Though I use mostly Western tools in my work, I have a deep respect for the craftsmanship and design of Japanese tools. In fact, before good Western tools became widely available, I had lots of Japanese saws, chisels and knives in my tool chest.
So this weekend I was thrilled to spend hours poring over the vintage Japanese tools offered by Tetsuro Izumitani during a hand tool event at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking. Izumitani is a former furniture maker who now brings vintage Japanese tools to Australia to sell.
He offers items that I’ve only read about or seen in books – incredible saws and hundreds of Japanese chisels of all shapes. I picked his brain for almost an hour on chisels as he showed me what to look for in a quality Japanese tool, from the file marks to the forge-welded laminations.
But the best part was an item that wasn’t for sale.
Underneath the selling tables was an old Japanese tool chest that Izumitani had brought back from Japan. It was simple, of course, but striking in its form, utility and hardware. He graciously allowed me to measure it and take photographs. (Apologies for the crappy photos. The sun was high and the shadows were driving me nuts.)
After the show I went back to my hotel and made a SketchUp drawing of the chest, which you can download here.
The woodworkers who were with me said it was made from “Oregon pine,” which is most likely another name for Douglas fir. The joinery is all nails and finger joints. It’s beguiling enough that I definitely want to build a few – once I can find a good source for the dome-head nails.
I think that building the chest would be an excellent one- or two-day class that would introduce people to basic saw, plane and chisel skills.
— Christopher Schwarz