Amazing shavings, done Japanese styleComments (0)
Gossamer-thin shavings are the order of the day at every Kezerou Kai event.
Peekskill, NY / September 2019
The Japanese term “Kezurou Kai” translates as “shaving group.” But that definition hardly does justice to the Japanese woodworking exposition I recently attended. In its country of origin, Kezurou Kai is a centuries-old tradition that encourages participants to refine their hand tool techniques to unbelievable levels. Taking place over multiple days, the event always culminates with a friendly competition to see who can plane the thinnest continuous shaving from a long board.
Organized by Yann Giguere and Margaret Spring, this 2-day NY KEZ took place at Dain’s Lumber, a venue that couldn’t have been more appropriate. Situated at the edge of the Hudson River, this independent lumber yard made its first deliveries by horse cart and schooner in 1848. Six generations later, the Dain family continues to own and operate the business –one of the oldest lumber companies in the country (www.dainslumber.com).
Sunday’s program had a slam-bang beginning, as Yann led a bunch of participants in a log-splitting exercise that represented the most elemental form of woodworking. By inserting progressively larger wooden wedges, the crew eventually split the large log in half. From this launch point, subsequent demonstrations covered a full range of hand tool operations, from flattening logs with an adze and resawing stock of different dimensions, to sharpening, mortising, tuning Japanese-style wooden hand planes, and then using them to take gossamer-thin shavings. Jim Blauvelt, of Taftville, CT even set up a small blast furnace and anvil to demonstrate the techniques that Japanese artisans use to make chisels and plane blades. At every demonstration station, attendees were encouraged to try different techniques themselves –a great hands-on experience.
Along with demonstrations at different woodworking stations, there were slideshow presentations by different woodworkers. Andrew Hunter’s talk about visiting woodworkers and timber-framed shrines and other structures in Japan was a real high point for me. Based in upstate New York, Andrew creates beautiful furniture using traditional Japanese hand tool techniques. But this master craftsman was awed and humbled by the level of workmanship and by the spiritual aspect of craft that he encountered.
Kezurou Kai events don’t occur very often; there are just a few in the U.S. every year. You’ll find event information at the website of the American Kezurou Kai organization (https://www.kezuroukai.us). Yann Giguere’s website (https://mokuchiwoodworking.com) also has Kezurou Kai details, along with an impressive schedule of courses on Japanese woodworking, covering everything from sharpening and hand planes to joinery work.
Between hands-on woodworking at different stations, show-and-tell presentations provided a deep dive into different topics.
The final day begins with a log-splitting exercise.
Before Japanese woodworkers developed hand planes, smoothing work was done with super-sharp spear planes that remove curled shavings.
Blacksmith Jim Blauvelt demonstrates the forge-welding process for creating Japanese chisels and plane blades.
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