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Giant Cypress

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A monk asked Joshu, “What is the meaning of Bodhidharma’s coming to China?” Joshu said, “The oak tree in the garden.”A monk asked Zhaozhou, “What is the living meaning of Zen?” Zhaozhou said, “The cypress tree in the yard.”
Updated: 57 min 32 sec ago


Tue, 10/10/2017 - 3:28am

I recently finished a joint stool, made from read oak that was originally split from a log, following the method shown in Jennie Alexander and Peter Follansbee’s terrific book, Make a Joint Stool from a Tree. The dimensions are modified because this joint stool will be serving as a footstool for one of our chairs.

A joint stool is a traditional western woodworking project, and doesn’t have an equivalent in Japanese woodworking either as a commonly used piece of furniture, or in terms of the method of construction. Despite this, I made this completely with Japanese tools, except for the part where I drilled holes for the dowels for the drawbored mortise and tenon joints, and for the dowels that attach the top board to the base. There is a slight nod to George Nakashima, as the stretchers have a live edge on the bottom side, I maintained the sapwood on the top, and the decoration on the legs certainly are not in the period style for this type of furniture piece.

My viewpoint on the Japanese woodworking tool world has always been on the side of looking for similarities between Japanese and western woodworking tools, as opposed to focusing on the differences. As with the Bible box I made some years past, I think this project illustrates this point quite nicely. I like to think that this is a good example of how, despite visible differences between groups, there are many more similarities than differences. In these times, that’s a good lesson to keep in mind.

And I’d like to point out that, yes, this project was made with hardwood.

Hello, I am wondering if I could get some chisel advice. I have some japanese style chisels that I received from my grandfather. One of them is over 40 years old and very rusted with a chipped edge and a beat up hollow back. The hoop is askew and the...

Sat, 10/07/2017 - 3:58am

The hoop and handle can be fixed. I’d take the hoop off first. Then take the handle off. This can be done by grabbing the blade end of the chisel and hitting the handle on a hard (not too hard) surface, like a scrap piece of walnut or cherry. Fix the crack with some glue, and put the handle back on the chisel. Trim off the hoop end of the handle so that it is round and symmetric. Then fit the hoop on like you would for a new chisel.

As far as the back goes, I like using either some 80 grit sandpaper glued to a flat reference surface or a diamond plate for flattening the back of a chisel. It can be done, it just takes time. Then use the sandpaper or diamond plate to work the bevel side to get rid of the nicks. After that, you can use your favorite sharpening routine to polish up the back and bevel. 

Hi Wilbur, is there an equivalent japanese tool for the western panel saws, rip cuts and crosscuts? Thank you!

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 3:18am

I’d use a larger ryoba, either a 270mm or a 300mm, for the type of cut one would use a panel saw for. Kataba of the same size could also be used, but ryoba are far more common.

I ordered some japanese tansu handles and had a question about mounting them. What is the traditional method of mounting these handles? It comes with this U-shaped piece of metal that's used to pin the handles against the "draw front". Do you just...

Thu, 10/05/2017 - 3:28am

As far as I know, the traditional method of attaching handles and other hardware onto a tansu is using square shank nails. From their description, it sounds like they would be similar to traditional cut nails. 

The U-shaped piece of metal seems like a more modern method. It’s hard for me to get an idea of what you mean by splaying out the ends without a picture, but it’s probably similar to the method of clenching a nail, and I wouldn’t hesitate to do that.

If it’s a QFBR, they should send it to @periodcraftsmen.

Sun, 10/01/2017 - 3:28am

If it’s a QFBR, they should send it to @periodcraftsmen.

Happy Friday, from Giant Cypress.

Fri, 09/29/2017 - 3:06pm

Happy Friday, from Giant Cypress.


Fri, 09/22/2017 - 3:08am


Japanese chisels hold their value. This well-used set of chisels...

Tue, 09/19/2017 - 3:38am

Japanese chisels hold their value. This well-used set of chisels are still completely usable. That’s because the hard layer of steel in a Japanese chisel goes all the way across the bottom layer to the area where the blade transitions into the neck of the chisel.

(Pictures from eBay.)

Keep hanging on.I remember this show.

Mon, 09/18/2017 - 3:29am

Keep hanging on.

I remember this show.

Building a kerf plane

Thu, 09/14/2017 - 3:48am
Building a kerf plane:

Barry Lynch does a terrific job building a kerfing plane based on Japanese plane design.

Is New York’s Best Pizza in New Jersey?

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 3:18am
Is New York’s Best Pizza in New Jersey?:

Pete Wells, in the New York Times:

Ed and I, having eaten a pizza and a half each, shared a single panna cotta. Then he asked me again: “Are you going to say that the best pizza in New York is in New Jersey?”

I am, Ed. I am.

Reason #62 why New Jersey is better than New York.

"‘Reinventing the Wheel’ straddles a number of different categories: It is a primer, a..."

Tue, 09/12/2017 - 3:18am
“‘Reinventing the Wheel’ straddles a number of different categories: It is a primer, a history, a series of ethnographies, and, finally, an attack on much of the received wisdom in the dairy industry. The Percivals take the reader through each stage in the cheese production process, focusing not only on milk and bacterial cultures but also on the breeding and feeding of cows and responsible upkeep of pasturage. Along the way, they make a compelling argument that many cheesemaking traditions, capable of producing some of the most unique cheeses, were neglected or forgotten as industrialization took place at the turn of the 19th century.”


Sho Spaeth, in his article “Obsessed: The Fight for Real Cheese” on the Serious Eats website.

One of the themes I come back to when thinking about the differences between Japanese and western tools is that the differences aren’t because Japanese toolmakers came up with a wacky plan to use laminated construction in chisels and plane blades. That same approach was used by western toolmakers back in the day. 

The difference came in how the western world embraced the Industrial Revolution. Laminated steel construction for edge tools couldn’t be easily automated in a factory production environment. So instead of continuing to make a high quality tool, compromises were made in the name of ease of manufacturing.

Kezurou-kai USA 2017 - Oakland, CA October 21 & 22

Sun, 09/10/2017 - 6:48pm
Kezurou-kai USA 2017 - Oakland, CA October 21 & 22:

This year’s Kezurou-kai USA will be held on the weekend of October 21-22 in Oakland, CA. Looks like it will be a great time. Andrew Hunter, Jay van Arsdale, Matt Connorton, Makoto Imai, and Yann Giguère are among the presenters. I wish I could make this one.

I visited the George Nakashima compound last weekend again for...

Thu, 09/07/2017 - 3:18am

I visited the George Nakashima compound last weekend again for the first time in a while, which included a lovely tour led by Mira Nakashima. I told Mira that every so often I’ll have a fantasy about getting a plot of land and building a house, most likely a timber frame house, in an area like this. I also told her that my wife’s usual response to this idea is, “Right. Where are the Chinese grocery stores?”

Mira told me that there’s an H Mart about a half hour drive from the Nakashima compound. Looks like the plan has a second life.

Hello Wilbur. I recently discovered your blog. Amazing and informative. I was wondering if you can provide me some advice. I'm interested in purchasing my 1st kana but i'm rather hesitant as there are so many choices to choose from. Do you...

Wed, 09/06/2017 - 3:08am

Thanks for the nice comments. I really appreciate it.

My usual advice for the “How should I choose my first Japanese tool?” question, whether it’s a plane, chisel, saw, or what have you, is to contact the various Japanese tool sellers out there (here’s a list of all the Japanese tool sellers that I know of who know English well), explain what kind of projects you want to make, what kinds of woods you use, and see what their responses are. One of those responses will resonate with you. Buy your tool from that seller. You’re going to get a good Japanese plane regardless of which tool seller you work with. What you’re also going to get is a relationship with a tool seller that understands your needs and who you can work with, which will pay off in the long run.

As far as the blue/white steel issue, I like blue steel overall better for planes, and white steel for chisels. That’s because blue steel has more resistance to abrasive wear, which is what plane blades have to deal with. White steel, on the other hand, is generally easier to sharpen. For a chisel, I’m not as concerned with edge life as I am with being able to restore the edge more efficiently. But overall, the choice of steel is not as important as the blacksmith. Despite what I said above, my favorite finish plane is made with white steel.

If you are having trouble wrapping your brain around what I said about the white steel/blue steel issue, think about it this way. Choosing a Japanese tool based on white steel/blue steel issues is like deciding whether cherry or walnut is better for making a dining room table. The real answer is that Frank Klausz will make a better dining room table than I will.

Overall, a crack in a dai forms because there isn’t enough allowance on the sides of the blade to accommodate wood movement with seasonal changes, especially overall shrinkage of the dai year over year.. As long as you set up your dai so that isn’t an issue, I think you’ll be fine. What I would do is set up your plane as you normally would without worrying about seasonal movement to start. There will be a little side to side play. If the dai shrinks too much, use chisel on the side slots that hold the blade to provide a little more room for movement. Eventually you’ll get to a point where you won’t have to worry about it any more. There may be a little more side to side play than one of my planes, but your plane will work just fine. 

One last thing to keep in mind is that the dai is going to move regardless. My shop is in my basement, and we have central air conditioning and heat, so it’s as climate controlled as it can get. I still have to tune up my planes every so often. So even if your dai isn’t going to crack, you still have to deal with movement.

Chairs at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, by Gerrit...

Fri, 09/01/2017 - 5:08am

Chairs at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld and Gerard van de Groenekan, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Hans Wegner, Charles and Ray Eames, George Nakashima, and Samuel Gragg.

Samuel Gragg’s chair was made in 1808. It was in no way the first bentwood chair ever made, but he did use some sort of patented technology to make it.

This video from the Victoria and Albert Museum shows lacquer...

Thu, 08/31/2017 - 4:58am

This video from the Victoria and Albert Museum shows lacquer craftsman Lee Kwang-Woong using traditional Korean techniques to create a lacquer box with an inlaid shell decoration. There are many parallels between the techniques used in this video and the western traditions of marquetry and animal glues, not to mention the fine abrasives used for the final result. One thing that is underplayed in this video is the perfect surface needed on the box itself prior to the application of the lacquer. Any imperfection in the box surface will telegraph through the lacquer.

The other thing that strikes me is that the work area looks more like a laboratory than a workshop. I can see why, however, as the smallest stray bit of dust would telegraph through the lacquer finish on the box as well.

(Thanks to the Sturdy Butterfly for the link.)

Woodworking projects from the kids at the Hole In The Wall Gang...

Wed, 08/30/2017 - 3:48am

Woodworking projects from the kids at the Hole In The Wall Gang Camp. I think these are terrific examples of the finest of woodworking.

edging tool? do you have them?

Thu, 08/24/2017 - 9:38am

What kind of edging tool? Can you be more specific?