Making Kebiki Together


The daiku study group met again. We’re a varied group of craftspeople that understand the power and functionality of hand tools, always a cool group of people.

For today we started with a rip sawing exercise, cutting shims. It gives a lot of opportunity to correctly start cuts, and a feel for the saw in the cut as it rides the kerf. I didn’t do a good enough job explaining the exercise, it turns out the most challenging aspect for this was not the sawing, but correct marking, which is not at all surprising in light of the common difficulties for cutting more complicated timber joinery. The saw exercise for the next meetup will be lap joinery with backsaw/dozuki!

Interestingly, the one piece of kit that has been consistently absent from the tools that people bring is an appropriate sized rip saw for these common tasks of ripping lumber up to 4″ or so thick.


With the height of my bench surface we all ended up down on our knees while sawing, very natural.


Peter has this great little sashigane you can see on the bench in the foreground, perfect for smaller work, I just love it!


I was watching out of the corner of my eye as Peter cleaned up the radius of the keyed wedge for his marking gauge. He has a skill for making molding planes, good quality work using good quality Japanese chisels.


Its interesting to me that everyone very naturally maintains a consistent relationship of their head to the chisel. I go a bit farther and usually sit on the beam while mortising. The same relationship is maintained while paring down end grain by connecting your chin to the top of the chisel handle. Chisel/Body/Mind


Peter also has a very interesting set of Ray Iles Chisels, really solid construction and top quality steel. Its not every day you get to take a chisel like this in hand to try, they’re quite expensive.


We took as the model for our marking gauges one of the most commonly used in my shop for dimensioning and general layout work. A fence about 4″x3″, beam about eight inches , a keyed wooden locking wedge. As you can see we all got up to something a bit different. For instance, I wanted a double beam gauge for mortising, especially for scoring the sides of stopped dado. None of us were able to finish in the allotted time, which was partially by design. I’m hoping that this will encourage further work at home.


I used an exceptional little piece of oak for my fence, really dense stuff that required lots of sharpening for my kanna to plane properly. The beams are red oak, much more forgiving by comparison.


Odate shows a double beam gauge with separate wedges and mortises for each beam. I know that I’ve seen these where the beam shares the mortise, but I was unsure if it would create an adjustment problem, where tapping on one beam would change the other. And it is true that it does take a bit more care setting a measurement between beams, but I’ve so far found it not to be too tedious to use.

I hope that this meetup has expanded horizons, I know that I’ve learned from watching the work of others! I’m casting about for good ideas for the next time we get together, probably something along the lines of further developing fundamental skills, like making a matched set wooden straight edge locked with dovetail keys! That sounds like a good way to focus on bringing lumber to four sides square and a bit of re-sawing stock with bench vise or low saw horse. Not to mention a keyed sliding dovetail. I’m liking the exploration of joinery when it also creates a useful tool!

5 thoughts on “Making Kebiki Together”

  1. I’ve been trying that wedge excersise a lot.

    I found katabas, I’m good and accurate with, but my ryobas really mess things up. I often get CURVED cuts with those, though mainly on the one I tried the four-facet tooth shape seen on Sebastian’s blog. It came out terribly, nothing like that one.

    Mainly, I have found I need to force my ryobas to cut straight. I need to guide them into the right area, and never let my eye off of them.

    1. That is interesting about your ryoba nokos not cutting straight, I bet you’ll figure it out in short order. Are you narrowing down what could cause the problem?

      1. I think there are some bends in some of them; I wonder it’s the interaction with the other set of the tooth, as well. Part of me thinks it might be I am only focusing on one side of the saw. The worse at this is my terrible attempt at the four-facet chubby tooth pattern, I may have ruined that saw until I get better with these things.

        I also blame my techniques. When I try crosscutting shorter stock, my legs are in the way so the saw tends to be held at around 60 degrees to the work. When I start a cut, holding the piece on the workbench and sawing while sitting, it takes a long time before a kerf is established: The teeth often skid around in diagonals. A lot of these problems are only occurring in hard, machine-planned maple that is very smooth. I found the best way to get an accurate cut with hand tools on maple is just to go agonizingly slow, at a 180. I still use my table saw whenever I can, I can’t afford to make mistakes in lumber.

        I think medium height, really heavy sawhorses are in order. The best crosscuts I’ve done were on my sawhorse, with a balanced 2by12. All those maple logs seem to be the right height, too.

        I am also having a terrible time trying to plane hard maple. Pine, walnut, what I think is sandalwood, fresh hickory and maple, no problems. But with maple I get either shavings see-through thin and only in certain parts, or I get the blade stuck and refusing to move, or I get the wood peeling off and leaving a rough surface. More often, the plane skids off and bangs into me. I really am tempted to hit the dai with some 80 grit to make it easier to hold on to, it seems way too sleek.

        I think maybe trying to make a dai with a higher bed angle may help, I know I had less problems with my jointer cutting maple but still had problems. Oddly enough, I can make beautiful chamfers, and cross grain cuts have very little issues.

        From what I know about woodworking, 70% of problems occur from dull tools, 20% from bad technique, and the rest from bad tools.

        The thing is, I see Paul Sellers having no problem with oak and other woods using blades most woodworkers would call dull!

        On the bright side, I tensioned my azebiki. This time I didn’t count the hits, I just played a nice song on it on one side; this would introduce a curve and a bend to the blade, which I flattened out on the other side with the same song. I’m starting to hear that bright ‘tiiiiiing..iiing…’ when using it. I think tensioning a blade is like putting folds into paper. You can’t use a floppy piece of paper to fan yourself, but fold it 100 times and you have a flat-ish fan that works pretty darn well.

        1. Bleh! I think I made mistakes here. Tired and typed this out on my laptop in study hall, during a break from chemistry homework.

          I meant to say the best cuts I’ve done were my on my toolbox. I could position myself there that my legs weren’t in the way, the sawing felt a bit natural, and the weight of the pressure-treated 2by10s kept them from moving arouund much. Although even one inch thick pine was easy to cut on the toolbox.

  2. How’s the saying? You always have too many clamps?

    I find really interesting your approach of practicing cuts, somehow I feel that my students would be “bored” if I’d do that. I just had one who wanted, by his own initiative to saw x-cuts 50 times as practice. And it really helped, the guy was almost breaking the saw one day and the next he could cut without problems.

    was that wood planed with kanna? My students have way more problems planing hardwood than what I see in your pictures. They are complete newbis tho.

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