Thursday, July 9, 2015

50usd shavings

People seem to think that the more you spend (money wise) the better the results will be.

I mean, it's fine to spend 300 or 1300 euros in a plane if you got the means, but if you don't have the skill to make it sing is a waste of money for you and I bet somewhere the gods of planing are crying because of it.

So, to show people what you can (and should) get for your money, I'm sharpening properly my planes and flattening the sole, and showing you the shavings I get.

In general, I'm very very lazy with kanna setup, as long as the thing is cutting relatively straight, I don't care about pretty much anything.  If that involves paper shims, hammering the sub blade, or gluing 3 pieces of wood to the dai, fine for me. A concave bevel or secondary bevel are also options I usually use. Sometimes getting a straight bevel means grinding too much material and if the previous guy was using it like that, I should first understand why and what use had that particular plane before imposing the "how it must be" approach.

Nough talk.

This is my jack/No 6 plane, it flattens boards fast as hell. I use it for very very coarse work so I never conditioned it before.

This is how I level the bed:

I use a fine rasp Opa gave me for Christmas last year. Seems to be flat enough.  Look I don't really care about the lines and I don't scrap it smooth or anything

The edge from another point of view. Also, I only flatten with the rasp just half an inch before the blade. The rest I do with a plane.  Note also that I don't care at all about the wide mouth, what I did care about what the sharpness, check how straight is reflecting light (and the small hollow in the middle of the blade).

This is how it looks after 3 minutes with the plane to condition the sole. Look at the different colours, this is really a fast job.

The cap iron is not even close to the edge, again I don't care. In fact, the cap iron is used only to keep the blade is place. When I bought this one Gary from ebay told me it was not the original set so it needed some work. The blade is way too loose and the cap iron far to tight. If you combine them, the cap iron holds the blade in place without any paper on the bed.

 And it cuts.
 Yes, it cuts.

It can take 30 microns like this, I'm sure if I fix the mouth I could go to 20 microns, but what for? this is a rough plane.

Oh, and after 1 hour of sharpening there was still a bit of not so sharp part in the middle of the blade, you can see a different diffraction pattern in the middle of the blade, where the hammer marks are. Why 1 hour? I was making the bevel flat and took a bit of time, I'm using a cheap red king for most of my sharpening, so I want to spend as much time as possible there, practicing, and then 3000 and finish with a 30euros natural stone from 330mate.

That's what a 50usd plane looks like. I payed far too much, but long bodied planes are difficult to come by so I just got it.

If I would like something fancier, I would go for something like this (why? look at that chipbreaker, there is a lot of skill there):

I actually went for it, 8000 yen. After commission and shipping 100 maybe 130 euros. It went for 8800 yen I should have bet 10000 yen.

What's the moral? Understand what's critical for a plane to work well and tune it deliberately. Nobody is checking if your bed is flat or the sole has 3 contact points or 55. It's up to you, and what you want to achieve with the plane. Don't think you need to spend 1000 euros in a plane, or 10 days setting up the sole to engineering flatness to make it cut nicely, it much simpler than that. But it takes work, time, effort and focus; somethings you cannot buy.


  1. I hear you! Coming from the world of western metal planes lapped to .0001" or whatever it is so much more intuitive to be checking the condition of kanna sole with a wooden straight edge you made, or flatten the sole with a piece of sand paper on a board that was planed flat. The dai of my jack plane is flexible enough that its only flat when pressure is on it in the cut, otherwise flat is a state of mind between you and the cutting edge.

    Have you considered cutting the tapered sliding dovetailed key to close up the mouth on your jack? I know its not necessary, but it does look pleasing to the eye. Everyone knows that pretty tools cut better....

    1. For this one, not really. I like to take thick shavings with it too, rauli is easy to plane and lets you take big chunks out without problem. But... as I was "fixing" the mouth of the "moon" plane today, I broke the boxwood shim it had in the mouth, so maybe it's time to try it with that one. I have a piece of holy I wanted to use in something, maybe this is the perfect time for it.

  2. Near and dear to my heart, excellent attitude AND results! Your blade looks VERY nice for a $50 kanna.....I wonder what that thing would go for today from a retailer? $200 easy, I bet. And it looks like it gets along well with your 330mate stone, too. Nice finish.

    Having the knowhow to be able to sharpen your tools, then being able to use them's just amazing how much easier things become with sharp tools. I

    have an interesting observation and a question for you guys....

    You know that I can sharpen a blade, OK, so....a while back I was tuning up an old wooden body Ulmia style finishing plane that worked fine, but I wanted to see how good I could get it, you know. It had an adjustable mouth that should be handy for getting the thing to work like a charm. I got the blade every bit as sharp as one of my kanna, spent the better part of an afternoon fettling the fit of the blade to the body, got the sole very damn flat....well It didn't make much difference, haha. Between that plane and a contest.

    So what's the deal with kanna, besides being like a giant block plane that you can still use with one hand? Once you learn the basics of tuning they work great...and are easy to sharpen. You guys are getting great results using relatively primitive tools, sharpening on rocks for God's it just the contoured sole, cause guys have tried that with metal bodied planes, but I don't remember any stunning results. What's the deal? Any ideas?

    1. One thing is you can get consistent results, The blade itself is a guide to sharpen so the things kind of wants to get sharp once it's a bit dull.

      But that's not it really. The impression I have, and it's something I realised when I saw Don's beautiful Krenovian planes, is that in the kanna the body is "embracing" the iron, or actually what I thought was "this poor little iron looks so unsupported in this plane" (when looking at Don's planes). In my mind that's because as you have the side grooves the energy from cutting is damped faster to the sides instead of vibrating along the length of the blade as western planes (I imagine) do. All this in a very small scale, but we are talking of vibrations in the scale of microns here so everything matters.

      What would be a good experiment, and something I want to try with Keiran this saturday, is make a krenovian body for a japanese blade, and a dai for the same one. Same wood and all, see if there is any difference. (Mafe has one but I don't think he did the experiment...)

      And there must be something with the geometry of the blade too... short and thick, less vibrations? Also as Gabe says, the wood is flexible enough to be very responsive. You note this when two people are using the same kanna, one is stressed and stiff and the other soft and quick, the kanna responds to this and can be only used by one person, the relaxed one.

      Finally, have you payed attention to your whole body when you plane? I like it most when I can be behind the wood and pull the kanna towards my centre, like in aikido but the other way around. A bit like in saw sharpening, the ergonomics of it is a very important part of the whole thing.

      Now thinking again... I guess your question is a bit misguided Jason, it's not the kanna itself the one that's the deal, it's us. I mean, not even with a plane from our friend form kioto I would be able to take 5microns shavings, I still don't have the sensibility for that. Somehow this tools are just means to express your soul, but you got to have one in the first place. The good things is that they teach you how to.

    2. Nicely worded and so true I suspect.

      And a VERY interesting experiment you propose. I will eagerly await your impressions. I have a couple of red oak dai kanna (cyclobalanopsis subspecies), and just a simple thing like the use of a different species wood can have a large effect on the feel of the tool. The Japanese cyclobalanopsis red oak is hard and somewhat brittle. The kanna feels nearly as if it is made of metal. The common Japanese white oak dai gives a kanna body that feels like it is better grasping the blade, and feels both more forgiving and also more alive . A Japanese blade held down only by the wooden wedge.....interesting!

      My results with my Ulmia were pretty perplexing to me, as at the time I had been attributing most of my success with kanna to be due to the blades being SO much easier to sharpen (free-hand, that is), so the blades were actually SHARP. Despite having a sharp blade though, at the best I could do it just felt like a chunk of wood that could smooth the surface of another chunk of wood. Funny....I was planning on doing a blog post on setting up a kick-ass Euro-style smooth plane, but I just couldn't developed the concept. My plane WASN'T kick-ass, haha! I was expecting more, to be honest. Funny though.

    3. just for the record... in my short lived experience with europeans irons, german ones suck. Austrian are way better, french have more character and swedish... well, I just had 1 that didn't sharpen but I've been told they know how to temper a blade.

      I'm helping friend programming some arduino stuff, and some of the chips are so small that you could glue an accelerometer to the blade of a plane and directly measure the vibrations... if I don't get a job here I can sell that as research project to some uni in norway :P

    4. I don't have a ton of steel experience -Don't own a single Japanese blade- but my Morakniv bushcraft knife has my favorite steel. Swedish Stainless steel, blade of three inches. Was extremely sharp out of the box, and sharpens amazingly well; Can split kindling, carve maple, and still lop off cardboard with a flick of a wrist. Seriously, Swedish steel is really nice. I've read even Japanese smiths use it. It has a perfect temper.

      If your still clearing trees and stuff, you should look for one in Chile. They offer laminated blades as well, but their bushcrafting knives are stainless steel.

    5. I know Yataiki used some Swedish steel, that he got from a Swedish friend, but no details. I've since learned that the Ore there has fewer impurities (other metals) or lower amounts maybe. Also some steel made there is made with charcoal, not coal

      I have some laminated English "Cast Steel" plane blades which are pretty good, and I have put keys in the mouth, two of them will perform like kanna, but only for half the time of use before loosing it.

      The Ultima smoothing plane I've had since I started, usually gets used on glue or painted wood to clean it up, and recently I tried to tune it up a bit, but no soap. In that case, I think it's the beech sole, and the steel, and the tempering, and the cap.