Ryohei's Japanese woodworking lecture

This is a Japanese woodworking lecture that I wrote in a Japanese network several years ago. Now I try to translate it to English version, though I am not well in English. I hope you to enjoy this lecture.

I am not a professional woodworker, but I aim professional level woodworking in this lecture. In Japan, woodworking technique is often hidden in a brain of specialist, but I will write everything as possible as I can. At first I write about choosing hand tools and sharpening.

Woodworking is sometimes very dangerous. Safety is your duty.

1997,Ryohei Miyamoto. All rights reserved.


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1,Basic tools

It is not good to buy many tools at once. You should purchase tools when you need them. At the start, you need one set of sharpening stone, few metal ruler, 15mm chisel, and 48mm hand plane. It is very important where you buy tools in Japan. You should buy tools at a shop for professional wood worker or carpenter.

Table 1: List of Japanese basic woodworking tools.

namesizeprice(yen) descriptionneed
chisel3mmover3000 for narrow mortise *
chisel9mmover3000 for middle size mortise**
chisel15mmover3000 for middle size mortise**
chisel30mmover4000 surfacing or wide mortise*
chisel6mmover3000 useful for narrow mortise *
plane48mmover8000 basic plane, all purpose***
plane54mmover10000 finish plane*
Ryoba saw3000 replace blade***
Dozuki saw4000 replace blade*
sharpening stone2000 middle grid**
finish sharpening stone4000 #6000 ceramic stone**
iron plate2000 for flattening blade's back**
silicon carbide500 for flattening blade's back**
square15cm1000 always use***
sashigane50cm1500 Japanese big thin square**
rule15cm200 usually use**
rule30cm700 for checking flatness of plane base*
rule1m2000 for checking flatness of board *
marking gage 1500 for mortise and tenon**

Japanese woodworking book

Though there is not many books on Japanese woodworking, I recommend three books.

Zukai Mokkou gijyutsu, Syougoro Sato, Kyoritsu pub.
This book is not new, but it is all purpose.

KAKI's woodworking, Makoto Kakitani, JICC pub.

KAKI is a famous handmade furniture maker in Toyama. This book is sometimes called as Bible of woodworking.

Mokkougu shiyouhou, Yoshio Akioka, Sougensya
It is difficult to learn sharpening plane blade or adjusting, so you had better to be taught by carpenter or woodworker. Or please be checked by them.

2, Sharpening

Flattening the blade back

Japanese blade has two layer, soft and hard. It is very important that hard blade back is perfect flat. Making this flatness is called Uradashi.

I use iron plate and silicon carbide to flatten the blade back. It is almost impossible to describe this work. You need to make the blade back to be mirror. It is hard to do so. When I did at first, I could not finish to flatten the blade back like a mirror in a day.

Some tips:

  1. Your power must be to blade edge.
  2. Keep blade flat.
  3. Small amount of silicon carbide.
  4. Good blade, easy to flatten.
  5. At last, slide without silicon carbide.

Flattening the surface of water stone

Flattness of the surface of water stone is very important. You must reflatten to keep the surface of water stone. There are several way to flatten.

  1. Flatten on flat concrete block
    Not so perfect, but easy and cheap. This method is good enough for chisel. You can check the flatness by looking the color of the surface.
  2. Rub with two same water stone
    This method is not good for all kind of water stone. It is often used for KING medium grid water stone.
  3. Thick glass plate and silicon carbide
    I think that this method is the best. It is good for ceramic water stone.

I usually use two or three methods. For example, 1 and 3.

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3, Making mortise

It is a very important experience to make mortise with hand tool only, though you have a router or mortiser. You can also learn how to mark correctly.

The next figure is a sample of exercise. When you finish nine mortises, your skill become higher level.
This wood block size is about 5cm x 10cm x 15cm(HxWxL). Use sguare and marking gauge to mark.

hand mortising

The width of mortise must be as same as the chisel's width. You slightly push with the chisel back on the wood surface, and mark with marking gauge. The length of mortise is marked with sguare.

How to make

There are two way to make mortise with chisel.

A:V-shape method,
At first stand the chisel at the center of mortise, and excavate from both side. Be carefull to keep the chisel at inside of the mark line(about 1mm inside).

B:M-shape method,
At first stand the chisel at the both inside of the line, and make from center.

If you can not excavate the bottom, stand chisel and hit the inside area of mortise. When you almost finish the mortise, stand chisel just on line, and make mortise completely.