A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit NYC with my lady and as part of that trip I got in touch with Yann Giguere of Mokuchi in Brooklyn, Bushwick to be precise, to see if I could spend some time learning about the Japanese smoothing plane or Kanna. Yann offers classes on several different aspects of Japanese woodworking throughout the year and for a few years now, I’ve been really wanting to get a decent grasp on the mechanics and usage of Japanese planes and this was the perfect chance.
During the class it became apparent that one could spend many, many years learning the fundamentals of using a Japanese plane and that my short time with Yann was just the beginning. That being said, having a true teacher, someone who is a master of their craft spend just a couple days showing you how to get started is invaluable.
The goal was to get a good shaving using only the dai or wooden body of the plane and the plane blade itself and without the use of the chip breaker to start things off. We did eventually get to the chip breaker but as Yann explained it is not necessary to use it and until the plane iron and plane body are properly prepared no use of a chip breaker will correct any deficiencies.
The details are too many to cover here, suffice to say there are many steps and getting to a good shaving that first time around takes some serious preparation. That being said, tuning the Japanese plane is not necessarily any more complex than properly conditioning a Western plane. It’s just a different set of steps that with enough practice become regular habit.
The shots below are the first pile of shavings that I got from on a stick of Alaskan Yellow Cedar. As I get more practice I’ll move on to different woods, particularly the ones that I use for my own projects which are Walnut, Cherry, and QS Sycamore.
Here’s a quick shot of my smoothing plane after the class. When I got home I actually made a few more modifications per Yann’s instructions to get it into proper shape including sanding the top down by about an 1/8″ to allow for proper sideways adjustment of the chipbreaker and soaking it in stable oil (olive oil in my case) to further protect and condition the dai.
And here’s a small box of my first shavings. Not something you’d find on everyone’s mantel but I think I’ll build a nice simple box to hold them and of course finish plane it using the Kanna above.