One of the more mysterious aspects of Japanese Woodworking is the act of “tapping out” the plane iron (and chisels that are generally larger than 7/8″ or so). While taking a class with Yann at Mokuchi earlier this month, I had the opportunity to give this a try. It’s an interesting experience not without its pratfalls and trepidations to be sure. And since there are a few really good tutorials out there-much better than anything I could explain at this point given my lack of experience, you should head over to one of them and take a look. Or you can check out this article by Toshio Odate in the Jan/Feb 1991 issue of American Woodworker.
As part of the process one needs a surface to “tap out” on and so Yann gave me the idea for an alternative to an anvil from his workshop. He suggested getting ahold of a scrap piece of cold-rolled steel and insetting it into a chunk of wood. I had a piece of what I think is Eastern White Pine, but honestly I’m pretty poorly versed in identifying already milled pine so it’s anybody’s guess.
Anyways, I cut it to a short length as the whole piece will sit on my bench and I wanted it at good height to strike with my hammer. To add some flavor I shaped it into an octagon using some basic geometry, a compass, a pencil, and straightedge.
I used a 300mm ryoba for the sawing part. To create the mortise for the hexagonal steel I used a fortner bit in my 18V drill and then chiseled out the remaining waste. Since this pine was quite soft I made sure to keep the mortise just slightly smaller than the steel rod with the idea that I would hammer it home for a tight fit sans glue.
And after some Thor-like hammering here’s the final product. When I next need to tap out I will try to show the basic steps to share the process.