Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Making a handle for a Japanese hammer

About a year ago this stunning Masayuki hammer head arrived - just before I left for Westonbirt. While I was in England, I picked up a small boxwood branch with the intent to use it to handle this hammer. I squared it up and set it on my bench to let it dry out. You can likely see it in the background of many of the photos over the last year.

I grew tired of waiting and decided to begin. I followed So’s advise (from his excellent website) for the traditional method of handling a hammer. You can follow it here - click on “hammers” on the left hand side and then scroll down to the third last entry titled Quince and Gumi handle.

I prepared the blank in a similar manner, took a deep breath and started. What makes this process so amazing is the mechanics of it. The mortise through the hammer head does not have parallel edges - they curve inward slightly in the middle and then outward again towards the top. The prepared end of the handle is made to the same size as the opening of the mortise and then each day, the head is pounded in aprox. 1mm. The curved edges of the mortise compress the wood fibers - hence the week long process. Once the handle is past the narrowest point, oil is added to the exposed wood at the top to re-expand the wood as the mortise opens up. This locks it in place and eliminating the need for wedges.

Here is a shot of the 1mm marks on the handle.

The hammer is now done and I have to say - it is an amazing tool to use. The weight is wonderful. The handle is quite thin when compared to Western style handles - but this one feels quite amazing... I am sure the boxwood is playing a role in this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I have only seen Japanese hammers with handles wedged with iron wedges that split the end grain.
Question: what is the weight of your hammer - the heads are usually graduated by weight?

Thank you


19 August 2009 at 20:29  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Alfred,

Glad you enjoyed it. I have been using the hammer quite a bit lately and I love it. I will look into the weight - I think I have it written down somewhere - I cannot recall it off the top of my head.


19 August 2009 at 21:10  
Anonymous Tim said...

I know this post is older, but I am becoming obsessed with these hammers. I think it may have started a few months ago when I read about Derek Cohen's gennou. I may have to seek one out soon. I've been really enjoying your blog, Konrad. Beautiful work on all of your endeavors.

29 April 2014 at 11:42  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Tim,

Thanks for writing and glad you are enjoying the blog.

My hammer sits on the main woodworking bench and while it is not used daily, it is used extensively when it is used. It is a remarkable tool and feel very privileged to be using it.


29 April 2014 at 17:51  

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