We follow our series of articles devoted to Japanese chisels with a illustrative post. If before we had seen the origin and evolution of these fascinating tools, today we will focus on their morphology, uses and applications. As basic as it sounds, remember that although all Japanese chisels seem the same, or only find only oire-nomi, there are many versions. Each form and measure is associated with a specific type of use. And there is a great variety … starting with the price.
On the one hand, it allows a version for each type of work and professional. On the other hand, you can end up ruining yourself if you do not know what use you are going to give them. For this reason, we have decided to make this small guide, presenting the different shapes of Japanese chisel and to which works are associated. We start.
Japanese chisels: understand the shape and its use
It is the “classic” chisel, one of the most popular and used. Currently there is a wide variety of blades, with measurements ranging from 3mm to 45mm. The secret of this success lies in the design of its laminated blade, consisting of a layer of steel hard at the base and another more “soft” steel at the top. The union results in a blade of extreme resistance to torsion, balanced and resistant. On the contrary, it requires a special sharpening that requires some practice and dedication.
The shape of the blade of an oire-nomi is thin at the top. Thus, you get a lighter and easier to handle blade, especially for working corners. But what if the sheet is very narrow? Then the chamfer maintains, adopting a triangular section, managing to maintain these attributes throughout the range of measurements.
This is the equivalent of the mortise chisel, used to make lace or regatta in the wood. For this reason, the leaf is squarer than the oire-nomi, lacking bevels and with a much more rectangular and compact body. Thanks to this, the force transmits directly to the cutting edge, while the width of the blade determines the width of the mortise.
It exists but a big difference with the western chisels of this type. The mukomachi-nomi has a slit behind the blade that extends to the handle. This concavity avoids creating friction with the wood, especially when removing the chisel after nailing it to the wood. In this way, a much easier and comfortable handling is achieved.
Thicker and sturdier than the previous ones, the atsu-nomi is a Japanese chisel designed for large joints. To put it simply, it would be equivalent to the construction chisel, designed to make mortises in wooden beams or pillars. This requires a blade with a tang much greater and that guarantees the stability blow after blow.
Complementary to the previous one, this chisel is one of the longest you can find. In fact, it takes both hands to handle it. It is used to clean large mortises or balance the shape of large tangs. Therefore, as in the case of the atsu-nomi, its use is included in the structural carpentry.
This chisel is characterized by its elongated shape and its thin blade, with a thickness that usually does not exceed 4mm. This tool is intended for the execution of finishes, it can be used for small surface touches or even polish impurities. For a better grip, the handle is longer than the oire-nomi and has a cylindrical shape that fits perfectly to the hand.
Very similar to the previous one, this chisel presents a sheet with a triangular section. The profile of its angles is very low (less than 40º), being ideal to finish off lace. Thanks to this low profile it is possible to carry out a multitude of works, such as making dovetail joints. This, together with the oire-nomi, are the most recommended options to get started in the world of Japanese chisels.
It is a chisel with elbow, so the blade is at a lower level than the handle. This curious shape makes it very appreciated in traditional carpentry, both in the Japanese and Western, since it allows the blade to be put in lace or ditch. In the case of the grooves with the shape of a dovetail is where we can get the most out of this type of chisel: the adaptation is total.
These are the main models of Japanese carpentry chisels. There are many others, like the tsuba-nomi or kote-nomi, destined to more specific works. In general, with these seven options we could carry out most projects. If you just want to try your luck, the best option is to continue being the oire-nomi. Their shape makes them very versatile and their use is very similar to the western one. And if you have already tried them and want to share your experience, do not forget to leave your comment;)