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Thread: Beautiful axes, Japanese carpentry tools

  1. #1
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    Default Beautiful axes, Japanese carpentry tools

    In August I visited Japan on a woodworking exchange working with traditional Japanese master carpenters building a tea house. I came home with a bit of a lust for Japanese tools, I could not afford to buy a chouna or axe, the tools are all hand forged by individual smiths, very good but very expensive. I really liked the old ones more than the new anyway. I have found one source in Europe importing the chouna and they are no more expensive than they were in Japan here. So I have been mailing with my Japanese friend and greenwoodworker Tomio Imaru and he and his friends have collected some old chouna, ono and masakari for me.



    The axes in the picture above are carpenters ono, the general purpose carpenters axe. Below are the more specialised masakari, this is the huge heavy axe used for hewing beams, it is swung in a big pendulum motion whilst standing on top of the log.



    And these are the tools that all the European carpenters adored, chouna or Japanese adzes. The handles are grown bends of enju wood which is tremendously tough and springy.



    All these tools are now in a big parcel on a boat heading for the UK, I am rather excited, should be here before Christmas.

    And this is how the tools are used.



    We visited Japan with a team of 30 top European carpenters and will be having a get together in Germany in January and I'll be taking tools along to share around the group. We all adored the Japanese tools but working with a tool for two weeks is different from owning it and getting to know it over a long time.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by robin wood View Post
    ... And this is how the tools are used. ...
    Is it just me or does that clip make your toes curl up too?

  3. #3
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    Oh my word...

    What wonderful tools Robin. It's going to be an exciting day when they arrive.

    Are the knife like tools in the top picture intended for a specific task? What about the small axe next to them - I'm curious about the platform on the back of the blade.

    All the best.
    Hedgehog

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    Beutiful Tools Robin, the chouna look fantastic, I bet your hopping on the spot waiting for them to arrive!

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    Those adzes are rather interesting - how did you find they compared to European adzes?
    FEATHER FORGE - Traditional Blacksmithing

    He who asks is a fool for five minutes, but he who does not ask remains a fool forever. Chinese Proverb

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Everything Mac View Post
    Those adzes are rather interesting - how did you find they compared to European adzes?
    European adzes vary a lot but if you mean English adzes there was no comparison. They work in totally different ways, lots of fast light cuts rather than a few big slow swings. The proof of the pudding was that after 2 weeks sharing tools on our worksite the tools migrated. On the European worksite there were Japanese adzes, planes and saws everywhere, the European tools stayed hanging in the toolshed. The only European tools that compared at all well were axes and the Japanese particularly liked the big German broad axes. The Japanese saws though were not cheap mass produced ones like we see over here, they were hand forged and cost 250 each so they should be good.

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    Oh!

    <Keels over in a faint>

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    Dude has no shoes on.... epic!
    see, the japanese are just hard core! and the tools are beautiful but you'd expect no less from a culture that strives for perfection in all aspects, if you've ever seen the crafting on a real katana, or watched a tea ceremony it all makes sense.
    I would kill to watch a traditional house being made by hand, they used to throw the things up within a short space of time yet they were fantastically well made.
    All weather is walking weather!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Melonfish View Post
    Dude has no shoes on.... epic!
    see, the japanese are just hard core! and the tools are beautiful but you'd expect no less from a culture that strives for perfection in all aspects, if you've ever seen the crafting on a real katana, or watched a tea ceremony it all makes sense.
    I would kill to watch a traditional house being made by hand, they used to throw the things up within a short space of time yet they were fantastically well made.
    There are loads of photos of the building of the tea house and a video of raising day here http://nicolawood.typepad.co.uk/kesu...ion-video.html
    If you are into Katanas we also had a swordsmith working on site though he was only forging nails for the tea house. He did bring a katana along and do some demonstration cutting for us and also allowed Nicola to visit his workshop and film which was pretty special. Just like the scene in Kill Bill. It's all on that Kesurokai blog if you search around.

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    Stunning - mortise and tenon madness - love it

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    Quote Originally Posted by robin wood View Post
    There are loads of photos of the building of the tea house and a video of raising day here http://nicolawood.typepad.co.uk/kesu...ion-video.html
    If you are into Katanas we also had a swordsmith working on site though he was only forging nails for the tea house. He did bring a katana along and do some demonstration cutting for us and also allowed Nicola to visit his workshop and film which was pretty special. Just like the scene in Kill Bill. It's all on that Kesurokai blog if you search around.
    fantastic i'll take a look!
    All weather is walking weather!

  12. #12
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    Tool envy is now in operation LOL

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    Fabulous thread - thank you. He makes that beam hewing look so much easier than it possibly can be.

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    I enjoyed seeing those beautiful tools, Robin. Nothing compares to what the Japanese make. The web site links were also fascinating. Thanks for the post.

  15. #15

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    I remember a traditional Sukiya, a japanese tearoom being built here and they couldn't do it properly without help (and skills) from Japan. I think Finnish carpenters like it more rough...

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    Quote Originally Posted by rautakokki View Post
    I remember a traditional Sukiya, a japanese tearoom being built here and they couldn't do it properly without help (and skills) from Japan. I think Finnish carpenters like it more rough...
    The techniques are just very different. Many of the parts are left with a tooled finish that some would consider "rough". Probably the closest western technique is American square-rule carpentry, since everything is worked from measurements rather than scribing.

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    Just paid the customs bill on these and they should be delivered Thursday.....think I'll stay in.

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    Yes, what do you want to trade for one of those hatchets?

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by ged View Post
    Is it just me or does that clip make your toes curl up too?
    Not just you.

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    What toes ?
    Nonsuch
    Life Member of Bushcraft UK

  21. #21
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    One parcel arrived the one with the huge masakari hewing axes

    They are quite wonderful. Interesting the way the handle is held in the head, they don't split the handle and drive a wedge in as we do they leave a space at the front of the handle and drive a wedge in there to keep it all tight. The wedges are often a bit longer than the eye so can be knocked back out and the handle removed. Will take some pics hopefully tomorrow.

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    <Goes and has a cold shower...>

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    Hi Robin

    What sizes (blade cutting length, handle length and weight) are these masakaris?

    Thanks

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    Hi Ian,

    Most are 3 foot handles with one short 2 foot. edge is mostly 9" and I just weighed the little one at 7lbs including handle so probably a 6lb head. They are used swinging like a pendulum and when they are up to speed they have huge cutting power.

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    Hi Robin

    Thanks for that.

    Yeah, I've watched the video clip and it's incredible just how beautifully easy the carpenter makes it look - such a gentle looking swing of the axe to make such a big cut, clean cut in the wood. Fantastic skill....

    Cheers

  26. #26
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    Well they finally arrived, I unpacked them and took some photos and short dodgy vids.



    axes



    adzes


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    Hi Robin

    They all look incredible! I wish I could get my mitts on them.

    Cheers

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    Well Ian I spent the day yesterday playing with them and had a friend popped by so was teaching him Japanese style hewing. It made me think maybe I should hold on to enough of them to run a course.

  29. #29
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    Hi RobinR

    Quote Originally Posted by robin wood View Post
    It made me think maybe I should hold on to enough of them to run a course.
    Hmmmmm - I suppose that another holiday to Edale could be on the cards then....

    Cheers

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    Quote Originally Posted by robin wood View Post
    ...Interesting the way the handle is held in the head, they don't split the handle and drive a wedge in as we do they leave a space at the front of the handle and drive a wedge in there to keep it all tight. The wedges are often a bit longer than the eye so can be knocked back out and the handle removed. Will take some pics hopefully tomorrow.
    I like that:
    *Simpler than a typical western wedge
    * Little risk of damaging the handle, as the handle need not be cut/split for the wedge
    * Putting the wedge at the front like also protects the front of the shaft - and I write that speaking as someone who whacked the handle of their splitting maul this weekend .
    * Being able to knock the wedge out, potentially allows re-use of the wedge/handle and probably means that you don't need a vice and chisel to get it out - perhaps just a mallet or back of an axe? [Confession: I usually just burn the old handle out on a low flame in a bonfire or woodburner, for as short a time as possible/necessary - but that is probably a terrible heresy, not to be recommended and probably does terrible things to the tempering, etc. of the axe/pick/adze/shovel/grubber/... - although I've not noticed it. Forgive me!]

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