Yearly Tool Haul 2012: Japan and Taiwan

This year’s annual transpacific trip included Japan as well as Taiwan. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see too much in the way of wood/woodworking stuff; there was just too much on the agenda.

However, I did get to go to the Meiji Jingu shrine, and the second gate (torii) on the path there is one of the largest wooden ones around, and happens to be made of Taiwan Yellow Cypress:

(The sign says “hinoki from Taiwan”–They consider the wood to be interchangeable.)

I didn’t have enough time to research tool shops in Japan, much less visit them, so I limited tool-buying to the home center-style stuff. To be honest, little odds and ends are all I really need right now. That’s a lucky thing, too, because the tools you get at the home center there are about a million times better than the ones you get in the US. Here’s the first batch:

At the top, a small mallet (wanted to see what it would do as a plane adjuster, plus I break the Thagomizer on a regular basis now–need to make another). Then there’s one of those milled-tooth files, that I’m going to try out as a half-round complement to the Shinto saw rasp that I like so much. Next is a diamond feather-edge file, because it looked like it might come in handy. And on the bottom is a general-purpose knife that I’m going to try out in my seemingly endless search for a marking knife that I like. That knife is nothing special, just the kind that a schoolkid might have used for sharpening pencils as described in Odate’s book.

Next is a couple of small squares:

The 4″ Lee Valley double square is at the top for size comparison. The 10x5cm square seemed like a handy size to me, and the tiny try square (made in Sanjo City) was too cute to resist. Note that even though these tools were not bought from a specialty shop, their accuracy is still guaranteed, and indeed, both are right on. You just can’t get that kind of thing from a home center in the US, and the price of these squares really isn’t excessive. We’re talking about $10 here.

I wish I could have gotten one of those larger framing squares that have the beveled face, but it would have not survived the airport baggage-handling gorillas. I suppose I can get those here, anyway.

Next up is a couple of sharpening implements:

I really have no idea what that thing on the top is, but it was cheap and it’s really coarse, so I figured that if nothing else, it could maybe be used to rough up the surface of my Sigma Power #120. I got the diamond plate on the bottom primarily for conditioning my waterstones.

Oh yeah, I got some shoji paper, too.

After leaving Japan, I went to the now-familiar tool shop in Taipei, and it turned out that I wasn’t quite done with Japan yet. I decided to buy my first Japanese chisel there for the hell of it (and to make Wilbur Pan gloat or something):

And I was looking for a smallish/medium smoothing plane, and got this typical Japanese-blade/Taiwanese body hybrid:

Annoyingly, the face of the blade on this thing was not flat when I got it–it had a very (very) slight convexity on one half of the edge. For those of you familiar with this kind of steel, though, you know that lapping it away is basically an exercise in futility, and it took me an embarrassingly long time to remember this.

So I tapped it out. I’d never done that before, and it was as nerve-wracking as everyone says it is, but I have to say that it worked like a charm.

Finally, the tool I was most looking forward to buying was a plain-jane Taiwanese-made rabbet plane:

Why? Because I’m fed up with my Stanley #78–a torturer of left hands since 1885. The one here doesn’t have a depth stop, though I could make one or clamp one on. And it seems that the convexity demon from the blade on the preceding plane infected this one, too. So I tapped out this one, too, this time with a little more confidence. Yay!

The maybe-not-so-strange thing about this plane is that it’s designed to be used left-to-right. I’m not sure it’s going to make much of a difference, but it might give me an excuse to buy an antique Western rabbet plane to complement it.

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