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Lately I've really been getting into hand tools.

Lately I've really been getting into hand tools.

I asked for a few Japanese chisels for Christmas (one each from a few different people in the family.) I ended up with a set of four from Woodcraft. I decided that this collection was worthy of family heirloom status so I had them laser engraved and built a box to keep them in.

I have always had a fascination with Japanese culture, art and woodworking. Lately I have been reading Japanese Woodworking Tools, Their Tradition, Spirit and Use by Toshio Odate. This is a truly eye-opening book and I highly recommend it to every woodworker. I've also really enjoyed a book called Selecting and Using Hand Tools by Fine Woodworking.

So the natural progression from owning such a beautiful set of chisels lead me to coming up with a way to keep them sharp… which is how I ended up with a WorkSharp. And let me tell you, this is an amazing little machine. I know there are lots of ways to put a razer edge on a tool, but this thing makes it EASY. Which means my tools will ALWAYS be sharp. Its one of the best investments I've made in my shop in a long time.

So armed with the WorkSharp, I spent one afternoon grinding, sharpening and honing ALL my hand tools. And it suddenly occurred to me… wow… I've never worked with sharp tools before!

Dangerously sharp edge on a chisel from the WorkSharp:

I've always used chisels and planes and the occasional "Shark Saw" (Japanese-style saw from Big Box store) among other hand tools. But my first hand tool epiphany came when I first learned how to dress and use a cabinet scraper, and I was HOOKED. It really changed how I work… no more power sander (for the most part).

But my chisels and planes had been causing me a lot of frustration until now, because it was so tedious to sharpen them that I simply never took the time to do it. Now all of my planes sing like Billie Holiday.

The more I read Odate's book as well as watch videos online, etc, the more I have become addicted to Japanese hand tools. Its a terrible, expensive addiction, but I don't think I can shake it. I've been window-shopping online today on ebay and sites like The Japan Woodworker. I've got my eye on a Dozuki (dovetail saw) next… but that will have to wait a few months 'till my birthday ;)

But its not just Japanese hand tools that has got me excited lately. Its ALL hand tools. It just so happens that I work at a used tool store (dangerous, I know). So my collection is always growing.

This is my plane cabinet. The bottom shelf is the currently usable planes, and the next shelf up contains some that either need to be restored, or purely collectibles (like the brightly colored vintage "student" planes).

From left to right:
  • Modern (cheap) Stanley that I use for utility purposes like door jams or construction
  • Millers Falls No 56B (Favorite block plane)
  • Record No 077 rabbet/bullnose (Other favorite plane)
  • Stanley Bullnose plane with SweetHeart blade
  • Little Stanley "finger" plane (as I call it) with SweetHeart blade

From front to back:
  • Stanley No. 4 with SweetHeart blade
  • Stanley Bailey No. 5
  • Stanley Bailey No. 6

So in my excitement over hand tools lately, I have really been in the mood to make my own planes. I have really been inspired by some of the handmade tools by other Lumberjocks too. It doesn't seem like a very complicated project, but very rewarding (and a great way to use up scraps as well.)

So I have been thinking about where to get blades from. I hate Ebay, and I really didn't want to spent $40 bucks each for "Hock" blades from a catalog. So I had an idea, let me know what you think. I have a small collection of old wood planes that were inherited from a family-friend. Although I appreciate the history and like looking at them, they are in poor enough condition to where I would never use them.

Example of poor condition:

Some of these wooden planes appear to be handmade. The only plane with any marks on the wooden body is this one which (I think) reads "196 W.SCHNEHOER AVE. NY"

(Note the seemingly-missing handle next to the saw marks… it was probably cut off after breaking)

Anyway, my idea is to keep the wooden plane collection but give the blades a new lease on life by using them to make my new hand-made planes. Or would it just be too sad to "rob" these elders of their irons? What do you think?

The blades are very rusty and would need a lot of work but I would end up with a great variety for my new planes. The man who owned the old wooden planes was a boat builder. So among the collection is a concave plane, a convex plane, and a couple different sizes of straight blades. It would be an interesting challenge to build all of the different plane shapes.
If you don,t use the old planes people complain that you,re just a collector, if you restore them people complain that you,ve destroyed the patina. You can,t win! So Use the old irons anyway. The metals probably as good as anything you get now.

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Amazing find... Maebiki-nokogiri

So as I have mentioned in previous blogs, I have been studying and collecting Japanese hand tools. And my favorite book which has inspired the collection is JAPANESE WOODWORKING TOOLS by Toshio Odate.

In this book there is a section on saws (Nokogiri) where Odate proudly displays a favorite in his collection:

This saw was a rip saw used to mill large stock. The wide blade was designed to keep the cut straight in very thick lumber. It was used by the mighty kobiki-shokunin (sawyer). According to the Takenaka Carpentry Tools Museum it was probably produced and used during Japan's Meiji era (1868-1912).

Well, this is what I found at the flee market on Friday, and paid $10 bucks for:

Its in amazing condition. Even the original handle is intact, although warn (it was obviously put to work!) It has a little rust but I will clean it carefully. It has the same blacksmith tool marks as the one that Odate shows. From the little bit of research I've done this saw seems to be over 100 years old!
HOLY CRAP!!!! Thats one wonderfully wierd saw, what a great find. I imagine some serviceman bought that back as a souviner, maybe there,s more.
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