Japanese tools #19: Kiri hand drill (gimlet)

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Blog entry by mafe posted 01-01-2013 04:49 PM 18180 reads 5 times favorited 11 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 18: Japanese cutting gauge Part 19 of Japanese tools series Part 20: Japan meets Krenov - MaFe style Kanna jointer (Handplane). »

Kiri hand drill
Japanese gimlet

In my last blog I used a kiri and promised to make a post on this.
Quite some time ago I actually made the pictures for the blog so here it finally is.
It is a mix between info on the types, photos of mine and finally how to make a simple DIY Western version.

I have to warn you, you can get really sour hands using this tool until your hands are used to it.

Here you see the kiri’s I have in my tool box, a mix of new, old and self-made.

I can’t remember where I got this photo, but it shows the different types of Kiri.
Momi-giri means hand gimlets.
kiris from left: Mitsume-kiri, and has a head and three sides.
Used to make small deep holes, for screws or nails. Youtsume-kiri, Tapered holes for wood nails. Tsubo-giri, pot gimlet, for making holes for dowels and so. Nezumi-ba-kiri, mouse teeth gimlet, also good for dowel holes or deeper holes in general.
(Thank you Toshio Odate).

So to make your own simple kiri-mafe’san you need to make a handle.
I use some beech wood.

With a gauge I make it tapered.

And sand it for a smooth but not shiny surface, we still want some grip after.

Here we got two of them finished.

And my mafe is burned into the handle.

Now I take a standard drill bit and make the end two sided is it will get a grip.

Then drill a hole in the thick end of the handle fill it with epoxy glue and put the drill bit in with a gentle hard pressure so that the pointed end will cut into the handle.
On the picture you can see a hole made with this, it works just fine.

And here some of my kiri’s.

I think the new version blend in fine.

Originally they have a ferule hammered into the shaft.

Finally one in use.

Hope this can bring some inspiration to others that play with Japanese tools.

Best thoughts and a happy new year,


-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

11 comments so far

View bandit571's profile (online now)


20234 posts in 2708 days

#1 posted 01-01-2013 04:56 PM

Could one also use a bow to turn the drills?

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View patron's profile


13606 posts in 3366 days

#2 posted 01-01-2013 05:32 PM

well done mads
with your usual ‘hands on’ approach

i’ve done this with coat hangers
bang the end somewhat flat
with a hammer
and chuck into a battery drill

works for quick holes
(but i always lose them)

or bend the end for an emergency paint stirrer

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View Roger's profile


20928 posts in 2829 days

#3 posted 01-01-2013 07:15 PM

Very good Mads. I have a set of “gimlets” that I purchased from here:
They work very well for starting and threading holes in smaller projects.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View stefang's profile


15881 posts in 3359 days

#4 posted 01-01-2013 07:54 PM

Hi Mads. Handy tools and easy to make with a little hardened steel from a screw driver, drill bit, etc. Thanks for showing us how to make these.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View nobuckle's profile


1120 posts in 2786 days

#5 posted 01-01-2013 09:03 PM

Thank you Mads, I appreciate the details on how you made your various styles of kiri. As soon as I am able I’ll have to make some. Take care.

-- Doug - Make an effort to live by the slogan "We try harder"

View jjw5858's profile


1135 posts in 2627 days

#6 posted 01-02-2013 01:09 AM

Fantastic Mads, I always love how you personlize the work with your own style and design. Always an inspiration!
All the best!

-- "Always continue to learn, laugh and share!" JJW

View revieck's profile


263 posts in 3095 days

#7 posted 01-02-2013 01:58 AM

Yes Mafe, I find drilling holes boring. Now your kiri hand drills look exciting, they could keep me from dozing off the shop!

-- Don't be at the airport when your ship comes in!

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile


15369 posts in 2643 days

#8 posted 01-02-2013 12:48 PM

An education on Japanese drills with my morning coffee. Only with LJs, only with Mads. Great stuff, perfectly executed. Thank you for the post, Mads!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Jim Jakosh's profile

Jim Jakosh

20594 posts in 3130 days

#9 posted 01-07-2013 03:58 AM

Nice blog on the kiri’s. Now you need a glass of sake to celebrate the new tools!!!!!!

-- Jim Jakosh.....Practical Wood Products...........Learn something new every day!! Variety is the Spice of Life!!

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1567 posts in 3590 days

#10 posted 01-10-2013 02:16 AM

Well done Mads, I assume these work well for drilling small holes?

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View mafe's profile


11730 posts in 3114 days

#11 posted 01-10-2013 06:09 PM

Hi guys,
Thank you for the comments it always make me happy.
Yes they work really fine for small holes, if I have to make many I will still use a accu.
I have to try that one day David.
Best thoughts,

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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