Sunday, November 30, 2014

On shielding

 I touched up the Shirai Sangyo Dozuki I have (from fine-tools, germany). It's not a great saw, and it was the first non disposable I got. I was stupid and used it for cutting some ugly construction wood and broke like 10 teeth off. Lately I've been trying to repair it. Today I tried the shield on it to touch up the top facet.

Anyway, this is the surface it leaves on some apple. 

Not bad if I may say so myself. Directly from the saw. It feels awesomely smooth.

Here a picture of the shield in use.

 Close up without the file

So you know now: if you go to war, don't forget your shield. The end grain will thank you. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Stupid little saviour

As usual, I was wrong.

It's three times easier and faster to use a "shield" to file the top eye of the teeth. I tried it with a paint scraper but it was slightly too thick. Thinking for a bit... the piece I broke off frankestsaw!

I had a failed comb in box woood for julia (I used the wrong grain direction, you need to glue two pieces of perpendicular grain, lesson learn) and after 5 minutes total, I had this:

You hold it in your left hand and put it behind the tooth you are sharpening, to "shield" it from the cutting edge of the file. Bonus is that the file itself becomes more stable since now it has 2 surfaces where to rest.  I filed the set off btw, you can see the tip of half of the teeth are clean, like that it can go into smaller places.

Even tho you can do it free hand, and I guess it helps to develop a straight hand, with the shield is way faster and easier. Try it. And you have a use for your fucked up broken saws.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The creation of value on Marx's theory of labour — restoring a Japanese saw part 1

I would like to write how you choose a good vintage saw in you favourite flea market, say the one in Kyoto, what to look for, what to avoid, and how to get your 3 euros saw back to work in less than 45min.

But since I'm not in Japan, the only thing I can do is to get them in ebay and pray to the goddess of saw making that what I got for 7 euros each included shipping is worth a bit more than that. 

Today I got the package from Gary, and I may have saved some karma on the past because man the saws are sweet. They bent lovely. Two of them even bent the same way in each side... 

This is what I got:

Select the one you want to restore:

And put some water to it. Then stone it for a while.

I'm using the 10 euros small stone from 330_mate, I stole the idea from him also.  After 3 minutes or so:

What's that?

Seems like somebody signed that piece of rust.

 Indeed, that's a signature.

After 10 minutes and 3 visits to the sink to clean the mud, you start to get something like a saw.

What's more, a saw with with deep sen's mark. I have found a correlation between the degree of sen marks a saw has and its bending... the deeper the marks, the nicer the bending, and the nicer the cut, like more solid... difficult to explain.

Once I got slightly tired, I decided to joint a bit the teeth.

 Just a tad. I rather sharpen 3 times at small increments, than one big filing. Besides, I don't care if there are some teeth missing.

 Yep, like those.

After that, I go to the ground and clean the rust from the gullets. I am not sharpening, just cleaning with an old file so I don't put rust on my nice files.

It looks like this. Real fast, one handed, 4 fingers... nothing fancy, just clean that rust out the way.

and yet another view. The guy who sharpen this thing last time was quite good I must say, look at how homogeneous are the flats on top, also the gullets.

 Then I put some WD-40 and call it a day. My right hand started complainig, I still have a non-functional finger there.

The signature again:

And the whole saw. The rust on the rip teeth is because I filed the sides after cleaning the gullets there.
That was 45minutes or so. My 3,38 euros saw became a, what, 10, 20 euros saw? And the only thing I did was to rub a stone on top of it and file the teeth 5 minutes. Once the bandage is out I can sharpen it and I will have yet another fully functional re-sharpenable saw for 2 hours of labour.

True, the blade could be straighter. Now it has a small bent to one side, say 3mm or so out of flatness. But also had it one of the more expensive NOS saw I got from sakura, and they cut perfectly fine anyway. 

But more importantly, at least for me, is the poetic side of it. By working on it, this saw regains its dignity, and the work, time and skill that somebody put on it long time ago will remain in this world for another 50 years or so. The actions of this unknown blacksmith from Japan will keep having effects way after his death. 

A little joyful resurrection — maybe. 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Sick leave

I was sharpening the biggest kanna blade I have when the killer stuck on the stone. Like those japanese guys who leave the blade standing on the stone, holding only by surface tension or electromagnetism, who knows, and go for a coffee.

Anyway, the blade was standing there, I wanted to take a picture so you believe me, then the blade falls, hand goes for it, then I go to the hospital. Fun, fun, fun.

This was last week.

So no woodworking, no sharpening and no work. I could not even properly walk friday.

The finger is fine... no bone was cut and no infection. You don't want the details anyway. Flash forward till today.

Julia was talking with a friend from Germany today, and after finishing she comes to me and asks: "am I getting stupid?" Fair question, since we have been getting rid of books like the military after a coup. The thing is, we don't really read anymore and most of the talk is sewing machine in one room and hammer and plane in the other. We watched yesterday a movie of Godard, but that almost doesn't count as intellectual anymore.

I had the same question a while ago. You know, I'm a post-doc, and I'm supposed to research and learn... they pay me for that. But to be honest, scientifically speaking, last 2 years were an infinite desert. ( I have my reasons for that, not least that I sincerely think that trying to solve global problems with the same method that brought us here is at best wishful thinking a la middle ages, and at worst, a suicidal neurosis.) One year of vacations and one year of doing what I know how to do... not really learning something new in my job.

But the thing is, I don't feel at all that I'm getting dumber. (Save the finger cut that is.) What I've been doing during the last 2 years in my free time is: a) to study parts of the world, b) develop the methods to interact in a proficient way with those parts of the world, and lately thanks to Jason c) communicate in a thoughtful way the invariants I find in the parts of the world I study. Granted, to study the steel of one of my blades and how it interacts with the grain of a stone, and after that how it goes searching the molecules of the wood are not going to get me a nobel prize... but then again, you don't do science for the results, you do it for the sake of it.

What happens when you learn a skill? Say blacksmithing. When you learn to forge a knife, what your body is doing is learning facts about the world. How the blow of the hammer creates a certain deformation on the steel, which is dependent on the temperature, the kind of material, the angle at which you hit... you are learning facts about the world that permit you to move in an assertive way in the domain of hammering metal.

This is a knowledge that cannot be put in a formula, and that's why our modern world seems so poor at times, for we value more the formula than the metaphor. This is a knowledge that has to be embodied, that is, lived. And this is at odds with pretty much the whole of modernity.

And so this plane came to be.

I started it last year in Celle, from some maple Opa had laying around. I finished the fourth wedge today. The first two were crap, the third one made out of spruce and sincerely cheap... This one is nice. I just didn't have the accuracy to make a properly fitting one six months ago. I didn't have the understanding necessary to access the world of plane making and move comfortably there, even with a wounded finger.

She will remain here in Europe, hopefully helping a friend with his bike shop in Leipzig.

And that's it, really. When Benjamin declared the death of the work of art's aura in the age of mechanical reproduction, the only thing you need is to do, is to produce in a non-mechanical way, and you get the aura back. It's that plane with the knot on top, and the ash wedge, and the gouge marks on it. There is an intimacy born from the experience, the experience of the close contact with the material, that you cannot buy, that you cannot exchange.

We knew this, and we can learn it again.

When Rilke sadly wrote that “for our grandparents a ‘house’, a ‘well’, a familiar tower, their very clothes, their coat: were infinitely more, infinitely more intimate; almost everything a vessel in which they found the human and added to the store of the human”, and continued then complaining of the lifeless things imported from America, Marx should have come by and said: "it's the means of production, idiot."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rabbit, rebate, rabbet

The toolworks on the title is because I want, eventually, to make tools.

Well, to be more precise, I want to have a life where I am the most radically disconnected of the world in terms of materials and energy that's feasible to have an elegant life. You know, elegant as in Einstein's equations.

It is easy to be an anarchist when you can grab your gigantic car, go to the next shop, buy some lie nielsen tools and then back to your sofa and gigantic TV. I wonder if the cars get bigger in america to fit the TVs or is it the other way around.

For those of you who don't know,  90% of the world doesn't have car, tv or a lie nielsen shop around the corner. Let's forget the 50% who lives in war or ebola countries, and that leaves us with shit loads of people poor and with no tools. On top of that, during the good old times of the colonies, british guys went there, took the wood, and left shitty governments and few guys dead. Maybe they took the tea too.

So, I don't want no anarchist tool shite, I want an "free association of producers where you never treat your fellow only as means" tool chest. Bear with me a bit, the picture comes.

The idea of development as we get in southamerica, in Chile to be precise, comes directly from USA like our m&m's.  As Harry Truman rightly put it, we are consumers, and they will help us to consume our way out of poverty. Don't worry if you voted for going another way, we will kill your people and make them stupid and afraid in order to convince you that's the right choice.

And so it happend and Chile became the North Korea of neoliberalism, and health sucks, education sucks, and worst of all, people are retard.

Eventually, the same happened in the whole world by the hand of Thatcher, Reagan, and the IMF. Nowadays we call it austerity.

Where was I? Hating the Chicago school of economics for making the world as stupid as in the middle ages. I mean, we used to have science and don't believe in god, but when they told us about the shitty hand of the market and the rational agents, we all said Amen.

I escaped from Chile because I wanted to live in a democratic country. You know, all that crazy shit of health insurance, pensions and equal rights. Holland was a cool place, but IMF is stronger. Europe nowadays is pretty much dead.

So back to Chile.

I do not only want to build "el buen vivir" there. (That means the good living, for those monolinguals from the north.) I want to build the elegant good living. The fair good living. The beautiful good living. For me, all of these go hand in hand. Like Plato, ya know, truth, beauty, justice, bacon... all in the same plate.

And the only way to do that is with your hands, and the hands of your friends.

I used to think that learning woodworking was not enough to change the world. Of course there is plenty of shit to do still, but the fact that I am able to make boxes, and tables and tools, means that me and my friends can skip Ikea for good. It means that I can teach people, to continue working after I'm gone to Mexico. It means that if I want to build something like Tokio 1800, I don't need 3000 carpenters more, but only 2999. And now we are talking of the coolest city ever, with samurais on the street and carbon neutral. (Btw, Tokio 1800, or Edo, had one million people living there, and 3000 carpenters only. Adding the apprentices, that makes roughly one carpenter every 100 people.)

Something along those lines.

Btw, it was sunday so I made a rabbet plane:


Monday, November 10, 2014

Diagonal Chumasaru — jointing and sharpening

Today I was playing again with yesterday's saw.  

I sharpened and gave it a try, and was blow out for how fast it cut. It's 3.1415 times better than my universal kataba. And cheaper. 

It was nice, but the ripping teeth ended up far to low, so I was only looking at the effect of the deep gullets. Anyway it was cool, but I wanted to try the real shit. 

So I jointed down till the ripping teeth height, and sharpened again. And touched the gullets with a needle file.

I'm still learning how much you need to file down the front and back facet before touching the third eye, so the teeth are a bit chubby for my taste. I like em skinny and blond. 

Anyway, here it is. I hope to give Jason more reasons to confuse my saws with the one from Nagakatsu. (Are you sure you don't need glasses?) 



Here is the other side: 

This is how it looked when I jointed them. A lot of more filing than what I was expecting, however, I think it was well worth it. 

 For sure, this is the sexiest diagonal cut saw I ever tried. Not that I've tried many, but boy it goes fast compared to a cross cut. 

Next in the pipeline is a gents saw that will get a japanese haircut and home made azebiki. Maybe. 

Anyway, it feels pretty damn cool to have a saw that you cannot buy in ebay. And being able to make them feels even better. Give it a try. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Diagonal Chumasaru — a small tutorial

I don't know if it's the laptop or all the sawing and planing, but I have a pain in my right hand that has me doing a lot of reading and not so much working.

For sunday monday, I choose some light work then: filing.

For a long time I've been thinking of my diagonal cut kataba. I really like it but it's a disposable blade and it feels cheap when it cuts (but it cuts fast!). Furthermore, I didn't really understand how to make the same filing by hand.

Enters Nagakatsu. He has some lovely nice looking diagonal cut saws that Tanaka is using for 2 years already without sharpening. Yesterday I saw it in use here.

I counted the teeth, and it was 20 at the beginning, then a large gullet every 6 teeth. The tooth on the gullet is a rip tooth, and I guess it has no set. (By way of comparison, my universal kataba has 2 rip teeth every 6 rip teeth.)

So it looks:

I'm sorry about the red handle. It's a spare one I have from sakura pink. Gosh they look kitsch.

So. How you do it?

1. Take a cross cut saw,

2. Count 20 teeth from the base up and break it. I used my leatherman. (You see, I learnt something from all the teeth I broke without wanting to do it: the best way to break them is with pliers.) From then, break 1 tooth every 6. That is, leave 5 teeth between the spaces. One will be rip, 4 cross cut. Alternatively, start from the top of the saw, count 5 teeth, then break the sixth, and go down till you have 20-22 teeth left.

3. Put the saw in the saw vice and start filling the gullet. I started with the handle in my left, and I go from the back to the top of the saw. File the gullet first from right to left, such that you project the angle of the left tooth towards the centre of the saw. Should look like this:

On the right, you see the broken teeth, in the left the filed gullet. In the middle, the steel that flies off the file. Don't worry too much about the left side of the gullet you are filing, you will take it out soon.

4. Once you are done with left teeth, it's time to set the geometry for the rip teeth. They have to be at the very least vertical. So, starting from the bottom left of the gullet, now you file towards the right, removing more material from the side than from the bottom. Wie so:

Again, I go from left to right.

5. At the end, should look something like that. As usual, after some practice it gets better, so I tend to retouch the left side of the saw.

(Those are the hammer marks of when I tried to straighten the blade. Didn't really work.)

6. Then, last step. You need to sharpen the teeth next to the gullets with a rip geometry. This will lower the height of those teeth, since it's at a lower angle than the cross cut . So you also need to sharpen a bit the cross cut teeth to keep the same height along the saw. 

After 10 saws, you should be able to get something like this

That's it. It took me like an hour or 2 while having breakfast. It looks incredible cool and even the red handle looks sexy now. 

It also cuts btw. Still needs another session of sharpening to define better the geometry but today's task is  accomplished: creating the gullets for your own universal cut ryoba. 

Monday, November 3, 2014


It's been a while, sorry about that, but there was not much saw sharpening going on.

I've been ripping a lot of stock. Some ash legs for a table in dumpster wood, resawing some spruce for a lid, and more ash I'm cutting quarter sawn for some marquetry idea I have. Hint: desert and swiss painter.

Anyway, here a mock up of the table. I ran out of glue so cannot yet finish the inlay.

The legs are ash from a piece I bought when I arrived to Graz. I bought it in a tischlerei, and they charged me twice the market price of ash.

This is directly from the saw.  I used nice steel (295mm) to cut this one. 

For the other piece I'm quarter sawing, I decided to try the smaller ryoba I got from Sakura pink. I touched the rip side. Take note: first the vertical side, then the bevel. 

I mark by hand a line, and start cutting from the 4 sides, trying to meet in the middle. 

This is the angle I like for ripping. The sound of the saw must be soft and high pitched. Not the rak rak rak of each teeth, but a continuous sound. When you change the angle, the sound changes too. Find your flow, don't press too much, go fast. Enjoy the saw dust flight out of the groove.  

 An indiscreet shot.

Could be straighter.

But after all, it was not so bad.

I should have cut more lengthwise to avoid the cupping in the middle.

After that, it goes to the plane:

Yes, I'm using a japanese plane. I must concede, Jason, that it is lighter than my No 4. This expensive ash didn't only have worms, it's also a pain in neck to plane. Raising grain all over the place, that's why I plane perpendicular to the grain.

I'm using a pseudo-Tanaka workbench. A piece of rosewood in the tail vice is my plane stop.

Close up to the shavings.

And that was tonight. I'm thinking of something along these lines. Marquetry, squares, colours.

Oh, and I forgot to say that it's a really good exercise. Ripping some 40x40cm feels like 10 minutes light running. For the legs of the table I even managed to sweat a tad.

Edit: teeth for ripping hard wood