, a must have!
Just for size comparison, here are the three saws together. The more detailed the job is, the finer and smaller the saw becomes. They look fantastic when all together and the Japanese tools are designed to take up minimal space when packed away but generally people drill a hole in the end of the handle, loop leather through the hole and then hang them up in the workshop.
For those with keen eyes, yes, that is the thickness of these blades! (It’s the very feint vertical line in the middle if you’re struggling).
If Japanese tools have been on your mind then I hope this helps you deciding which route to take. so until next time – folks.