Turning Bombs into Anvils


I’ve been gaining immense enjoyment out of working white cedar and a dovetail kanna, in this case classing up my washing water bucket with a Japanese style lid with sliding dovetail battens, made from some scraps that came off the deck I put down for Mark’s wife.

I suppose this being a woodworking blog I should show a few more shots of how this goes together…


Take one dovetail kanna for the male side of the joint. What an excellent tool! All of my joinery planes are western push style and really need two hands to operate well, which is fine, especially working hardwoods that require more force and control. Japanese joinery planes on softwood are fast though, one handed, and no dogging the work to the bench as its enough for the other hand to hold things steady. It takes strong hands though.


I love this shot because it sums up all of what I love about the Japanese approach to woodworking. Such a tight, controlled, and productive little space. I used the dovetail kanna to make a guide for my dozuiki noko so that I could saw the dovetail slots in the top of the lid.

Sitting in seiza can take some getting used to but I really feel the dozuki performs at its best like this.


I don’t have crane neck paring chisels for cleaning out long sliding dovetails, but even better is a router plane with cross grain blade for cleaning the waste. I switched to a straight edge blade when close to the bottom of the groove because the spear tip doesn’t leave a flat bottom. It doesn’t hurt that the router plane is easy to use with a pull stroke.


And how about a bunch more use of the dovetail kanna!

I’m making a traditional Japanese rice steaming box out of more of this excellent cedar. The one with the hole in it sits on top of the pot of boiling water and permits the steam to rise into the rice. Mmm…tasty steamed rice which will faintly have the aroma of cedar.


It was oddly warm for March yesterday, Mark and I took the opportunity to move a canoe he’s restoring over to his shop on a piece of land he bought when first moving to Vermont. The amado Mark is pulling off have two inches of poly-iso insulation inside the frame, good idea!

Now, this structure isn’t much to look at, but there’s some treasure inside.


How about an anvil made from an old naval artillery shell? Its not hardened, but the bounce is good.


And as if that wasn’t enough, how about some Japanese forging anvils? You rarely see them not planted in the ground. The one on the right is about 250lb, to be place next to the smith at the forge. The smaller one is used to beat on rough forgings, something for between forging and hizumi. Yataiki really had a lot of faith in Mark to send him all of this steel half way around the world.


One of the more important elements to hizumi of saws is the correct light condition. Here with the light coming through the south facing shoji you can see what  Mark might see while seated working on saws. The anvils are tilted so that the light is returned to the eye at the right angle.


Also something I’ve not seen discussed is the fired clay tuyere for a fuigo. This is the bit that sticks into the forge proper, another carved piece of kiri would be used to connect the fuigo to the tuyere. The opening at the forge end is about one inch.


The opening at the back is about three inches. The taper inside is not straight the whole way, it necks down to the exit diameter about three inches from the end and I suspect produces a bit of venturi effect.


Spring is almost in the air, plenty warm for dipping my feet in the creek and getting grounded to mother earth.

6 thoughts on “Turning Bombs into Anvils”

  1. Let me say, I am one of your students from Fort Collins, Co and I am rather confused. You have covered much material in a short space which leaves me with unfinished thoughts. As a continue to follow I expect many of there spaces will be filled in.

    1. Hi Danny, hope you’re doing well. What you speak of is a fair criticism, I often forget that I don’t explain things well. This last post was so muddled because it was literally a ‘day in the life’ so to speak. If there’s something you’re interested in don’t be afraid to ask. Did I ever explain who Mark Grable is in the first place? He’s a metate, a saw sharpener, but it encompasses more than just that. A lot of the work of getting a saw to perform well is taking out the kinks and bends, returning the saw to a truly flat state by tapping on it with different hammers at an anvil. The light is so important because it allows you to see the distortions and where you’re hitting with the hammer. Mark studied with a Japanese fellow, Yataiki, who was rather famous in Japan as not only a metate but a blacksmith, and made all kinds of tools including saws. My intent on coming out to Vermont is to Help Mark build a timber frame to house his forge, because he would also like to start making saws and other tools. I also have an interest in forging and tool making, but there’s a lot of this that is rather obscure so I can understand the confusion if you’re not also in the niche.

      Working some wood?

  2. I like seeing that clay tuyure. Partially motivated by some overwhelming family matters, I’m giving forging another shot- this time with welding goggles, I found a smith on /r/blacksmithing who deals with similar vision problems.

    I’m also hoping to try pit firing clay with some friends soon, so that’ll be my contribution, then.

    I’m surprised your not on instagram yet? It may be easier to take photos with your phone and upload them as you go, I know it is for me.

  3. The light of that picture is beautiful. And the distance you have there from the light source… I’m jealous.

    Is this the building of the open source forge or that will be a new building?

    Love your picture sitting there, looks like a proper working place.

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