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Who Is Familiar With Japanese Carving Knives?

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  • Who Is Familiar With Japanese Carving Knives?

    On YouTube and Facebook I follow a number of Japanese carvers. I am fascinated with the quality of their work. It really reinforces how much of a whittler I am when I see the beautiful works of art that they produce, much of it non-secular in nature.

    One of the things that interests me the most is their tools. For one, they use chisels and gouges as their primary carving tools even on small projects where we use a knife. And their tools are ground on one side only where ours are flat ground two sides. I saw a short video the other day the demonstrated the difference. The single ground appears to allow them more depth control.

    Does anyone regularly use Japanese carving tools and/or has anyone carved using a single ground Japanese carving knife?

    I would be interested in hearing your thoughts!

  • #2
    I would be interested in seeing some of the videos you mention if you don't mind sharing a link or two!?


    • #3
      Master Woodcarver 2 - "Waremokou" 吾木香, Ise Japan. On You Tube.


      • #4
        Wow! Thanks, Dileon!


        • #5
          L.A. 437 - Episode 6: Japanese Woodcarving with Yo Takimoto This is also on You Tube....sorry I can not get the link to show up just do a search. You Tube has some great carving videos and you can learn a lot of new things. I have one Japanese carving knife..... it is ok....but I use others that are my favorites. The only Japanese carving tools I use a lot is those NIji and I love the small size and they are super easy to sharpen. I do have a Japanese chip carving knives......and I do not like them, they are hard to sharpen.....I am not sure what name they are.


          • #6
            I have a single sided Japanese knife, the steel is hard as heck. Its a good knife, carves well and holds a good edge for a long time. I Mainly use it for hardwood, the blade is longer than i generally like so it is not a go-to knife for me. I do not find the single grind to be either good or bad- the edge still has two sides, after all. The singel side grind does end up with a left or right handed knife
            Last edited by Buffalo Bif; 08-12-2016, 07:54 AM.
            Buffalo Bif


            • #8
              Thanks for those links, Eddy. One thing you said "And their tools are ground on one side only where ours are flat ground two sides. I saw a short video the other day the demonstrated the difference. The single ground appears to allow them more depth control." caught my eye.

              I think some of the choice in bevels is based on how we are taught by or model as carvers. I only carve with full size tools, what most here would call mallet tools. I rarely use a mallet, mostly I'm just using them with my hands. My teacher insists on a an inside bevel in addition to the normal outside bevel on the gouges. It's less important on the 8's and up, but on the 3 - 5 sweeps it's more important. He does mostly decorative wood carving and doing the inside bevel allows one to easily carve with the tool upside down and have it not dig in. On the other hand, 1's must be single bevel only!

              He apprenticed at age 12 and is now 80 and still carving using the same methods he was taught. I know another professional carver that turns out great work as well. He doesn't use a double bevel at all.

              Me, I'm going to do what I was taught until I master that and then I'll experiment and if I find a way that works better for me, I will use it. Rather like when my father took over the family business from my grandfather. My grandfather told him, do it my way, until you find a better way and you better find a better way if you want to make a living.

              I always enjoy watching carvers work. One of my favorites is Spanish carver, Esteban Jimenez Escribano. He has a large set of videos that teach you to carve from beginning to more advanced. I don't speak Spanish, but can learn by watching. In this one he demonstrates wood grain and the directions you need to carve to get a clean cut He's probably one of my favorites, because his type of carving is what I'm learning and want to do.


              • Eddy-Smiles
                Eddy-Smiles commented
                Editing a comment
                Fiddlesticks.... Thanks for the link. Very interesting. Unfortunately I'm also Spanish challenged but I think I got the drift of what he was trying to present. Talk about "Iron Palms!"

            • #9
              I don't think that bevels (single, double) matter all that much for most of us, considering our hobby rather than professional interest, and our levels of expertise. I think a good carver could go either way, and it matters not for most of us.

              There is sometimes a tendency to blame tools or wood quality rather than our own shortcomings. I know, for myself, that a lack of ability is my greatest problem, and that's OK since I do it for fun and make no pretension of artistic gifts. If a carving comes out passably good, I'm pleasantly surprised!


              • #10
                " If a carving comes out passably good, I'm pleasantly surprised!" I know the feeling
                . . . JoeB
                . . .JoeB


                • #11
                  I have lots (12?) of single bevel crooked knives which I have hafted as Pacific Northwest native carving tools.
                  Elbow adze and D adze.
                  The PacNW native carvers are quite good (eg Tsimshian, Tlingit, Haida & Kwakwaka'Wakw).
                  I wanted to explore their style of carving tools. I like the results.
                  Brian T


                  • #12
                    By studying various cultures, present and past, we could find amazing carvings done with shards of obsidian, broken bottles, or sharpened nails. We've seen examples of great carvings, and in the background is a hodgepodge of improvised tools. Does this mean we should adopt that approach to our carving? We have available to most of us the most advanced designs in carving tools, the result of centuries of gradual improvement. As already stated, we should quit blaming our tools and wood.


                    • #13
                      I beg to differ, regarding wood. Many carvers here in WCI will agree that northern basswood (eg Wisconsin) is of better carving quality that southern bass wood.
                      Were I 20 years younger, I was equipped and prepared to see of I could learn why.

                      When you are prepared to work with its limitations, western red cedar is nice to carve.
                      Ring count per inch makes all the difference between carving and firewood.
                      Beautiful straight-grained, knot free and less than 12 rings/inch? Garbage wood.
                      I now know to look for 15+/inch, 20-30 is even better.

                      This seems to apply to yellow cedar as well. I picked over 40+ pieces, each about 3" x 6" x 72" and found 1 to buy.

                      Don't take it for granted. Learn the wood.
                      Brian T


                      • #14
                        You make a good point Robson Valley. One area the old timers had it better than us was wood quality. All that wonderful old growth, slow growth timber. We tore down an old shed a couple months back and it had a couple of 2x4's stored inside (stud grade - one still had a tag or marking on it). Knowing when the lumber company that it was from went out of business I could date the wood to the late 1980's. It was cleaner than any 2x4 you could get today short of going to the mill yourself, let alone what is a stud today. Knot free, fine, straight grain, fine grain, etc. That's a little more than 25 years ago, now back it up another 50 or 100 years, WOW!.


                        • #15
                          fiddlesticks: I think that in the old days, we could afford to keep and sell the pristine and pretty wood and let the rest go.
                          I know for certain that it happened on the west coast with western red cedar. But now, the shake block cutters
                          are making a living with the salvage logs.

                          My old summer beach house was built in 1912. Big enough to sleep and feed 10 with nobody on the floor.
                          Totally Douglasfir, dried to the consistency of aluminum. Un finished inside, there are 2 (two) knots in the 2x4
                          of the roof above the living room. The rest of the entire house is clear lumber.

                          Once again, it will take some time on your own, to learn wood.
                          Don't be too dang quick to turn away and try some other species.
                          Brian T