How to Set the Hoop on Your Japanese Chisel

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When a new chisel with a hooped handle is received, quite often the hoop is loose. This is common to all Japanese chisels.

The function of the hoop is solely to keep the handle from splitting. Therefore, the hoop should be properly seated prior to use. 

Here are the steps:

1. Remove the label.  

Traditionally the label is removed in a Japanese shop so that one craftsman does not show off, and thus, embarrass the other craftsman with the quality of his chisels.

2. Remove the hoop from the handle.  

It is typically loose, but in some cases it may need a little persuasion to remove.

3. Clean any burrs inside the hoop with sandpaper or a file.  

Note that the hoop only fits on one way.  The hoop has a slight bevel on the inside to help seat the hoop.

4. Compress the wood around the top of the handle.   

Place the top portion of the handle on an anvil or hard benchtop. With a metal hammer, firmly tap all around the top 5/8" of the handle. The idea is to compress the wood so that the hoop can be driven approximately 1/32" to 1/16" below the top of the handle.


If you have one chisel, you can continue until the wood is compressed enough.   If you have several, we recommend a hoop setting tool to make the job move a little faster.

5. Now soak the chisel in hot water for 20 minutes to soften the wood. 

Alternatively you could soak in an oil finish, which will take a little longer to soften the wood fibers.

6. Once soft, hammer over the wood fibers so that when you strike the chisel you hit wood instead of the metal hoop.


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