Japanese Plane Secrets 2

Japanese planes and the surface they promised to give. That is the goal. The shimmering hand wrought surface that only a cutting iron in a hand plane can give. I am hanging on for this, as it fits my need to put clear blue water between my furniture and the robot driven manufactured surface. That routine, intimidating perfection of industry that surrounds us. I wanted a human imperfect surface, a surface that reminded us of the skilled hand struggling for perfection and failing . I wanted failure.


So I have bought this impressive piece of Japanese steel but I have also in the process aquired an Ebay habit that is disturbing my wife and children. “Dad, why are you on the laptop during dinner, you tell us to put the mobile phones away at the table” “and what is a snipe bid.”


I bought not only the old hand made plane iron and accompanying back iron, but also a couple of other planes, as the more I got into this, the more I found I did not know about these planes.


The blade when it arrived was beautifully wrapped and presented as the japanese do with all their things. It needed some work as rust and time had taken its toll . I set to on the back of the blade first.


I started with a diamond plate at 230 grit this is a pretty course surface and combined with Trend Lapping Fluid gives a really effective way of removing a lot of metal fast.   The other benefit is the metal plate itself is pretty flat so we are working towards a constant flat target.  Diamond plates are an expensive way of doing this.  This one cost me nearly £25 and is no longer as course and effective. Bigger more expensive plates are, in our experience, just as short lived. Another way of doing this is a granite slab with 180 wet and dry paper, we use this to keep stones flat.




I think I spent a good couple of hours getting hot, wet and dirty doing this. The black stuff that comes off the blade is an indication that the abrasive was working and the slowness is an indication this blade is pretty hard steel and that blacksmith knew what he was doing .



What I am hoping is that some of the Samurai sword making history will have rubbed off on my plane iron. Tamahagane or “jewel steel” is the name of the kind of steel they used to make swords . The process of hammering and folding, creating a supremely sharp edge with the contrasting quality of toughness. The kind of edge that would cut though three bodies at a time.



It was the hammering under heat, the forging,  that we know makes steel better for us woodies, the time consuming hammering that gets left out of most modern tool steel production. It makes a finer grain, sharper, edge holding steel. I have seen and appreciated this over the past 30 years I have been using chisels from Japan.


That plane iron back was hard as blazes. The hollow that is worked into the back of all Japanese tools to save us time in getting that blade flat was being slowly removed by my flattening efforts. The pitting from the rust was pretty deep.  If you can, avoid rust pitted blades, they may be cheap on Ebay  but you pay now in hard work DSC_1925for that neglect.

On reflection i would not do this again. This blade is short and was hard work to get flat I would spend more money on  better blade and saved time, but you have to start somewhere.

I tested my diamond stoned surface on a series of Japanese water stones 330 green to take out the lines of the diamond plate, 800 to take out the lines of the 330 then 3000 natural waterstone (not sythetic) then 6000 grit gold polishing stone finishing with a 10,000 natural waterstone. I will come to why the natural waterstones soon.  All of these stones are religiously kept flat with our system of using 180 grit wet and dry paper on a granite slab and rubbing the stones flat after every use.


This flat business is pretty dull, but you only do it once. Your shiney mirror like blade back then only ever touches your finest stone.  All this as it is necessary to get your blade in REALLY close contact with that 10,000 grit polishing stone right at the cutting edge.


Next time we go for sharp…..


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