Japanese Chisels - Why?
#11
  
I look at a lot of shop pics and shop tours to search for organization ideas, and I have noticed that many woodworkers have a set of Japanese Chisels in their tool arsenal.  Why?  

Since I have never used any I was just wondering how they became so popular, and are they superior to what we have available in the States?  Or, is it just a matter of preference?

Those of you that use them why do you like them so much?

Thanks!
John
Formerly known as John's Woodshop
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#12
  Re: Japanese Chisels - Why? by Belle City Woodworking (I look at a lot of s...)
I have a few, and of them, I absolutely love the one that's about 5/8", and is a dovetail style chisel. I bought it from Japan Woodworker more than a decade ago, and I remember it costing more than $75.00 making it the most expensive new chisel I have bought. It takes a very keen edge, on my Spyderco's or waterstones, and holds the edge like no other. The side lands are very thin, helping with the inside of DT's. The size of the chisel is smallish, handle a bit thinner than the AI butt style chisels I have (which I also like), and is easy to hold and guide. Since Woodcraft owns Japan Woodworker now, I believe the cost of this chisel is significantly higher, due to the years that have passed and change of ownership.

I have tried other Japanese chisels in recent years, namely some bench chisels that were about $25 each, and a Grizzly. Each of those sits unused, waiting to be given away or sold, to a non-friend.
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#13
  Re: RE: Japanese Chisels - Why? by Tony Z (I have a few, and of...)
(06-14-2018, 09:25 AM)Tony Z Wrote: I have a few, and of them, I absolutely love the one that's about 5/8", and is a dovetail style chisel.  I bought it from Japan Woodworker more than a decade ago, and I remember it costing more than $75.00 making it the most expensive new chisel I have bought.  It takes a very keen edge, on my Spyderco's or waterstones, and holds the edge like no other.  The side lands are very thin, helping with the inside of DT's.  The size of the chisel is smallish, handle a bit thinner than the AI butt style chisels I have (which I also like), and is easy to hold and guide.  Since Woodcraft owns Japan Woodworker now, I believe the cost of this chisel is significantly higher, due to the years that have passed and change of ownership.

I have tried other Japanese chisels in recent years, namely some bench chisels that were about $25 each, and a Grizzly.  Each of those sits unused, waiting to be given away or sold, to a non-friend.
...................................
"It takes a very keen edge, on my Spyderco's or waterstones, and holds the edge like no other.  "

I have three japanese chisels and Tony's experience mirrors mine...They can take an unbelievable edge, yet hold that edge longer than any of my American chisels...They are laminated...soft steel backed by a VERY hard, yet tough, fine grained steel..That combination is what makes the difference IMO...I make woodcarving knives out of High Speed Steel and that is the closest comparison I can make to the Japanese.. HSS is their equal IMO...
but I don't know of any American companies making chisels out of it...I have two pocketknives made of D-2 steel and they are also excellent, but it is considered to be HSS as well...
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#14
  Re: Japanese Chisels - Why? by Belle City Woodworking (I look at a lot of s...)
What Tony said.
I went on a chisel binge 10 years or so ago and bought variety of Western chisels. My wife gave me, over a period of time, a set of Matsumura cabinet makers chisels and I ordered some bench chisels and slicks from Chutaro Imai. I use the western chisels a lot for general stuff, but when it comes to fine joinery, I much prefer the Japanese chisels. They take and hold an incredible edge. They are light weight and easy to handle without fatigue, and the thin lands of the cabinetmaker's chisels make them perfect for dovetailing and other close-quarter operations. Think Stanley 750s, only better steel and easier to handle. I have small hands (yes I admit it), so I'm not troubled by the small size to the Japanese chisels; in fact, I prefer it. I have heard, however, people with large hands complain about the small size.

My $.02.

Hank
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#15
  Re: Japanese Chisels - Why? by Belle City Woodworking (I look at a lot of s...)
There's some history behind this, too.

Back in the early days of the Hand Tool Renaissance (sometime around the 1980s) it was impossible to find well-made, Western-style chisels new. But there were some Japanese makers that still made a high-quality chisel. Add that to the fact that some of the early proponents of hand tools were influenced by Eastern styles and craftsmen, and some of them used Japanese-style chisels in their work, either because that's what their mentors used or because they were the best high-quality chisels they could get. So naturally a lot of people who started getting interested in hand tools picked up Japanese chisels, either in imitation or on the recommendation of woodworkers they admired.
Steve S.
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#16
  Re: Japanese Chisels - Why? by Belle City Woodworking (I look at a lot of s...)
Japanese chisels are a bear to sharpen. I do them by hand. If they are new, time must be made to set the hoop, and then; sharpen. Traditionally, the tool has only one bevel. They by far take the longest to sharpen of my cutting tools. But like the testimonials, they make and keep an incredible edge. I attack knots head-on just to watch smooth slivers grow. People do hollow grind them and I suppose I will go that way too.
Bruce
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#17
  Re: Japanese Chisels - Why? by Belle City Woodworking (I look at a lot of s...)
Thank you all for your detailed responses.

How would these compare to say Lie-Nielsens offerings?

The Barr Chisels that I have are fantastic chisels, but for dovetailing and very detailed work I find them a bit heavy so I am looking to add something for more delicate and precision work.

Thanks again for the responses,
John
Formerly known as John's Woodshop
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#18
  Re: RE: Japanese Chisels - Why? by Belle City Woodworking (Thank you all for yo...)
(06-14-2018, 01:03 PM)Belle City Woodworking Wrote: Thank you all for your detailed responses.

How would these compare to say Lie-Nielsens offerings?

The Barr Chisels that I have are fantastic chisels, but for dovetailing and very detailed work I find them a bit heavy so I am looking to add something for more delicate and precision work.

Thanks again for the responses,
John

I have the Barr chisels and well and I love them.

But my experience mirrors your for dovetail work.

I like butt chisels for that.

I don't have any but I'm very attracted to the Veritas PM V11 butt chisels or the Blue Spruce butt chisels.
Peter

My "day job"
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#19
  Re: RE: Japanese Chisels - Why? by Belle City Woodworking (Thank you all for yo...)
(06-14-2018, 01:03 PM)Belle City Woodworking Wrote: Thank you all for your detailed responses.

How would these compare to say Lie-Nielsens offerings?

The Barr Chisels that I have are fantastic chisels, but for dovetailing and very detailed work I find them a bit heavy so I am looking to add something for more delicate and precision work.

Thanks again for the responses,
John

In my opinion (which, with a couple of bucks might buy you a cup of coffee), the LN are more a carpenter's tool versus a cabinetmaker's fine/finesse tool. There is a place for each style of chisel, depending upon what work you want to do. I have one LN and do not seek it out to use very much and never for dovetailing. For that task, I use the Japanese and/or AI round back butt style chisels. Both styles are light in their feeling in your hand.
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#20
  Re: RE: Japanese Chisels - Why? by hbmcc (Japanese chisels are...)
(06-14-2018, 11:13 AM)hbmcc Wrote: Japanese chisels are a bear to sharpen. I do them by hand. If they are new, time must be made to set the hoop, and then; sharpen. Traditionally, the tool has only one bevel. They by far take the longest to sharpen of my cutting tools. But like the testimonials, they make and keep an incredible edge. I attack knots head-on just to watch smooth slivers grow. People do hollow grind them and I suppose I will go that way too.

The cutting edge of a Japanese chisel is made of very hard steel. It does, indeed, take some time to sharpen if it gets seriously dull; and, yes, there is a little initial set-up required to set the hoop properly. These tasks are fairly straightforward and, once done, seldom need to be repeated. After the initial sharpening, I never let my Japanese chisels get seriously dull. I keep a hone handy and touch up the edges frequently while I'm using the chisel. Ordinarily a touch-up takes less than a minute. After I finish a project, I spend a little time with my chisels and other edge tools to make sure their edges are very sharp and to perform any other maintenance that needs to be done before I put them away. If I've done my job with the touch-ups, this end-of-project sharpening takes very little time. I sharpen all my chisels free hand unless, for some reason I need to re-grind the edge. I don't use secondary bevels on Japanese chisels. That's not as bad as it sounds. Only the thin lamination that forms the edge is hard steel. The rest of the blade is soft steel that is laminated to and supports the hard, thin edge steel. It is easy to cut with sharpening media, so it doesn't make sharpening unduly difficult. I don't know about hollow grinding Japanese chisels. I don't do it because I think the hard edge steel needs all the backing and support it can get to prevent chipping of the edge. It would seem to me that hollow grinding would remove some of that support. I have no evidence of this - it's just my opinion. I would like to hear from anyone who routinely hollow grinds Japanese chisels about these issues.
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