Making a Dovetail Kanna

Here is a Japanese dovetail plane, a simple style for cutting the male part of a sliding dovetail joint. Its a nice little plane, about eight inches long, great for one handed use cross grain or long grain. I had the chance to fall for this little guy up in Vermont and have wanted one ever since. With that in mind I took the time to make tracings of all the parts in my design notebook. Well worth the effort!

I’m short on good dai wood, quartersawn white oak is the best I have and it works okay for planes, not the best but ok.

All the various lines were marked out. If you’ve never cut a dai before this is not the first one that you want to start with. Having learned about western style side escapement planes helped me a good deal. You don’t need plane makers floats for something like this though.

The effective cutting angle for the blade is right around 45 degrees. Marking the wedging angle for the blade across its width was simple because I cut a practice dai in pine first, stuck the blade in there, and set my bevel gauge.

The shaving escapement line is cut after the sole of the plane is cut to the angle of the dovetail you want. I’m pointing to the angle with the pencil in the photo above. Let the wood find the angle for you. If you were to cut it before the sole angle the mouth of the plane would be too open on the inside.

Here is a shot of the kanna I modeled after showing a critical detail. The knicker iron is not set evenly into the block, its shallower at the cutting edge and lays in progressively towards the top of the plane block to provide a cutting relief angle. Its also not even side to side, the blade skews outward just like how a marking guage blade is set up so that it pulls into the work a bit and helps keep the fence tight to the work. Its an easy to miss detail!

Here’s the cut for the shaving escapement, and a 1/4″ starter hole for the conical shaving escapement.

I lack carving gouges for this sort of thing, but do have a conical carving thingy, what are these called? I don’t know but it worked a treat.

With all the major cuts made I match drilled the body and fence for the fence adjustment hardware.

Lots of fine tuning to get a simple looking plane like this to work properly. There’s no lateral adjustment of the blade, just sharpen it properly for an even projection from the sole. Getting the knicker iron lined up with the outside edge of the cutting iron is also critical, they both sit very slightly outside the edge of the block.

Really simple fence hardware, some long machine screws and whatnot. The little adjustment knobs that hold the fence took a while to cut, file, and tap.

Works great! I could not be happier with the blade quality after cutting with it a bit, the edge holding is there. It was easily a week of work to make this guy starting with chopping the charcoal, it makes the antique one you can find for sale online look like a really good deal!

If anyone is interested in making one of these I can post the rest of the image set I took of the original I copied and some dimensions.

There’s easy sliding dovetails in my future.

7 thoughts on “Making a Dovetail Kanna”

    1. You make your own forge laminated blades. Or buy LN tapered blades and use wedges, nothing wrong with that. Or hire a bladesmith in your country to make them, plenty would be happy for the work.

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