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!