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Thread: Japanese chisel lands: a simple mod?

  1. #1
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    Japanese chisel lands: a simple mod?

    I posted this photo 11 years ago of six Koyamaichi "dovetail" chisels.





    The three on the left were vintage Koyamaichi (circa early 1980), I picked up about 10 years earlier. The three on the right had been custom ground for me by Koyamaichi (via Stu Tierney, who ran Tools from Japan). Apparently this was treated with raised eyebrows at the time since Japanese "dovetail chisels" do not have fine lands. This is simply a name given to one type of bench chisel (oire nomi).


    The new chisels had the special minimal lands ...





    ... while the older ones retained their thick lands ...





    They are not much different from many Western bevel edged chisels: the lands are generally quite significant, and one would not wish to use them to make dovetails with tight angles as they would almost certainly bruise the edges.


    I've been thinking about the lands on chisels of late as I design a drawer to house the sets of Kiyohisa slicks and oire nomi. The one area that I feel lets these chisels down is the thick lands, since they are less suited than some for working into angled walls or sockets, which forms a relevant part of the work I use them for This does not prevent them being used for many other tasks) ...





    Anyway, it got me thinking about a really simple modification that could be made to chisels with thick lands. I have not seen this done elsewhere, but then what do I know? I would be surprised if others have not thought of this ... just that I have not seen it.


    I decided to modify the Koyamaichi chisels .... I am thinking of doing this to the Kiyohisa chisels, so please tell me what you think!


    No doubt the thick lands are believed to increase strength and rigidity in a chisel blade. All of the chisels have sides which are 90 degrees ...





    What if we re-ground tham to .. say .. 6:1 (9.5 degrees)? This would retain the strength of a high side wall, but create a chisel that could slip into a a wide range of dovetails. The entire side of a chisel does not have to be ground, just small section.


    To do this, I made a simple fixture for my belt sander ...








    Grinding like this is quite safe. Heat is kept down, and the grinding begins above the land. It is straightforward (with care!) to remove steel along the edge down to the edge of the back.


    Here is a Koyamaichi with the sides ground to create a narrow land. It lost 0.1mm, or less, from each side.





    The bright steel was returned to black with this converter ...





    One would not know that the blades have been modified





    Regards from Perth


    Derek

  2. #2
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    "One would not know that the blades have been modified "
    Your secret is safe with me.

    I like this modification, and the simple method.

    I have some Japanese chisels, nothing fancy, that I use on occasion and I've always wondered about the heavy duty lands. I may try this some day.

    Being a tool junkie I have the infamous Aldi chisels too (the backs were dead flat out of the polyethylene terephthalate packaging) and I think I'll try the fix on these first.

  3. #3
    My memory is fuzzy but I believe back in the 80s, the now notorious Robert Major/Mahogany Masterpieces offered Oiichi (?) chisels that had been custom ground so that the lands would not bruise dovetail sidewalls.

  4. #4
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    Interesting, Barney.

    I posted this on WoodCentral as well, and Wiley Horne, who has an excellent knowledge of high end Japanese chisels, replied: “The only smith I know of that will grind a 10-degree angle on the sides is Chutaro Imai, and on his white #1 chisels only. I never knew how he did it...”.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  5. #5
    Im guessing that the chisel makers have found that thin lands get burned by buyers unskilled at grinding. That causes complaints about
    the corners of those chisels you sold me get dull real fast .

  6. #6
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    As much as I respect and revere Kiyohisa as a maker, and as much as I recognise that I could be destroying the value of this chisels for a collector (if new, these chisels are around $250 - $500 each!), I am a user and believe that the chisels could be better for the lands being relieved. I do not do this lightly or impulsively. It has been on my mind for a long time. Finally, I decided to take the step.


    I chose to test my skills on a 30mm Kiyohisa oire nomi which I recently restored. The blade is shortish, and ground at 25 degrees - all-in-all, not ideal. I have since obtained a new one with a full length blade and 30 degree bevel.


    Here is the original, square side ...




    Here it has been ground at 9.5 degrees (6:1 ratio) ...




    From the front, can you see a difference between the ground side (right) and the unground side (left)?




    Here is the left side, ground and steel blackened. I dare anyone to say it was breathed on.




    But now it can work on dovetails as well.


    Regards from Perth


    Derek

  7. #7
    This is a nice write up and a very good modification for delicate work.

    There is another alternative for anyone in the market for Japanese chisels that are well suited to getting into tight corners. While in Japan I came across this chisel style known as Hiramachi-nomi. The lands are very slight and this style chisel is characterized by a flat neck. I was told they are traditionally made for furniture makers whereas the typical Oire-nomi are a carpentry chisel. That's what I was told at least.

    Here is a photo of my set, and they are excellent for getting into tight corners with little risk of bruising.


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    I suppose this grinding method would work for any chisel with a too-steep land?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Jones 5443 View Post
    I suppose this grinding method would work for any chisel with a too-steep land?
    Absolutely, Bob! I first tested this on a yellow-handled Stanley chisel.

    Square sides to begin ...



    Grinding ...



    Now the chisel will fit into 6:1 (and 7:1 and 8:1) angled sidewall.



    Regards from Perth

    Derek

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    That’s a bold move doing that to kiyohisa chisels but I think it is nicely done. I will say though, it is very hard to duplicate forge black with a solution.
    Bumbling forward into the unknown.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Jones 5443 View Post
    I suppose this grinding method would work for any chisel with a too-steep land?
    +1 on that thought. If my Buck Bros. chisels didn't already have very low lands this procedure might be used on some of my chisels.

    Why worry about "collector value" when for many folks the real value of a tool is its user value?

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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    Derek,

    I know you possess a set of Veritas PM-V11 chisels. What is the attraction, to you, of Japanese chisels that would cause you to go to such lengths? Understand that I know nothing of Japanese chisels. Thanks, Curt

  13. #13
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    Hi Curt

    It is an interesting question. I am very fortunate to own a few sets of really excellent chisels, such as the Veritas PM-V11 and Blue Spruce. So why does one need more than one set? After all, a chisel is a chisel is a chisel ... If I was a professional and watching my overheads, or just starting out in woodworking and watching my overheads, then I would have just one set .. or even less than that. That was me when I began woodworking a good time back. I still have a few of the original yellow handled Stanleys for rough work around the house.

    Are Japanese chisels better than, different from, Western chisels, such as Veritas? I think that the Veritas are the best allrounders available today: chopping, paring, detail work, dovetailing. Excellent steel. Who needs more than this?

    Japanese chisels are not all rounders. Oire Nomi are for chopping. Slicks are for paring. Ideally, you need two sets of chisels. This is not a good feature compared with Western chisels.

    The allure of Japanese chisels is partly that they are the best steel around. Better than PM-V11 for sharpness and edge holding. Easier to sharpen. But it goes beyond this. The blades are beautiful. Perhaps it is the mystique and history surrounding them, perhaps it is knowing that each I have is handmade by a master craftsman .. They beg that the rituals are followed, such as in sharpening, and that one respects the reverence that it part of the mental approach. I really like and appreciate the craft and design that went into Veritas and Blue Spruce - as mentioned, these are all one would need, and feel blessed to have them - but the Japanese chisels seem to connect to history as well.

    Regards from Perth

    Derek

  14. #14
    What would have been the origin of rituals for chisels ? Certainly sounds more serious than formal etiquette.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mel Fulks View Post
    What would have been the origin of rituals for chisels ? Certainly sounds more serious than formal etiquette.
    In Japan, with my limited understanding, the tradition (ritual) has come through the lines of Samurai sword making artisans.

    A quick consult with Dr. Google on > japan tradition of blades < indicates a long tradition of steel making in Japan.

    Japanese culture is also different through religious beliefs. A fine tuned Japanese craftsman's plane will have as much soul in it as it has sole put to its work.

    jtk
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
    - Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

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