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Thread: Japanese tools and boat building

  1. #1
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    Default Japanese tools and boat building

    Some of you may consider my preference for Japanse tools to be a bit strange for a Western boat builder to speak of in glowing terms. The truth of the matter is that I have a lot of western tools that I have purchased used at garage sales, as well as tools that belonged to my father and grand father as well. If and when the occasion of special need arrises they, like an old friend, are there to be of help for a special purpose. But, I have found as the years pass, that I am more prone to reach for a Japanese pull saw rather than stepping over to the band saw for a quick cut. Cutting a plank or cabin molding butt joint is infinitely easier using an azebiki flooring saw than a Western counterpart of it.

    The Japanese tools, as I have mentioned in other postings before, have a learning curve attached to them. But, once they are understood, they allow the user to work faster and more accurately than most Western tools do because of their ability to hold a sharper edge longer and because of the ergonomic comfort they afford the user to experience while they are being used. A good example of this are the "sumi subo and sumi sashi" ink lines which, are the Japanese version of a chalk line and pencil. Here the line is not chalked but runs through a bed of ink dampened silk wool. The ink comes in black, white and red making it necessary to have three ink line holders and pens if different colors are called for to prevent confusion in layout. The silk line is anchored on one end of the work with a small wood handled push pin and the line is then pulled out of the tool, held to the mark and quickly snapped. The line is then rolled back using the palm passing over the wooden storage wheel. When I first started using an ink line I wondered why no crank was used on the wheel to retrieve the line. I soon found that turning it with the open palm is faster and easier than using a crank as can be found on a Western chalk line. The result is a razor sharp line that does not come off unless a damp rag is run over it. The bamboo sashi pen makes a razor sharp line as well. Most visitors to my shop are amazed by how well these simple ancient tools work. For that matter, so am I! I never cease to appreciate their accuracy and efficiency!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 10-08-2015 at 10:54 PM.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    +1 on inklines. When I did the simple lofting of my first boat I naively assumed that a chalkline would be precise. I was lofting panels for a S&G boat. The boat turned out fairly well but I'm still slightly irked by the slightly wavy chine. After doing the joining I realized how much error the width of a chalkline can introduce. Inklines from then on, based on information that I got from my first query to the WBF.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Thanks for that Jay. +1 on chalk lines. The further apart the points are, the wider the splat of mess, which can in some cases be 1/2 inch wide. I'll check out the ink lines. I need to get into the saws too.
    I have a pro carpenter friend who has some superb Japanese chisels, much envied by me.
    I've often admired their joints too, I remember a keyhole joint that works in linear tension for joining beams under roof eaves. It seems we could learn much from them.
    They even have planing competitions on you tube, astounding.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Thanks Jay. You may remember that you inspired me to try the pull saws and now I find that I would not be without them, they are such a pleasure to use. I'll now have to investigate the ink lines, even though I'm very much a long term chalk line advocate and user (though for house building).
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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Think of it as dry ink Greg.
    '' You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know. ''
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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    I will be posting some pictures here. Hopefully today. Right now I am dealing with re-attaching the bow pulpit on our H28. Some drunk in a powerboat, got too close to our slip and tore it off in the night making extensive repairs to the covering boards necessary.

    Greg, I always favored a chalk line until I discovered the Japanese "Sumi Subo" ink line. It also doubles as a plumb bob and can snap curved lines as well. It really is an amazing tool!
    Jay

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Here is another tool tip. I have mentioned it before but for the sake of interest, here it is again. The tiny back saws that are made by the Exacto Co. are capable of cutting an extremely fine line but will work better on the pull than they do on the push. The blade can be removed from the bent metal spine fixture by carefully slipping a putty knife or other appropriate tool along the fold. The blade is removed and then needs to have the friction dimples ground off with a Dremmel Tool wheel so that the fixture can grip the blade as it is reversed. I usually squeeze the spine in a metal working vise to make it snug. Here then is an ultimate tool for fitting tight butt joints. I use it for rail and bulkhead caps when extreme accuracy is needed.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    This might be a good place to ask, am I the only one having a hard time getting used to the japanese pull saw? I've had mine a while now and I like it but I don't love it if you know what I mean, I may just be too stuck in my ways.

    Phill

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Quote Originally Posted by mermod View Post
    This might be a good place to ask, am I the only one having a hard time getting used to the japanese pull saw? I've had mine a while now and I like it but I don't love it if you know what I mean, I may just be too stuck in my ways.

    Phill
    I've really enjoyed mine, but I've also found that for ripping long sections, my grip strength starts go go and I find myself wishing I could be pushing instead of pulling. That's when I pull out power tools. For short, neat cuts it's been a great tool.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    As I mentioned, there is a learning curve to get used to using Japanese tools. Once mastered, I wondered how I ever did acceptable work with my father's Diston cross cut saw. Starting the saw cut is always done near the handle junction with a pushing motion. I use my fingers as a guide to aid with blade alignment to the mark.
    Then it is a matter of finding a happy angle for the saw strokes. Most Japanes Carpenters will make a cut by having the work piece set on a riser block and holding it with their feet. This puts the saw at a nearly vertical position to the work. I work mostly on a bench and so have the work in the vise with the handle lower than the cut. If the cut is a rip, I may squat down with the handle below the work on the bench. There is a happy spot that takes a bit of time to find but one hint is that the saws need almost no force applied other than on the pull. Think of allowing the weight of the blade to do the work. Remember, the better the grade of the saw, the easier is is to use. I one had the opportunity to use a hand made saw and the ease of its cut was light years above and beyond the ones that are factory made with a disposible blade. That saw litterly floated through the cut! Remember that having the handle angled closer to your body than the angle of the teeth allows the cut to be steered a bit. By experimenting with the saws you will find what works best for you. For greater ease of work, there are saws that are designed for the kind of wood you may be working with. A saw designed to cut hard wood will have teeth that are called Mouse Teeth and the blade may have a leaf shape which puts fewer teeth in contact with the stock and so reduces friction. A blade for cutting soft wood like spruce will have heavier teeth for the rip and the cross cut will have teeth that are triple beveled known as shark teeth.
    All in all, remember that it takes a student of Japanese carpententry ten years to master and graduate from the apprenticeship period. The more you try, the easier it gets!
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 10-10-2015 at 01:21 PM.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    The dovetails on this bench were all done with Japanese tools. The wood is maple.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building


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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    No question good Japanese hand tools are finestkind, but I never could get the hang of working while sitting on my concrete shop floor barefoot holding the workpiece with my toes!



    Notwithstanding my appreciation for the traditional, lest anybody get too romantic about Japanese woodworking, it bears noting that they have been assimilating a lot of modern tools and materials these days. A lot of those tighter-than-a-gnat's-ass joints everybody marvels at are now cut in factories by robotic CNC machines and I guarantee nobody's holding the work with their toes on those! I recently read that due to the Japanese version of OSHA, they've an "OSHA compliant" type of shoe, called "jika-tabi" that permits using your feet to hold your work. They even come in steel-toed models. http://www.toolsofthetrade.net/work-...framing_o.aspx





    Modern Japanese construction workers in an odd combination of traditional and "OSHA compliant" gear.

    Japanese carpenters are nodbody's fools. They make their "traditional" scarfs with Western power tools these days!

    http://www.toolsofthetrade.net/hand-...ly-made_o.aspx



    He sure makes it look easy, doesn't he?
    Last edited by Bob Cleek; 10-10-2015 at 07:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Wow, that is just great! The machine can do the grunt work but it still takes skill to do the fine tuning! In the clip where the apprentice is cutting a joint note the difference in skill between him and the sensei in using the saw. Also note the sound of that saw as it cuts which, sings when it is being used correctly on the right angle.
    If you are not familiar with the Japanese square, you might want to check it out or invest in one. They are light and easy to work with and reasonably priced. They come in Metric, inch and shaku units. They are hour glass shaped in cross section which prevents ink from running under the edge and blurring when a line is draw. The arms have a spring factor that allow them to be bent when drawing a line, assuring an accurate mark. They do not bend sideways. The bending just assures that it is sprung tight on the work. There are special units on the back side of the square which aid in solving math for layout. The "Kakumi" side is very handy for laying out wedge tapers and slopes of other joinery. It is based on the square root measurement of two. All in all, the Japanese square is a very handy tool to have in ones kit.
    Here is a quick description of its history and use.
    http://www.city.sanjo.niigata.jp/chi...owtoframe.html
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 10-10-2015 at 04:47 PM.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    A lot of that Temple grade stock is Port Orford Cedar that they buy from us by the boat load! While I am happy they are putting it to good use, I regret that we, who need it for boat building, are squeezed out by their buying up almost all of the available stock. I am fortunate that I have a stash stock from an old railway bridge that was made of timbers that can be re-sawn for boat building lumber.
    Jay

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    I believe, possibly, that the oil in Port Orford and Alaskan Yellow Cedar has a bit of antiseptic quality. This is a guess and not fact. I do know that I have a small butter tub made of POC and butter is always remains sweet when stored in it.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Quote Originally Posted by mermod View Post
    This might be a good place to ask, am I the only one having a hard time getting used to the japanese pull saw? I've had mine a while now and I like it but I don't love it if you know what I mean, I may just be too stuck in my ways.

    Phill
    Although great for cutting shims off when hanging doors, I reckon the Pull saw is for people who never really learned to use a regular saw correctly.
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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    [QUOTE=floatingkiwi;4689578]Although great for cutting shims off when hanging doors, I reckon the Pull saw is for people who never really learned to use a regular saw correctly.

    That's just a tad inflammatory.....

    There is a definite learning curve with the pull saws. I am not a big fan but they do have their place.

    I think that a lot of people have never used a properly filed and tuned western style saw so they find the ease of a simple cut with the pull saw to be very enticing. But try ripping a chunk of white oak two or three feet long, two inches thick with a pull saw, no matter how sharp and you will wish you had a good sharp thumb hole D-8, 5 TPI.

    It is a sad fact that it gets harder and harder to find someone who knows how to properly file and set a saw these days. I have given up on the local shops and send my saws to a guy in Rhode Island who does a MAGNIFICENT job. I have neither the time nor the patience to file and set a saw blade so I leave it to the pros.

    Invest in good tools, learn to keep them sharp and well tuned, western, eastern, whatever floats your boat.....

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    A lot of that Temple grade stock is Port Orford Cedar that they buy from us by the boat load!
    The indigenous wood would be hinoki, Chamaecyparis obtusa. Port Orford and Alaska Yellow cedars are (at least sometimes) classified in the same genus and work as close substitutes. A fair bit of the original hinoki in Skookum Maru is now Chamaecyparis nootkatensis...

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    [QUOTE=willin woodworks;4689673]
    Quote Originally Posted by floatingkiwi View Post
    Although great for cutting shims off when hanging doors, I reckon the Pull saw is for people who never really learned to use a regular saw correctly.

    That's just a tad inflammatory.....

    There is a definite learning curve with the pull saws. I am not a big fan but they do have their place.

    I think that a lot of people have never used a properly filed and tuned western style saw so they find the ease of a simple cut with the pull saw to be very enticing. But try ripping a chunk of white oak two or three feet long, two inches thick with a pull saw, no matter how sharp and you will wish you had a good sharp thumb hole D-8, 5 TPI.

    It is a sad fact that it gets harder and harder to find someone who knows how to properly file and set a saw these days. I have given up on the local shops and send my saws to a guy in Rhode Island who does a MAGNIFICENT job. I have neither the time nor the patience to file and set a saw blade so I leave it to the pros.

    Invest in good tools, learn to keep them sharp and well tuned, western, eastern, whatever floats your boat.....
    When I was a kid, I used the tools my dad had in his shop. At age five I was just getting into model airplanes and boats. While my father had woodworking tools for large projects, he had literally nothing for doing fine model work. This was during WWII and not much was available in hobby shops in the way of tools. Xacto knives were beyond my budget and so I created knives out of my dads double edge razor blades by breaking them in half and using surgical tape to cover the jagged edges. This was a start and I just kept on going and watching our neighbor do carvings and models of his own. I would save deposits from beverage bottles I found in vacant lots and ditches near the main road near our house. I kept the money in a mason jar until I had enough to buy a few cheap tools. Later I learned to use my dads wood bodied plane but he would not allow me to use his eight inch Craftsman table saw. So I learned how to use a hand saw both rip, crosscut and backsaw. Dad showed me how to file a saw and that is how things got started. Had I had access and knowledge of pull saws in those days, I would have been a very happy kid indeed! In truth, I learned about Japanese tools very slowly long after I had built many boats. It took a long while to understand the subtile nuances that these tools have and how, once the subtleties are understood, how amazingly accurate and fast these tools can perform in the hands of a master craftsman. By comparison, it is the hack and bull headed individual who refuses to study or learn something new that might be of use to him.
    Jay
    Last edited by Jay Greer; 11-07-2015 at 08:53 PM.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    #7: yes, those Exacto saws make for some very fine cuts, with extremely narrow kerfs, of course.
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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Quote Originally Posted by willin woodworks View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by floatingkiwi View Post
    Although great for cutting shims off when hanging doors, I reckon the Pull saw is for people who never really learned to use a regular saw correctly.
    That's just a tad inflammatory.....

    There is a definite learning curve with the pull saws. I am not a big fan but they do have their place.

    I think that a lot of people have never used a properly filed and tuned western style saw so they find the ease of a simple cut with the pull saw to be very enticing. But try ripping a chunk of white oak two or three feet long, two inches thick with a pull saw, no matter how sharp and you will wish you had a good sharp thumb hole D-8, 5 TPI.

    It is a sad fact that it gets harder and harder to find someone who knows how to properly file and set a saw these days. I have given up on the local shops and send my saws to a guy in Rhode Island who does a MAGNIFICENT job. I have neither the time nor the patience to file and set a saw blade so I leave it to the pros.

    Invest in good tools, learn to keep them sharp and well tuned, western, eastern, whatever floats your boat.....
    That is because you are using the wrong saw. This is a rip saw.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Ah Nick, You are so right, just like Crocodile Dundee and his knife!
    Jay

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Japanese joinery just astounds me:

    https://www.facebook.com/ilovewoodwo...2755237344950/

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    I love my Japanese tools. I have found that the "learning curve" is more directly related to the quality of the tools themselves. Those mainstream versions found in the big box stores are not that good and will likely cause most people who start there, to lose interest in that style. I bought a Ryoba saw from the big box store, after I bought the genuine versions and I was disappointed.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    You are right on that. Unfortunatly, the better tools are so very sophisticated that they can be damaged by a person who does not know how to work with them.
    Therein lies the dilemma! One must develop a feel for the different approach to tool use first. Then comes the speed and accuracy.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Greer View Post
    You are right on that. Unfortunatly, the better tools are so very sophisticated that they can be damaged by a person who does not know how to work with them.
    Therein lies the dilemma! One must develop a feel for the different approach to tool use first. Then comes the speed and accuracy.
    Jay
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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Quote Originally Posted by StevenBauer View Post
    Agreed. For me it's both very interesting and very humbling. I've got no skills or experience to contribute here but will continue to follow along closely. Thanks to Jay Greer for starting the thread - please keep it coming.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    who among you owns, has seen or ever used one of these rip saws?

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    I have seen them... Never used one. There used to be a "Japan Woodworker" store in Alemada, Ca. The first few years he was open he stocked many unusal tools and traveled regularly to Japan to procure them. This was about 1972-3 or so. He had a handshake wth a small foundry in Japan and they were importing some great tools. I had the foundry (through him) make some plane irons for my wider Stanley planes. These are still my very best irons. He also gave classes on how to use and tune the planes. Once I learned to bend the edge of my plane irons I started trying it on all my edged tools. The older laminated Stanley irons can be bent, but not the newer ones (post WW 1) they break.
    Alas, he grew old and sold the business, so the foundry connection was lost. The business has been sold several times since then and is now just catalog sales. It was a wonderful thing to see and handle those beautiful edged tools.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    Quote Originally Posted by willin woodworks View Post
    who among you owns, has seen or ever used one of these rip saws?
    There is a great video out there of two sawyers ripping a massive log with them.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Peerie Maa View Post
    There is a great video out there of two sawyers ripping a massive log with them.

    Cant find the video.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    I have a set of three Dozuki Z saws. The one I find myself using all the time is the fine-toothed cross cut saw (with the reinforcement on the top that makes it stiffer). I love the way it cuts, but I have two questions. Is it just me, or do the Japanese saws bind a lot more than other saws? I am guessing it may be related to how fine the teeth are and maybe less offset in the teeth, but I find myself fighting saws that are pinched in their own saw cut. The second thing is that my cross cut Z saw has lost a lot of teeth. Is that just part of the world of fine tooth saws, or am I doing something wrong? Or are there other saws that would cut the notches for my chine logs and sheer clamp better? And, yes, I do have a replacement blade on the way.

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    The problem that we Westerners have with Japanese saws and other tools is that while they are amazingly efficient they are also amazingly specialized often, intended for use with only one kind of wood or cut. I have been told that a Japanese Shokunin, artisan, has more than thirty five saws in his kit, each one being for a specific kind of cutting. There are both soft and harwood saws as well as rip and cross cut versions of both. In addition there are special saws for cutting the grooved sides of a wooden plane slot. Then there are hard and soft wood dovetail saws, both cut and rip, flooring saws that can be started in the center of a plank that come in an infinite variety of sizes. Ryoboa combination two sided or single sided saws as well, some are leaf shaped some are long and some are short some are backed with a spine fore added stiffness and some are flexible and without set for cutting off through tendons or trunnels without scaring the surface of the face plank. The list goes on and on.
    Another interesting fact of Japanese woodworking is that often an artisan, shukonin, may specialize in only one facet of woodworking. I met a young man several years ago that was capable of making an interlocking miter showcase joint for glass sided display cases. It was amazing to watch him work as every one of the strokes of the saw was precise to the point that the moldings fit perfectly on all three joining points of the corners. I was so impressed that I asked how he would construct another type of joint that I was interested in and he quietly told me that the joint he had just demonstrated was the only joint he could make. But that one joint was truly amazing! To become a master builder in Japan is an amazingly complex discipline, one that is being lost as a result of the amount of dedication necessary for learning the art. Those who are truly able to understand all of the nuances and tricks of the trade are often designated as national treasures.

    I don't claim to know a whole lot about using these amazing tools other than that for the type of work I often do, they are are great aid to my style of working. Even at eighty years of age, I am still just a student of the art of boat building and wood joinery. I try to learn something new every day, something that I can share with others who have a similar interest in becoming better at the art of wood working.
    Jay

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    Default Re: Japanese tools and boat building

    I read with interest a book about the blacksmiths that make swords and knifes in Japan. The apprenticeship is incredibly long and difficult.

    Working for a master, you may be tending fire for 3 years before ever striking steel. You are forbidden to make complete blades until you reach a high level of skill. Then you also make the steel from oar.

    Several artisans work in concert making various parts of the sword, resulting in an object so beautiful, it's cost is approximately similar to a Luxury Japanese car.

    PaulF

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