Tsunesaburo kanna restoration: 2. The blade/iron and chipbreaker

This post details restoration of a kanna by Tsunesaburo and continues from Part 1.
I correct the ‘ears’ on the blade with a white wheel on a stationary bench grinder. I make sure to mark the width I need to go to on each side first; then, at the machine, I just take it slow and use water as a coolant. I should also add I freehand this. Using some form of a jig, or at least a tool rest, will no doubt allow more consistent and repeatable results than mine. Even with my crude, simple technique the blade soon starts looking much better.
Bearded Witch Tsunesaburo-10

Most importantly, the edge is now centred. I grind a bit more than I need since I will be removing the chips in the edge and increasing the bevel angle, therefore shortening the blade. This will widen the edge again. I may need to fine tune it later. This is an ongoing maintenance aspect anyway and is very quick to do.

While at the grinder, I also take off the mushroomed sections at the top of the iron and the chipbreaker. This is a bit awkward to do since visibility is greatly reduced at the angle you need to hold the blade at (unless you want to introduce a bevel).  If you fancy giving one of your kannas a similar treatment but feel a bit apprehensive, you can just forego the grinder and use a file. The top half of your kanna will be made of either soft steel or iron, and will be very easy to work by hand.

BBW Tsunesaburo Part 2-2

Straight off the grinder

After grinding, I finesse the surface slightly with a second cut metal file. My intention is to rust blue the exposed bare metal later in order to somewhat blend these areas in.

BBW Tsunesaburo Part 2-3

After filing

I now turn my attention to the edge itself, and that shallow bevel angle. Continue reading

Tsunesaburo kanna restoration: 1. The Look-see.

A lot has happened since I last wrote something here as I tend to use Instagram for short stories from the workshop these days. I had to impale my thumb on a sharp blade to actually take the time out and write something for this blog. I hope to do that more often (writing, not impaling!).

Tsunesaburo Kage

I mentioned this kanna on Instagram before; it was made by 3rd generation Tsunesaburo in Super Blue Paper steel. Since it arrived from Japan almost two months ago, the wooden body has had more than enough time to acclimate. Now I finally had a moment to sit down, have a look at the kanna in detail and see what is required to bring this secondhand tool back into service. So, before I do anything, let’s take stock of what we are dealing with here…

The dai

The dai is very well made in proper Japanese red oak (this is the true hon akagashi!), and generally well fitted, with one unorthodox treatment. There is a series of overlapping relief cuts clearly made with a gouge, in the lower part of the plane bed.

Bearded Witch Tsunesaburo-1

An unusually relieved section like that would have probably provided a quick way to ease an aspect of tightness in fit, or perhaps to eliminate Continue reading

Bucket lists and Japanese saws


This blade was made by Mitsukawa in Japan and bar fully hand-forged saws it is one of the best of its kind. Mitsukawa make beautiful handles for their saws but I can work with my simple solution no bother.

Inspired by a friend, I started working on a list of things to do in the coming days and weeks. Things I have wanted or thought of doing but had other stuff get in the way. It was inevitable that some of these things would get me into the workshop and I started with a simple one: making an unused or unusable tool into a functional one. I have restored old tools before but was looking for something else.

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Workbench Part II: Design and joinery

The English workbench form has held a great deal of attraction for me for two primary reasons: it is the predominant traditional form in Britain, and one that epitomises simplicity. I think there was possibly another, hidden motif of a challenge: will it meet my current and future needs? Can I do without all the fancy stuff? Will I manage?

What often crops up with this workbench form is workholding. The aprons prevent clamping to the bench top which is what some people are used to doing; I certainly have done it in the past. The answer to this is holdfasts for me. You do not need more than several strategically placed holes in the top for them and they hold, well, fast. The bench with holdfasts also allows you to do away with the end vice – actually,  I never had one before and still do not see it as essential. Perhaps it is my inexperience but I have yet to find myself in a situation where I would think, ‘man, if only I had an end vice this whole job would be possible / twice as easy / etc.’.


The planing stop is one of those unsung heroes of hand tool woodworking; it is absolutely genius as it utilises the physics of the planning force and the inherent construction elements of the bench for maximum effect. Above all it is simple and it just works; you could get away with a couple of screws or nails in the top, my choice was to build an all-wooden stop in. I would sooner give up my face vice than my planning stop! Speaking of face vice, initially I was going for the horizontal English-style version. Part-way through the build, however, I decided to double what was the initial thickness of the top and I felt the vice screw might end up being a bit too low which may cause racking. I was not certain if it would indeed become an issue but I did not want to do this part of the build twice in case it did end up a problem. I went with a leg vice in the end.



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Workbench build and workbench height

Like many folk, I struggled with a flimsy, inadequate commercial workbench for a couple of years. I use hand tools almost exclusively and although I did manage to build and carve on the bench, any moderate to heavy planing was particularly far from fun. It was a good learning experience, though: when the time came to build my own I knew what I wanted exactly.

There are many resources out there if you consider making your own bench. I looked at Paul Sellers’ videos and articles, one of Christopher Schwarz’s books on workbench design, articles in woodworking magazines and Richard Maguire’s video series. In fact, there is so much information available that it is very easy to get confused very fast. What is the best route to take? Do I need a quick release vice? End vice? Tool well or not? French or English? Scandinavian or Moravian?

Some people seem to get really fancy in their designs and material choice, and obviously there is a market supplying all sorts of gizmos and devices to fit to your bench. I just needed a solid build and enough functionality to allow stock dimensioning by hand while still keeping the thing as simple as possible. I also wanted a sense of continuity with the woodworking tradition I have been studying. What this meant for me was: out with the end vice, exotic timbers, space shuttle technology, storage cabinets; in with the aprons, planing stop, holdfasts, softwood.


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