I began this hobby highly intrigued and drawn to Japanese hand tools. My first carpentry tool order was all Japanese tools and one book – Toshio Odate’s “Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their tradition, spirit, and use” The first thing I did on getting the package is tear into the Odate book – figuratively and literally. I read most of it the first afternoon and evening.
As I read about his history in Japan enduring hardships during the war while he learned his craft, I thought of my own grandfather (the only one in my family I remember doing any sort of basic carpentry). While Mr. Odate was learning his craft, my grandfather was graduating high school and heading to the South Pacific – a young sailor on a Sub Tender in the U.S. Navy. The thoughts that flooded my mind weren’t racist but rather a reflection of my own heritage. In an earlier blog I mentioned that pragmatism may be the most American of traits, I believe that but there is more – a sense of where we come from. I have no Asian heritage in my family (that I know of) with most of my family coming from England with a few fitting in from Alsace and Holland.
Another thing struck me as I opened the box of tools – I couldn’t read a darn thing. Here I turn back to pragmatism. I can tell a chisel is a chisel without reading a box. However, when it comes to finding out how to use tools, I need to be a able to read or hear the spoken word. There is some information on Japanese tools and their use and Mr. Odate’s book on their heritage, but not nearly as much as on Western woodworking (at least in English). Trying to find English reference on youtube to what I was looking for was equally fruitless. I actually found the first half of an informative joinery in English but the second half only in Japanese.
So with that barrier challenging me more than I had thought, my thoughts turn back to Western and American tools. I had liked the idea of a small craftsman in Japan making my tools by hand and then was shocked to discover that such a thing existed in American. In the wood working tool world, it seems to be thriving and I want to be part of that.
-- Wood is not velveeta