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Spectric

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Just having breakfast and watching the Japanese channel NHK, they were talking about Japanese woodworking, in particular planes which looked nothing like the ones I think of, no metal base just basicaly blocks of wood with a handforged blade fitted and they work backwards just like Japanese saws, it was really interesting to see these masters at work. Perhaps like their saws a backward working plane is easier to use, just not such a logical reason.
 
Tools (at least historically) are built around the society's understanding and methodology in the manufacturing process, it's one of the reasons Archaeology is so helpful in understanding past societies because the way the process was made, the workflow and layout are a window into a society's values and culture. Equally tools and techniques for a new process (or refinement of an existing process) can be derrived from older technologies or techniques from other processes and these links are interesting in themselves.

As a crude example look at the introduction of metal planes in the west, they were designed to fit in with existing workflows and techniques and be as close to a direct replacement of common sizes of wooden plane as possible, which was probably a major factor in why they were adopted; it may not have had the same degree of success if users had to learn a brand new way of working...

I can't comment on the specifics of japanese tool evolution and techniques; this pull method may genuinely work better on their native timbers for various subtle reasons, or it just may be the initial solution developed in the (very) early days of woodworking and they've stuck with it because it works and blends nicely with the muscle memory of other tools.

A Japanese saw is not inherently superior to a (good quality) western backsaw, it is a different solution to inherently similar problems. I suspect a Japanese plane is likely similar.
 
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Perhaps a little simplistic but isn’t it that traditional Japanese woodwork was done on the floor so pulling tools towards yourself is easier & gives more control where as western tools developed for standing at a bench where pushing with your weight behind the tool is preferable?
I use a Japanese saw when doing flooring it’s so much easier to use when knelt simply holding both timber & saw in just your hands.
 
While it's not really quite so simple, it seems generally like planes are of three types:
1) euro, american, continental - two hands, front to back, push (continental generally with the iron further back
2) chinese - two hands, look sort of like a pull plane, but cross bar to push from behind - directly behind if possible. can be pulled - so can the planes in #1
3) japanese - pull, no provision to push

I've had all three, but limited numbers of 2 and it's awkward to use a western bench and push from behind, anyway.

There's no advantage to gain with japanese planes, but if you spend your life pulling tools and all of your neurons are set to do that, it'll be fairly hard to push saws and planes without transition time. They have plenty of saws and the chipbreaker on their planes to work hard or less than perfect woods, but that kind of thing isn't sold much here. What's harder for us is figuring out a good way to use their saws to rip (more or less need a custom saw if you want to rip western woods with any efficiency).

There is one drawback to the planes, though, or two:
1) if you're in infrequent user, you'll have to condition the sole of the plane each time you smooth something
2) you'll be sharpening a fairly wide chord of iron, and the iron will likely be something that wears no slower than O1 (despite the comments about all of the irons that hold an edge forever). The advantage of fine grained steel is on the chisel side (high hardness and edge strength). Translation - maintaining the edge without grinding (grinding is actually fine with most irons - the tempering temperature being super low is exaggerated - blue and white schedules from hitachi start around 300-325F. Use your fingers to feel and judgement otherwise. Translation attempt 2!! - if you follow their methods to sharpen, and imitate neatness you see in tutorials, you'll get the same life as western tools but four times the sharpening time involved and repairing chips will be agonizing - and you're fighting clearance issues at the same time.

The more wear resistant irons other than high speed steel are dogs (the super blue is just OK but often has disparate carbides that lead to unexpected small chips - it's extremely overpriced for what it is. edge life is only about the same as A2 at the very best, which is only marginally better than good O1).

No great convention with their planes to joint hardwood panels of flatten large surfaces, either - you'd want to keep a metal jointer on hand to remove ripples and other surface disturbances that start and then continue as the sole profile allows them to propagate.

All that said, the surface brightness in perfect softwoods is hard to match with a western plane. It can be matched with a stanley if you buff the bevel side, strangely enough. Not sure if the way it's achieved is the same, though (severing vs. burnishing while cutting), but the outcome is similar.

I have some crosscut saws that I got from japan that have a more generalized tooth profile - they cut dandy in everything, including hardwoods, and their temper is resharpenable. The heavy promotion of their woodworking culture appears to be more of an export thing than in country, at least when it comes to numbers (i'm sure they subsidize some artisans as claimed, but the number is limited. Most of the ____-san talk is aimed at us, as are most of the expensive tools. The legit guys working over there tend to have tools that look more like used tools that are used more than looked at or preened). Reason I mention this is if you're willing to go to their version of ebay, you can get all kinds of wonderful things used for not much money. I've seen zero difference between a $75 old stock kanna pair and an $800 plane sold by someone speaking english, except that folks in country will buy the former, and I doubt they buy much of the latter).
 
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my apologies for the wordiness!! I took the whole "which way to go" thing pretty seriously when deciding to work by hand.

I don't use much japanese stuff now, except for some chisels and a couple of saws (it's definitely the case that some of their saws are nice to have for cutting things off in the vise.

I posted a thread a few weeks ago on another forum about cleaning up a few crosscut saws out of a dozen (resharpenable, older, marked with full hardness plates) that I'd gotten off of buyee (proxy to get on japan's version of ebay) for literally $17.xx for the entire dozen. A sin on the part of folks who never used them.



I made an unlisted video to compare the speed - disposable, then fine toothed resharpenable and then coarser resharpenable (note the teeth look a lot like western teeth, but the fleam is aggressive and the rake is more aggressive to make up for the fact that we do not push down into saws like this and they have to engage in the cut themselves without much downforce.

The coarser saw is a bit sticky to start if the corner of a board is either softwood or sapwood.

As far as the planes go, I still have a few, but never really use them. If they're not used in the context of japanese woodworking, it's just hard to make them do much. But there is something for the out of shape fellow in terms of usefulness until you can plane with both hands equally with a western plane - to do the jack work dimensioning, it's kind of nice to have both a japanese plane set up with heavy camber and a western plane - you can go back and forth without having to take as many breaks.

I've since sharpened the middle saw (the coarse one, I think was resharpened before), and the middle saw is a fair bit faster than a new Z265mm crosscut saw (that's the faster vs. finer of the two z disposable 265mm crosscut blades).

If I had advice to give, it's don't get too far into japanese tools before you find what you can do with them as they're heavily heavily marked up to anyone who is overseas, we're easy targets, and the residual value is poor. I got a new set of ouchi I chisels (the earlier ones when the father was working, which I think may be better regarded and harder) from MJD tool auctions here years ago - 14 chisels, unused - $450. That auction is very well attended in person and virtually, too - I ended up selling them later for about the same price. New cost for a new set of that type (the extras in the set were very wide chisels which are expensive, but hard to figure out how to use) would probably be near two grand. I think the 10 chisel sets that don't have the extra wide chisels would be $1500 or so.
 
As was explained to me the reason Japanese saws pull and not push.
Take a piece of paper and hold it at each end facing away from you.
The nearest to you hand push the paper and what happens ?. The paper bends.
Same piece of paper,held the same and the nearest hand to you you pull, what happens ?, the paper remains rigid.
Because of this Japanese saw blades can be extremely thin and not be affected by buckling.
 
I believe part of the reason the planes work on the pull is due to the traditional Japanese carpenter not working with a western style bench.
They use a thing like a beam with a stop and commonly work sitting down. Effectively having nothing to push against, so it is better to pull and brace against your body.
This was something to do with them being travelling craftsmen not necessarily having a fixed workshop.

Have a look at a Yarri Kanna its a "plane" which is like a spear used to shave the wood.

Japanese woodworking is fascinating.

Ollie
 
But you can get just as thin western saws albeit with a back on them

I don't have any western crosscut saws that are as fast as the coarse one in my video, but it's a fair point that you have to step on the work to use two hands on the saw if you're not near a bench. I still generally prefer western saws.
 
Not strictly relevant, but I heard one theory that planes started as fine adzes being pulled towards you to create a thin continuous finishing shaving with the wooden body starting as a jig to hold it at the right angle - can't for the life of me remember where I came across this now though.
 
Just having breakfast and watching the Japanese channel NHK, they were talking about Japanese woodworking, in particular planes which looked nothing like the ones I think of, no metal base just basicaly blocks of wood with a handforged blade fitted and they work backwards just like Japanese saws, it was really interesting to see these masters at work. Perhaps like their saws a backward working plane is easier to use, just not such a logical reason.

Have a look at Ishitani on u tube, I really like watching this guy.
 
Not strictly relevant, but I heard one theory that planes started as fine adzes being pulled towards you to create a thin continuous finishing shaving with the wooden body starting as a jig to hold it at the right angle - can't for the life of me remember where I came across this now though.

Also don't know that much about anything japanese more than say, 80 years old. The yari ganna or whatever the spear planes are called seem to precede the kanna. Not sure how many people buy them, but in demonstrated use, they look both difficult to use and incapable of leaving a really flat surface. Use seems to be ceremonial if anything, but maybe with the super surfacer and a decent portable electric planer, that's the case for the hand planes now, too.
 
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