Japanese tools #9: Japanese planing board / Japanese workbench

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Blog entry by mafe posted 05-16-2012 10:22 PM 79327 reads 16 times favorited 32 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 8: Sharpening station for water stones the pond Part 9 of Japanese tools series Part 10: Japanese saw horses - floor horses (blog) »

Japanese planing board
Japanese workbench

Ok as promised I will continue the Japanese blog series.
It all started by me reading Toshio Odate’s book ‘Japanese woodworking tools their tradition spirit and use’, and now since I have moved to a new location where I at least for a while will have no workshop, the story will continue since I plan on using Japanese tools and methods in the meantime.

Get started MaFe.

So to work with my Japanese tools, I needed Japanese ‘set up’, a bench… hmmmm… they did not use workbenches… ok what then? A beam, some horses and a planing board!

Before I start I have to admit this blog is not as detailed as usual, I simply enjoyed my time so much that I forgot to take photos, but I will try to tell what has happened and how it was made so it will be possible to build one if wanted (please forgive me).

So this is where it started, as often before a drawing – this time with a little watercolor also.
I had a roof rafter that a friend gave me nice thick wood and wide also, the same as I used for my shaving horse (thank you Jakob), so I decided to keep the shape of the rafter as a memory and thought it will give a little ‘edge’ to the design.

We step right in where I check the board’s flatness with a set of winding sticks, after I have cut the rafter to length, made two legs that are mounted with sliding dovetails.
The legs keep the board of the ground and it adds stability to the board.
(If you have a really thick board / beam you do not need the legs).

Then I marked the high spots, and started a work out with a scrub plane (Scandinavian model).
Since the board was not straight at all it really needed some work, but it was good exorcise for me.

The longest plane I have is a no.8 Stanley, so it was put to service for the next phase of making the board dead flat and straight and once it took shaves at every spot it was time to move on.

Now finally for Japanese plane to smooth up the surface.
I ran it skewed to the wood and made the shaves thinner and thinner as I went.

Here the three planes and their shaves.
Scandinavian, American, Japanese union.

Next I wanted a 90 degree angel in the one end to make a shooting board function in this narrow end.
More of this later.

And marked up with my line.
(This time I was trying some new black color powder that was used in the old days by boat builders but showed up to be a disaster… it stuck to everything and I even needed to sand down my table after… learning by doing).

At the wide end of the board I just wanted a planing stop that also should be mounted in a sliding dovetail so it can be easily removed and changed.

Here is the idea, a stop and a bar mounted on the side of the board to make a shooting board function.
Perhaps foolish to mix but I want to try…

This is the idea.
(And the fast viewer will see something is wrong…).

From this point I forgot to take photos again, but to make the sliding dovetails you can either just cut them with your Japanese saw, plane them out, use a router or like I did a table saw and a plunge cut saw on rails.

So here we are, the first shaves made on the board.

Yes I took it to the garden.
To smell nature and wood mix.
And used now my Sumitsubo for marking lines with ink and no more ancient powder…

From another view (snail cam).

And here MaFe making shaves with the Japanese sun behind.

Long beautiful shaves.

The stop works excellent.

The shooting board function is fine too – but…
I made it for push action and not for pull like the Japanese planes am used…
Tough luck MaFe.

But it works fine, and for the little I use it I’m sure it will do for now.

Straight end!

This is it.

I think it is a simple yet effective and beautiful workbench and I’m sure it will serve me well.

Need I say more?

In fact I found it so beautiful that it moved into my living room.

Hope this blog can bring some inspiration to others that play with Japanese tools and work methods.

I want to send a special warm thought to Toshio Odate, thank you for inspire ring me with your book, but most of all my sister who offered me my Japanese chisels and a Kanna that was the reason why this interest started.

Here videos to inspire, in this you will see an old Japanese carpenter using traditional methods and tools and the board in use.


Japanese using a planing board:

Tools from Japan:
Popular science 1967:

Best thoughts,


-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

32 comments so far

View lew's profile


13387 posts in 4920 days

#1 posted 05-16-2012 10:33 PM

Fantastic, as usual, Mads!

I am intrigued with the device on the end of your chalk line. Could you tell me what it is?


-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View mafe's profile


13204 posts in 4254 days

#2 posted 05-16-2012 10:39 PM

Thank you Lew.

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View Don W's profile

Don W

20121 posts in 3733 days

#3 posted 05-16-2012 11:09 PM

very good Mads. I’m so glad your back. I’m not sure I’m a ’’sit on the ground and work’’ kind of guy, but the ideas are interesting. Thanks for sharing.

-- - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View David Grimes's profile

David Grimes

2080 posts in 3805 days

#4 posted 05-16-2012 11:26 PM

Nice work, Mads. Glad to see you back already. Here’s to hoping you do this project as your better half works… and not that the honeymoon is already over. Pace yourself, Mads. ;=)

-- If you're going to stir the pot, think BIG spoon or SMALL boat paddle. David Grimes, Georgia

View jjw5858's profile


1135 posts in 3767 days

#5 posted 05-16-2012 11:38 PM

This is a great blog for sure Mads. Really enjoyed this…and what a really cool bench! I really like the sliding dovetails for attaching the bottom legs. Great video too. Thanks for sharing it and enjoy the shavings!

-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

View SPalm's profile


5338 posts in 5047 days

#6 posted 05-16-2012 11:40 PM

Wow, I can appreciate the work involved. Good for you.
Those are some of the coolest shavings I have seen.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View Brit's profile


8334 posts in 4008 days

#7 posted 05-16-2012 11:49 PM

Mads – You need to post a few pictures of this on the Workbench Smackdown thread.

It looks great and I’m sure it works well too if you made it. I have one question though. Where does the leg vise go? :-)

-- Andy - Old Chinese proverb says: "If you think something can't be done, don't interrupt man who is doing it."

View mafe's profile


13204 posts in 4254 days

#8 posted 05-17-2012 12:24 AM

You can stand Don.

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect.

View rayn's profile


198 posts in 4383 days

#9 posted 05-17-2012 12:30 AM

Very interesting Mads Like Don .I would have a problem with sit on the ground working …mostly trying to get up again. Age can affect or modify your activities The use of hand tools is an art

-- Ray,Iowa

View Doug's profile


1247 posts in 3926 days

#10 posted 05-17-2012 12:30 AM

I can appreciate the work you have done on your beam. I few months back I read through Scott Landis’s book on workbenches. I was very impressed by the simplicity and efficiency that the Japanese woodworker’s employ. I am just beginning my hand tool journey so I’m not sure that I am ready to incorporate the methods of the Japanese woodworker just yet. I do look forward to reaching that point.

-- Doug

View lew's profile


13387 posts in 4920 days

#11 posted 05-17-2012 12:32 AM

Thanks, Mads! I must speak to my good (?) friend, who is a Stanley tool salesman, and find out why he hasn’t dropped one of these off ;^)

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Texchappy's profile


252 posts in 3386 days

#12 posted 05-17-2012 12:53 AM

Nice work. My first order of woodworking tools were Japanese and I’m about to try them out on my first project. If I get along with them then I’ll get more and need one of these.

-- Wood is not velveeta

View SamuelP's profile


793 posts in 3811 days

#13 posted 05-17-2012 12:54 AM

Congrats on the new toy. More inspiration…

-- -Sam - FL- "A man who carries a cat by the tail learns somthing he can in no other way" -Mark Twain

View Texchappy's profile


252 posts in 3386 days

#14 posted 05-17-2012 12:55 AM

BTW, this seems a bit more manageable to move than the 6”x6” 15 foot planing beam from his book ;)

-- Wood is not velveeta

View BigTiny's profile


1718 posts in 4053 days

#15 posted 05-17-2012 12:55 AM

Konichi-wa, MaFe san. Ichi ban bench, my friend! Odate would be proud of you.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

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