Akio Tasai Pairing Chisel

January 2017

In January I became the very proud owner of an 18 mm pairing chisel made by the legendary Master Akio Tasai from Sanjo, Niigata. I have been eager to get my hands on one of these ever since I saw David Charlesworth discussing it on one of his Lie-Nielsen videos. He said something along the lines of: “This is a chisel made by a gentle by the name of Tasai and it gives me tremendous pleasure each time I look at it.” In that regard I cannot agree more with David, it is an absolute joy to use and look at.

Due to their considerable price and an unfavourable exchange rate, I have been confined to dreaming about one rather than buying one for several years. That made it so much more special when I finally got to handle a Tasai. As you can see, it comes in a pretty box decorated with Japanese gibberish (to the bovine amongst us anyway).

I have not come across a better made tool in all of my woodworking journey. As per usual for traditional Japanese chisels, it is made up of two distinct metal components. The back (or so-called mirror side) is composed of extremely hard blue steel that is especially made for Master Tasai. The rest of the chisel is made up of a much softer multi laminated steel. It is this Damascus style laminate steel that creates the aesthetic appeal of these chisels.

Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of the so-called “Ura” on the mirror side, but it is basically a very slight hollow that is meant to decrease the time spent on sharpening the chisel. Given this nifty design element I thought it would be a breeze to sharpen. That turned out to be a fantasy. It actually took a lot more effort to polish the back that anticipated, but I am sure the ura will speed up subsequent sharpening sessions.

As I said, this chisel looks impressive, but it’s true worth comes to the fore when it engages with wood. I made a few test cuts on the shoulders of these huge tenons. The shoulder lines were marked out with a knife so it was simply a case of feeling the cutting edge into these tracks and leaning on the chisel. It literally glided through the wood and left a superior polished surface in the end grain.

I have since used the chisel on African hardwood and it does not seem to shy away from the confrontation. If anything, it performed better in the hard stuff.

That then concludes my review of this work of art that happens to be quite a useful tool at the same time. I would say it is worth a lot more than what you find on the price tag.

Master Tasai, I am not worthy!


My second commission – part 9


This post disappeared from my site while it went into hiding. Here it is again for those of you who missed it.

Welcome back to JNSQ woodworking. Here is hoping that we will continue to share woodworking banter and ideas in 2017. This past weekend was my first back in the shop and it was a real joy. Much like 2016, my two main projects to focus on will be this so called “second commission” and the table for the shebeen.


I will now report on the work done since our previous update in October of 2016. As usual just a quick reminder of what we are aiming for. A few shots of the model I built while developing the design.


Something that I omitted to illustrate in the previous post is the techniques that were employed to ensure that the spindles end up with zero splay. The first method makes use of a device that we shall call the Tambotie gauge (as I used a small Tambotie off-cut to create this fantastic piece of equipment).

The Tamboti gauge consists of an appropriately sized off-cut clamped to a square.

While reaming the mortises for the spindles you might remember how I made use of a stick with an appropriately sized tenon to check the rake angle.


The Tambotie gauge is used to check that there is zero splay by comparing the gap between the Tambotie off-cut and the spindle on both sides, as referenced off the side of the beam with the square. In this case the spindle is leaning ever so slightly towards the right.


Second of the two strategies again involves a highly complex jig that takes hours to build and set up. I clamped a winding stick to the side of the beam to check wether the spindle (positioned in it’s mortise) runs parallel to it, i.e. zero splay.


Once all eight mortises received this treatment it was time to test how the assembly would fit together. As you can see it came together nicely.


It is probably important to report on the stuff-up I made while drilling the pilot holes for the mentioned mortises. You might remember that I drilled one of these holes in the wrong direction and suffered from a Panic Attack subsequently. The solution I came up with was to turn a dowel of the same wood that fitted the hole perfectly and glued it into place. The hole was then drilled in the correct direction and the picture below show the result. There was only a small strip of the plug visible after drilling the new hole.


After reaming out the mortise there was no evidence left of the blunder on the surface that would be exposed to critical eyes once the tenon gets glued into position. In the pictures below you can however see the edge of the plug inside the hole. Eish, that was a close call. Woodwork has a way of keeping you grounded, isn’t it.


As these tenons run all the way through the beams, I decided to also wedge them. Here I am widening the mortise on the exit side to accommodate the wedges. I recommend reading Peter Galbert’s seminal work “Chairmaker’s Notebook” on how to orientate these spindles and wedges.


Next up I had to  camouflage the laminations with a few carefully placed beads before glueing up the leg.


I used my pre-1900 no. 66 Stanley beadingtool, which I restored quite some time ago. It takes elbow grease beading such incredibly hard wood, but it is very satisfying nonetheless.


I think it accomplished what I intended as the beam now looks like a solid piece of timber.


The tenons were then prepared to receive the wedges.


Made some wedges …


… and prepared for glue-up.


I used a combination of mallet blows and clamps to coax the spindles into position.


Once they were seated to my liking the wedges locked them down for ever (I hope).


This is how the Windsor leg spent it’s December holidays, resting on the assembly table.



This past weekend I continued my assault on the so called Windsor leg. I clamped it to the trapezoid leg and used the latter to mark out the final shape of the former. This way they are exact copies of each other in terms of measurements.


My daughter Aoife helped me to make the necessary cuts using my Miller’s Falls Langdon Mitre Box no. 75. It was quite a tricky operation given the awkward shape and size of the leg , but the Langdon made cutting the 9º angles straight forward.


One day the student will become the master.


The next big drama will be the third layer of wood that needs to be added to the trapezoid leg. I selected a good Witpeer (Apodytes dimidiata) board that ran pretty much through the centre of the tree and made a cut lengthwise along the pith. This gave me two quarter-sawn pieces. From these boards I then selected appropriate 800 mm chunks for re-sawing.  The idea with re-sawing is to created a book-matched pattern to the inside of this leg. This layer only needs to be about 8 mm thick to get the total thickness of the leg up to 44 mm, which fits perfectly into my  ratio of 22:44:66:88 mm (thickness) for the various parts of the table.


You will notice the two strips of Kershout (Pterocelastrus tricuspidatus) on top of one of the piles of re-sawn and planed stock. We will use those to create a type of depth confusion for an observer viewing the table from the Windsor leg’s end. This will hopefully enhance the effect of an construction that defies gravity, but you (and unfortunately I) will have to wait until the next post to see how this works or possibly not?? Here’s hoping (that it works, that is)!


Back with a vengeance


You might already know that Je Ne Sais Quoi Woodworking almost disappeared into thin air, but alas it was revived albeit still in rehab. One day in mid January my site just vanished and it took days of work by the IT guy who set it up for me and my wife to work out what happened. I really do not want to go into the details of the traumatic event, suffice to say that it was an unsavoury experience.

I would also like to apologise to those who were looking for JNSQW and not being able to find it. A special thanks goes out to my two special blogger friends in Jonathan White (The Bench Blog) and Bob Demers (The Valley Woodworker) who tried to keep my spirits up. They both gave me lots of advice on how to solve the problem and prevent it in future. Thanks gentlemen.

What I have learnt though is that I do not know enough about the technical aspects of websites, wordpress, backups etc etc. I have now made it a mission to first get a better understanding of these vital bits and pieces. At present I am working through a series of videos on how to use wordpress in the best possible way and trying to work out how to optimize my photos before uploading it.

Another thing I realised is how much the blogging has become part of my life and therefore how much I missed it when the site went into hiding. I want to try and hang onto that thought to ensure that I appreciate being able to do it more and hopefully try to improve the quality of my posts and site. One of the tricks I have discovered so far is how to make time-lapse videos and post it on the site. Here is one to wet your appetite.

At least you can now look forward to quite a bit of material that heaped up in the meantime, which I now have to publish to get back on schedule. The two tables I am working on have both evolved significantly since my disappearance. It is wonderful to be back and I look forward to engaging with all of you on woodwork topics yet again.

Viva Je Ne Sais Quoi Woodworking!!!