It’s Not About the Shavings / It’s All About the Shavings

by Andrew Hunter (adapted from The Wooden Post, vol 10, March 2018)

The Kezurou-kai organization is awesome! How great is it to be able to get together and share our interest in traditional Japanese woodworking? I have found my tribe and I want to see that tribe grow!

I tell anyone I can about the group, and how incredible Japan’s hand tool tradition is. I tell them about the blacksmithing, the sharpening stones and the translucent shavings. Most of the woodworkers I talk with show an interest and some, I can tell, have that same spark inside, that love of the blade; another member of the tribe.

It’s the folks that clearly have an interest in Japanese tools and woodworking, yet are not part of the organization, that I want to reach out to. Many of the people I’ve spoken to express that they are put off by the whole obsession over the shavings and they would rather just build than fuss so much with their tools. I have to admit they have a point. The quest for the perfect shaving can get crazy, it’s easy to get caught up in the chase. At times we may need to remind ourselves that it’s what we actually make with our tools that counts.

But, falling in love with our tools is just part of the process toward better work.

Photo of Andrew Hunter by Sherill Snyder

Photo of Andrew Hunter by Sherill Snyder

Besides, the Kezurou-kai movement isn’t just about thin shavings. It’s about improving our skill as woodworkers and sharing what we have learned with others. Japanese hand tools can do so much to elevate our work. They make the dialogue between material and craftsmen more fluent and allow for more freedom in design and execution. Quality hand tools not only make it easier for people just developing their skills to experience the joy of working with their hands, but also have the potential to improve our craft as a whole. So much of modern work is dominated by efficiency, we have left little room for the spirit of hand tools. It is exposing people to this quality that Kezurou-kai is for. We are much stronger working together to spread this word, so please join us.

I will say, in defense of thin shavings, nothing speaks for our movement like a perfect shaving. It tells the complete story; from the black smith and the sharpening stones, to the craftsperson and the material. The shaving is a connection to the whole process. A blade finished surface has a special appeal. Whether it is with an axe, adze or plane it speaks of the maker. It reminds us that it is important how an object is made.