Some more new chisels…

Hello again Faithful Reader,

The store has had a few (!) new additions.

Firstly, the Koyamaichi dragon chisels are now listed.

These are top shelf chisels. Starting with a bright finished blue steel chisel, they are sent off to have a dragon engraved into the neck, complete with inlaid eyes. They are award winning (Miki city hardware association) chisels, due in no small part to their uniqueness. Simply put, there’s nothing else like them out there in chiseldom.

They’re purely nice to look at, and I must warn you that if you pluck up the courage to actually buy one, you’ll probably spend not enough time using it and too much time looking at it.

(There will be some variation on these soon too. Black dragons, where the engraving is done on a black-neck chisel and tigers. These are so new, nobody knows what they look like. Not even Koyamaichi.)

Koyamaichi slicks have also been added.

Just really REALLY big chisels to be used with hand pressure. If you’ve never seen one, trust me, they’re enormous. They’re the chisel parallel of an infill plane. The weight of the things command respect from any bit of wood they touch.

Also, a new style of chisel. Specially commissioned ‘bachi-nomi‘, designed specifically for dovetail sockets.

Every detail in their design was put there to make this occasionally challenging task easier and more efficient.

While there are only 2 sizes, 9mm and 15mm, and they’re a single purpose kind of chisel. But I can say they make the task ridiculously easy. I’ve used skew chisels, hacking out the waste with a regular chisel and a few other methods out there. These things are by far the easiest way I know to get the job done. Almost enjoyable, so easy do they make the job.

Also added are Fujikawa brand chisels.

You might be wondering who are Fujikawa, and it’s a valid question.

They are based in Miki city, Hyogo and make chisels. They’ve been making chisels since 1930 and originally made only mortising chisels, usually distributed through stores with a generic branding on them typical of the time. With the introduction of metallic sash windows, the need for mortising chisels declined, so Mr. Fujikawa branched out into making a broader line of chisels, often with the distributor’s brand name on them.

Only quite recently have Fujikawa put their own name on their chisels, and are actively working to build that name into a well known, trusted brand for good quality, reasonably priced tools.

And they’re doing well at it!

While their foundation doesn’t sound very mystical or fantastic, it has given them one big advantage in an increasingly competitive market. Because they were able to simply make chisels without needing to boost their name (leaving that to distributors and stores), they were able to spend their efforts refining their products and trying new ideas, all while making as many chisels as possible and getting them out into the market at large.

The final result of this unusual strategy is very interesting…

As they have a lot of experience and know-how at just ‘making chisels’, they’re able to provide different grades of chisels to suit a particular need for the end user.

Starting at their ‘Maruya‘ line, which are simple, unadorned chisels that give up some of the finer details to be ‘just a chisel’ and ideally suited to those on a budget or looking for a chisel that performs well and isn’t difficult to live with. They are not the equal of a higher priced chisel aimed at the professional (or spirited non-professional), they are simply an economical chisel that’s easy to use, easy to work with and easy on the pocket.

Next up the scale are Fujikawa’s ‘Yasaku‘ chisels, which add in improved fit and finish with better performance and edge retention and a choice of red oak or boxwood handles. Again, with an eye to a good ratio of cost to performance and these chisels deliver professional grade performance at a cost that’s difficult to ignore.

Finally, some chisels that put up a valid argument to be ‘the king’ when it comes to edge retention, Fujikawa’s ‘Funmatsu-Nezumi‘ which start with the same basics as the Yasaku chisels, but are ‘bright finished’, not the traditional black. The handle choices of red oak or boxwood are the same, and topped off with a faceted black hoop. The ‘Nezumi’ part of the name is reserved for Fujikawa chisels of the highest quality they can produce, and simply translates as ‘mouse’, as shown on the label. ‘Funmatsu’ translates as ‘Powder Material’, which may sound ominous…

And ‘Powder Material’ is the difference between these and most any other chisels commercially available today, making up the laminated layer of Powder Metal High Speed Steel (PM-HSS) which takes these unique chisels to a whole new level of edge longevity.

The actual PM-HSS used is a patent Hitachi steel, YXR-7, which is engineered for enhanced shock and impact durability combined with improved edge retention and grindability.

The ultimate goal is to have a tool that stays sharp for longer in any ‘wood’ material, and based on my own preliminary testing, it does so to an excessive extent.

The concern however is how do you get chisels like these sharp?

It is not a simple proposition, and the extreme durability and abrasion resistance of the hard steel, even being laminated, means that not every sharpening method is effective in sharpening these chisels.

Power grinding, as is permissible with typical HSS is not recommended with these chisels. Fujikawa do not specify exactly why this is, but I believe it’s a combination of the heat treat and resultant hardness of these chisels, where typical high speed grinding and it’s associated heat will actually affect the steel (unlike most HSS tools available today) and the lamination of soft steel may affect a grinders ability to be effective. So that leaves normal sharpening stones.

I can say that of the coarse stones, almost any of them will work to some extent, but the Sigma Power ceramic #120, Select II #240 and #400 are exceptional and highly recommended. The Shapton Glass Stones below #500 are also quite suitable.

To the #1000 grit range, from Sigma Power any stone currently available work well, with the Select II #1000 and #1200 being excellent (and one situation where the #1000 really shines, the #1200 staying as flat as ever and works very well). The Bester #1000 is quite good, King Hyper and Neo are suitable and any diamond type plate/stone are also quite suitable. Norton work well enough as well.

But you may notice 3 distinct omissions in that list…

Shapton stones are, as normally used, completely ineffective. They’re worse than ineffective, they’re useless. If you are willing and able to raise a slurry with a diamond plate, then they do become effective, but tend to clog somewhat if more than a small amount of work is to be done and will tend to dish more than usual. The Naniwa Chosera is equally ineffective, and again needs a slurry raised for them to become effective, the included ‘nagura’ stone is sufficient to this task.

(You may think I am being sensationalist here, but at the same time didn’t hear my language when these stones simply polished the steel, but did nothing to abrade it.)

Going to higher grits, most stones are effective enough provided you keep the amount of steel being worked small and avoid trying to work excessive amounts of steel. The focus here should be the edge, not the finish as the only stones available designed for this are the Sigma Power Select II.

And the fear of stones being unable to abrade the ‘hard carbides’ found in these super hard steels?

Perhaps diamonds may sharpen these hard particles, but in testing, I’ve distinctly avoided anything other than normally used sharpening stones (to make sure most folks won’t need to buy anything special to sharpen them) and these chisels won’t be lacking sharpness when sharpened with conventional ceramic type stones. There’s a reason for this that I will expand upon at a later time, but for now, whatever you have can be made to work with these tools which is a good thing.

(And certainly better than the recommended ‘sharpen to #1000′ suggested by Fujikawa!)

Also added recently are Fujikawa mortising chisels.

Fujikawa, having started out as a specialist mortising chisel maker, I don’t think it needs to be said that these chisels are very good. Lacking some of the finish found in similar chisels from other makers, a quick glance confirms these chisels are made to work hard down to the split resistant cored white oak handles.

And they’re available in 12 different sizes, from 1.5mm to 24mm. Significant as few Japanese mortising chisels are available these days in anything larger than 12mm.

And for the immediate time being, that’s the extent of the additions. Most of these chisels are available at a nominal 10% discount for the next few weeks as an introductory offer, but if you miss out, don’t fret. There will be more chisels planned for addition in the not too distant future (I’m burned out on chisels for now!) and for the next few months at least, you should expect large influxes of tools to be added on a regular basis. Perhaps they won’t be something you want, need or even like, but they’ll be there to at least look at.

Thanks for reading, as always,


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