How is this for a gorgeous collection of old Japanese axes.

As regular readers will know I fell in love with the Japanese carpentry tools on our recent tea house building project particularly the axes and adzes (ono, masakari and chouna) At the end of our Japanese trip we visited the tools shop but new tools were way out of my budget. I have found one source in Europe importing the chouna and they are no more expensive than they were in Japan here.

Since coming back from Japan I have been corresponding with my Japanese friend Tomio he has a network of friends who are passionate about green woodworking in Japan and they have all been collecting old tools for me. These tools are still expensive by European standards but they are beautifully made. This week Tomio mailed to say the parcel full of tools has been shipped so now I have to wait whilst the boat takes the long trip to the UK, they should be here by Christmas. The axes in the picture above are carpenters ono, the general purpose carpenters axe. Below are the more specialised masakari, this is the huge heavy axe used for hewing beams, it is swung in a big pendulum motion whilst standing on top of the log.

And these are the tools that all the European carpenters adored, chouna or Japanese adzes. The handles are grown bends of enju wood which is tremendously tough and springy. A German friend steam bent an ash handle which worked for a while but soon lost it’s springiness.

It is not easy logistically fetching these tools over, just exchanging money cost us £70 in bank charges but I think it will be wonderful to see these old tools given new life in the hands of European carpenters. In Japan we only used the tools for two weeks which is only just beginning to get to know them really, to own a beautiful old tool like this and work with it for months and years will be a very great pleasure. I can not thank Tomio and his friends enough for collecting these wonderful tools for me, next week I shall be forging them some bowl turning hooks and making a parcel with copies of my book in part exchange. For anyone who has not seen it before this is a short video of how these tools are used, filmed the first time I saw Japanese hewing at the German Kesurokai in 2005.

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Author Robin Wood

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