Skilled Japanese craftspeople developed their woodworking skills centuries ago. And they reached their height of perfection in their Kumiko art. This is a technique whereby pieces of fretwork hold together by pressure alone. We share the finest Japanese woodworking tools, types and uses in this post as core knowledge. And then we build out with links to help you dive in where your interests take you.
Kumiko Woodworking Using Genuine Japanese Tools
Hobbyists preserve this ancient art with Japanese wood working hand tools. They groove thinly-slit wood pieces which they fit individually using planes, saws, chisels, and other tools to make fine adjustments. And they calculate the exact pressures they need to hold the lattice together all over the world.
If you decide attempt this amazing art, then you need to know traditional Kumiko repeats patterns in nature representing good omens for the future. I am unsure what the pattern in my picture represents. Perhaps you have an idea what it means? If so please write and let me know. I love the way the patterns distribute light and air.
Building Safe Houses with Japanese Woodworking Tools
Japanese homeowners still build their houses with wood and paper, because they resist earthquakes which can occur frequently in the area. Tansei Todai Research explains how their seismic performance allows them to ‘bend like willows to avoid building up stress’. Isn’t it amazing how they learned to use natural wood in such a creative way?
It is hardly surprising the nation still nurtures its Japanese woodworking tools, and ensures their traditions and spirit live on. Some of their works are quite monumental, while others are delicate. Thus they usually begin with woodworking equipment, before finishing off with smaller hand tools.
The 5 Most Popular Japanese Woodworking Tools
Japanese Wood Saws
Japanese wood joinery as we saw from video is a delicate, painstaking affair. This answered one big question that I had on my mind, why do Japanese sawing tools cut on the pull stroke? The simple answer is that this gentler treatment means these traditional japanese wood working tools can be thinner and more delicate. That means the finer more accurate cuts we see in these videos and finished japanese wood working products we see for sale. This is one of the may ways that Japanese Wood Carving tools are different to the western tools most of us are familiar with.
Japanese Planes For Smoothing Wood
Our list of Japanese woodworking tools continues with wooden block planes holding blades, sub blades, and securing pins. Although abutments in the wood primarily hold the blades in position in these fine examples of Japanese hand tools. If you decide to make your own then I recommend you start with a dense piece of oak. The fine example below looks beautiful in red oak, doesn’t it?
Japanese planes come in a variety of formats and designs for different purposes. Many come in left and right formats;
- Smoothing Planes
- Specialty Planes such as Chamfer Molding Planes, Gotoku Planes, Rabbet, Mentori Kanna, Spoke and Corner Planes
- Mini Ebony Planes
- Edge Trimmers
- Plane Tuning Kits and Accessories like replacement Kana Blade Sets
A Variety Of Wood Chisels For More Detailed Work
The average Japanese wood worker may have as many as a dozen chisels in their tool bag all lovingly sharpened. These include heavy timber chisels, bench chisels, paring chisels, striking chisels, and slicks for paring long surfaces following the grain. Most Japanese woodworking tools are composite wood /steel construction, using laminated alternating hard steel/soft steel blades.
See the distinctive pattern of the damascus steel? This is a very fine set of Japanese bench chisels that typically cost in excess of $1500.
Japanese Wood Carpentry Hammers For Light Work
The Japanese Woodworker never attacks their wood as if it were a stubborn stone. Instead, they work with it lovingly out of respect for the tree that bore it. Accordingly, these Japanese woodworking tools have flat handles on two sides, while the steel heads come in a variety of lightweight shapes for chiseling, positioning plane blades etc.
Imagine A Carpenter’s Vise Made From Wood
Our fifth traditional Japanese woodworking tool, the vice is made from solid wood. We’re not kidding! Follow this link and see for yourself. This amazing carpentry gadget is a wedge of wood tied to a pole that slides up and down. Although the weight of the timber holds it in position waiting for the final tap of the hammer.
Modern versions are made from brass or steel like these ones:
This example is of a Japanese saw vise project that Sebastien Gonzalez made in a weekend. Checkout his free simple tutorial.
How to Make Your Own Set of Japanese Wood Carving Tools
After I delved into Japanese word carving history, I discovered what I already expected. Ancient Japanese craftspeople made the wooden handles themselves. Although steelworkers schooled in the art of samurai swords fashioned the steel bits from finest materials. In case you wondered, that’s how they produced masterpieces like this.
Now, as to how you would make these japanese wood carving tools yourself? This is quite and involved and skilled process, only for the seasoned artisan or extremely motivated amateur. Still interested? Make a note to check back soon as we are scouring the planet for courses and tutorials that will satisfy our mutual hunger to learn this beautiful art.
Would You Like to Learn More About Japanese Woodworking?
Here’s an amazing introduction to the secrets of Kumiko. Learn Japanese woodworking design tips hot from the lips of a genuine expert. Discover how to choose the best wood for Kumiko patterns here. Create them without nails or glue.
Japanese woodworking is a great hobby when you know how, and have the best Japanese woodworking tools beside you. My mission at Best Wood Carving Tools is just that. Sharing the secrets of a life of experience, and being with you on your journey.
Stay tuned as we dive deeper into more detail on Japanese Woodworking, Japanese Wood Carving, the various tools and techniques they use.
Excellent Resources we recommend;
- How to Make a Japanese Saw Vise
- Cool project on restoring an old inherited Japanese Hand Saw
- The truly excellent and comprehensive book worthy in every japan woodworkers library, “Japanese Woodworking Tools, Their Tradition, Spirit and Use“
- Can’t wait to get started and want to just start buying Japanese Woodworking and Hand Tools?