Een paar jaar geleden bezocht ik samen met Sergej een aantal meubelmakers in Engeland en ook de redactie van Fine Furniture & Cabinetmaking, om o.a. het prachtige japanse lakwerk van Sergej te promoten. Michael Huntley was toen de hoofdredacteur van FF&C en na ons bezoek hebben we het contact onderhouden. Hij is 1,5 jaar geleden gestopt met zijn werk voor FF&C en voor zich zelf begonnen met o.a. cursussen en ..... nou lees maar!!

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Nihon no Daiku Kouza (Japanese Tool Study Group)
Issue 1 October 2011 Written by Michael Huntley email Michael@hsow.co.uk www.hsow.co.uk
How this Newsletter was started News Sharpening Booklist

Glossary About me
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Index
How this newsletter came about
Whilst editing Furniture & Cabinetmaking (F&C) magazine, I became aware that the language barrier stopped many people from furthering their use and understanding of Japanese tools. I have some knowledge of Japanese, (see my biography), so words like uragane were not such a problem to me (although I still have problems with verbs and tenses and specialist instructions). I am lucky in that I have an ex-student of mine who lives near Tokyo and with whom I am in touch with by email. I can send him problem phrases and he translates them for me.
In 2010 I wrote a series of articles for F&C about Japanese Tools. This led to me giving talks about Japanese Saws and to my introductory classes about Kanna (planes). In my article I had said that whereas saws (nokogiri) were relatively easily usable by those unfamiliar with Japanese tools, kanna required a fair bit of specialist understanding and if you haven’t studied them, stay with your Western planes. I was unhappy with that statement because I felt it would put people off, so that was why I started the kanna tuning sessions. It was at a lunch break in one of those sessions that Andy Ryalls and I came up with the idea of a Japanese Tool Study Group and a Newsletter.
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I felt that the Newsletter should be free, distributed by email, and open to all sensible comments. My hope is that beginners will find the terminology explained and that “experts” will find other people’s ideas interesting and that they will also contribute ideas and experiences of their own. I reserve the right to refuse to publish anything that I consider unsuitable but hope that I never have to do so!
I intend to put in Notices about availability of tools and retail outlets but not to take advertisements. I will however comment about which tools are my favourites and why, as well as which are not favourites and why that is, for example a flattening stone that was not flat.
I anticipate that there will be 5 main subject areas in future newsletters – Sharpening; Chisels; Saws; Planes; other tools; Notes & Queries and finally Japanese language notes. I think it is worth including some language notes because being familiar with written Japanese and using their terminology does help reduce confusion.
Open Days
My Koubou (workshop) will be open to visitors on Saturday afternoon the second Saturday of each month from 2.00 to 4.00. The first one will be October 8th:- send me an email and I will give you directions.
Administrative trivia
There will be some of this I’m afraid. First question is can each of you let me know if you are happy to have your email address disclosed to other subscribers? If I do not hear from you I shall assume you are happy to have your address open to all.
Can you all tell me where in the country you are located – just for interest’s sake?
All constructive criticism is welcomed: please don’t hesitate to tell me when I make a mistake. Now to begin.......
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News Saws - Nokogiri
The legendary Japanese saw-sharpener Nagatsu-san held a Master-class here in the UK in July. This was hosted by The Carpenter’s Fellowship www.carpentersfellowship.co.uk. Nagatsu-san showed us how to cut Japanese style teeth on a Western saw as well as explaining the nomenclature and practice of filing Japanese pull-saws. A full report, photos and drawings are being prepared and will appear in the next JTSG Newsletter.
Huntley Oak Saw
As well as attending Nagatsu-san’s Master-class I have been involved in helping to develop a saw that addresses the common held belief that replaceable blade pull-saws are not suitable for hardwoods. I have worked with Z-saws www.woodworkprojects.co.uk who have made a replaceable blade saw whose teeth are more resilient.
When I started training in the late 1970s there was a new saw on the market – The Japanese Saw. At that point in time we young students had no concept of pull saws. Yes, you would put a fret or coping saw blade into the frame with the teeth facing you in order to prevent the blade buckling, likewise a hack-saw blade, but for a wood-saw – never. Saws had to be pushed through the timber. It was self-evident.
Suddenly the whole class of us were introduced to saws that you pulled through the wood. One person bought one, we all tried it out and by the week-end the tool shop had sold out. We were lucky, we were within driving distance of a shop that imported these saws.
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At that point we just bought what the shop imported. There was no sense of a specialist saw for particular timbers or cuts. From the Japanese point of view they just sent us the saws that they sold most of in their own country. These happened to be saws used in the building trade for second fix joinery. Second fix timbers were softwood, therefore we got saws with tooth configurations designed for joiners using softwood.
Back in Japan, cabinetmakers using hardwoods were still using saws that could be re- sharpened. The tooth configurations were designed for the particular timbers that they were using. A man may well have 10 saws, each with a slightly different tooth pattern. But here is the important point, if you will forgive the pun, the tooth points of these cabinet-makers’ saws could be sharpened with a file. All the joinery saws that we were getting over here were not sharpenable with a file. The points were impulse hardened and the files wouldn’t touch them. Manufacturing processes had made blades harder and sharper as well as cheaper. Our cabinet-makers were using saws designed for second fix joinery, but because they were sharp and cheap we were putting up with the problems associated with cutting hardwoods using teeth designed for softwood. That is how the perceived wisdom “Japanese saws are only designed for softwoods” came about.
Huntley Oak Saw
I had some Japanese friends and when Derek Jones (editor of F&C) asked me to write about Japanese tools I began to ask questions of the Japanese saw manufacturers. We had a series of email discussions and it gradually emerged that a disposable blade saw for hardwood could easily be made. All that was required was to alter the tooth configurations, angles, thickness of the blade and so on. Luckily Takao Okada who owned Z-saws was willing to experiment. He sent me some prototypes and the saw now sold as the Huntley Oak Saw (HOS) was developed from these prototypes.
The Huntley Oak Saw
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What is different about the HOS?

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One of the complaints about Japanese saws is that the impulse hardened teeth break off. This has been addressed in several ways. The teeth are slightly larger, the blade is very slightly thicker and the hardness is slightly reduced. So you have a bigger tooth which adds strength, and the lower hardness reduces brittleness. See drawing “Teeth No 2”
[This is the second tooth prototype. Teeth No 1 we discarded as being too difficult to start a cut with. The red figures are the previous settings, the black figures are the ones we used. The annotations are as I received them from Japan.]
What is impulse hardening? This is a process in which the teeth are subjected to a magnetic flux resulting in a harder tooth. The hardness of the tooth tip reaches about 950 – 1000Hv (Vicker’s Hardness Scale) which is just a bit higher than 68 on the Rockwell C scale which is the scale that most woodworkers use. The main body of the Japanese saw-blade is about 53 on the Rockwell Scale. Just for comparison a normal saw sharpening file is around 64 Rockwell C. These figures show how much harder modern Japanese saws are in comparison to traditional saws, both Japanese and Western, that can be sharpened by hand with a 64RC file. Of course an extra hard tooth retains its sharpness for longer. But also, and really importantly, a computer cut tooth is utterly symmetrical on both sides. This means that the left hand teeth cut precisely the same amount of timber as the right-hand teeth, therefore the cut stays straight. Saw drift occurs when teeth or set are not even.
In case you are wondering, if the entire saw body was as hard as the tip, it would break in use. There is always a trade off between hardness and durability. This trade off is the Holy Grail for metallurgists!
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Sharpening
Well that’s a bold first subject to kick off with I reckon! If there is one thing guaranteed to get woodworkers talking/arguing it is sharpening. However, I think it is the thing that we all stand or fall by, one student of mine said “It is like a religion to Michael”. I get asked more questions about sharpening and I have taught more sharpening than anything else.
In Japan, sharpening is almost an unconscious activity. I mean by that that it is so much a part of the wood-workers life that it is, like breathing, automatic. It is not something special. It is not a case of “Oh, I have got to sharpen now, so let’s get all the stuff out, move the project, get the water...” and so on. Sharpening is as normal and regular as having your mobile phone on all the time, indeed Robin Wood who has worked with Japanese craftsmen says that they can sharpen with one hand and answer the phone at the same time with the other hand.
Photo of Sharpening setup courtesy of Robin Wood.
So, what kit do I use and recommend? I began in 1984 with King Stones. I now use Norton stones and I intend to buy some Shaptons soon. Grits are 220, 1000, 4000, 8000. This is not a perfect range, but I have to demonstrate to students who don’t always have a big budget and who are not yet aware that their stones are such an important part of their kit. For flattening I use 80 grit on glass however the subject of flattening is one I intend to come back to in a later article. I have a dedicated wet area in a lean-to next door to the workshop where I have set up a sink and a surface on which to rest the stones.
I’d like to hear what other people use and perhaps publish pictures of their set up. So please get in touch. I have it on good authority that the flat side of discarded grinding wheels are used in plane maker’s workshops as flattening stones. Has anyone else heard of similar ideas? Concrete paving stones have also been mentioned. I cannot believe that carpenters, (daiku) carry sheets of plate glass around similar to the ones found in British workshop.
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Books dealing with Japanese tools
This is a list of interesting books which I hope will be added to. If you have a title that I haven’t mentioned please send details:
Odate, T; Japanese Woodworking Tools, Linden,1998, ISBN 0-941936-46-5 Mesirow, K & Herman, R; The Care and Use of Japanese Woodworking Tools, Stone Bridge
Press, 2006, ISBN 10: 1-933330-13-9
Seike,K; The Art of Japanese Joinery, Weatherhill, 2007, ISBN 978-0-8348-1516-2 This is about architectural joints not cabinet-making joints. There are line drawings and photographs but the emphasis is on house or temple building not cabinetry.
Two books in Japanese which I bought from Amazon in Japan. The search fields need to be filled in using characters. I can send you the links if anyone wants them.
The Traditional technique of Woodworking, Mokku no dentougihou, by Umeda Soutarou, 1,238 Yen
This is a 95 page paperback showing a number of Western projects for Woodworking Colleges. There are also pages about tool choice and tool use but the pictures are rather small.
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Illustrated drawings of joints, Zukai mokkou no tugite siguti by Toriumi Yosinosuke, 3,000 Yen.
This is a hardback of 126 pages showing line drawings and photographs of joints. This is a worthwhile reference book.

Glossary
I am not fluent in Japanese, so if anyone who is would like to correct me, please do so!
Daiku ?? - Carpenter
Kanna ? - Plane
Nokogiri & Noko ?
Both words mean “saw” but nook alone is an adverb. In Japanese abbreviations can be used when context alone will make the meaning clear. The problem for non fluent Japanese readers is that it is often unclear which of the characters in a compound word can safely be left out!
Uragane - Ura means “under, opposite or reverse” uragane is supporting blade, we would call it a chip-breaker. More about planes next time.
Koubou ?? - Workshop Japanese online dictionary http://jisho.org/
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About me
My first job after leaving school was in the Japanese Department at Sotheby's in London. However, I wanted to actually work with wood not just catalogue wooden objects, so I went to Bruce Luckhurst's workshop at Little Surrenden to train in furniture conservation and restoration.
In 1990 I was asked to help set up the Conservation and Restoration Department at Sotheby's where I worked until 1998 when I moved to the West Country to build my own timber framed house.
I have taught part time on the Restoration and Conservation of Furniture Course at West Dean College. I teach on occasion at London Metropolitan University, formerly London College of Furniture and also at Urchfont College in Wiltshire. I also wrote the MA module on care of antiques for the University of Northumberland.
I am an accredited conservator-restorer of the Institute of Conservation and have served on the committee of the Furniture Section of this Institute.
From 2007 to 2009 I was Editor of Furniture & Cabinetmaking magazine and have written as a free lance for this publication since the first issue in 1996.
I have two published book: one about the care and conservation of antiques and the other detailing the History of Furniture.
I now spend my time teaching, writing and working for private clients conserving and restoring antique furniture and this year have completed the build of my Koubou Workshop, using mainly recycled materials.
Copyright: Michael Huntley September 2011
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