Usu and Kine


One of the advantages of working with an accomplished woodcrafter is borrowing tools that I don’t have. The azebiki nokogiri, what a useful tool! And I would have had one but for a hot mess ordering from Japan woodworker. But Mark has four azebiki noko in different sizes, so I set to work with his smallest cutting the handles on my usu for mochitsuki.


In the end the azebiki didn’t get me deep enough and I used the radiused edge of my hollow rocker kanna to get the ledge of the handle deep enough to give purchase to my fingers when picking the usu up. The layout for the handle was a simple semi-circle, easy to draw with a compass, and with leaving the gouge marks from the spoon bent gouge it looks quite artfully like a sea shell.


Having previously made the through wedging handle for my kine I set about marking for the mortise. The blank for the mallet head wasn’t close to square or parallel so I used a center line layout and sashigane to locate the mortise width on top and bottom. The photo doesn’t show this correctly, the sashigane should be referenced along the center line, but it would have fallen off if I had left it there for the photo…


One big mallet. Kine for mochitsuki vary in size, the one I made is probably on the large side, but I wanted it to double as a commander mallet for timber framing. You can see Marks commander mallet on the left of the photo above, made from apple wood.


At night I retire to my place by the wood stove. What a wonderful way to cook some tasty cornbread. And it goes really well with an American style stout brewed locally at Joe’s.


5 thoughts on “Usu and Kine”

  1. Seeing the pictures and you working there, I have the feeling we should just move all together and build a good old comune. Or perhaps tour around each other’s bases, helping to build whatever needs to be made at that moment. Journeymen with no masters of sorts. Be good.

  2. I am in Southern California.
    My church is looking for Usu (we have Kine) to purchase for our annual Mochitsuki Event.
    How much do you charge the usu in the picture? We prefer a little bit bigger.
    Do you have any idea for the freight charge for it to Southern California?
    Or do you know anyone who can make usu in Southern California? Thank you.

    1. Sorry to disappoint, but I can’t offer usu for sale. It requires the base, or butt end of a tree, cut very close to the ground where the grain is tight and strong as it turns into roots at the soil line. The usu that I made was in Vermont, where there are several species of tree that work, but in Colorado where I reside I don’t have access to timber like that. In addition most log sections will split down to the heart as they season over many years, requiring banding straps or repair.

      My suggestion to anyone looking for an usu in the united states would be to find the closest lathe turning woodworking group near to you. Lathe workers often have access to suitable timber and there is always one guy with a giant lathe that could make something like this at a reasonable cost and have the experience to season it as gently as possible.

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