Tuesday, June 20, 2006


2 shaku vs 22" (or Japan vs USA)

I have a 2.4m long beam, that I have been waiting to prepare for months before the wheather allow me to. Preparation of the beam means rough planing for removing the superficial low quality wood (the beam had been in contact with water) and of course having it as flat as possible.

This weekend was the day at last.

For this operation, I wanted to compare the performances of the Lie-Nielsen low angle jointer (22" long = 55cm), and a 2 shaku long (60cm) white oak japanese jointer, named watetsu.

The 2shaku watetsu facing the 22" low-angle jointer, a standard sized 70mm kanna gives the scale.

Before any planing comparison, the 2 planes had to be prepared.

Lie-Nielsen low angle jointer:
The low angle jointer had only the blade to sharpen. This was not that an easy task compare to the watetsu. The A2 blade is much harder than the watetsu, and getting a keen edge on my sharpening equipment mainly dedicated to japanese tools took some time.

2 shaku watetsu
I have another watetsu, and know the blade. It takes a very good edge relatively easily.
But conditioning a 2 shaku oak dai, is not what I do everyday. However the use of the 70cm long 12mm thick glass plate helped a lot. Quicker and more easily that I thought, I got the first shavings out of the watetsu.

The low-angle jointer is heavier than the 2 shaku watetsu, and if pushed with enough initial velocity, won't stop when it encounters a high spot. Also it's narrower blade (2.25" = 57mm) compared to the 70mm watetsu allowed a better productivity for the initial stock removal. Surprisingly, the 37degrees angle did pretty well on this rather hard wood.

I had set the watetsu to take fine shavings. The mouth opening was quite narrow and since I didn't work on it, that was my only choice: fine shavings. The blade angle (not bed angle) is 49degrees.
Will you think: 70mm plus 49degrees, plus 2 shaku and hard wood, must be hard to pull. Well, not that much. The white oak was gliding on the african rosewood (I tell a bit more about the wood).

After maybe 2 hours of preparation, I was able to put the beam at use, to support the wood I will use to make a cabinet.

Note that the setting is not ideal, but it is stable given the weight of the beam. Further improvement will be to install trestles, and to have a better "dog" (bench-dog).

About the wood.

I've found this beam in Taiwan, and had it for about 85US$ (exactly 2600NT$). It fit just in our car, with the seats laid down, and me sitting on it while my wife was driving. Tougher was to carry it myself from the basement to the 1st floor, in a rather narrow staircase.
Now what wood is it? That is more interesting.
In chinese, the name is fei1 zhou3 hua1 li3 mu4 (for those who read roma pinyin).
This mean African Rosewood.
Fine, it's rosewood.
But I'm not satisfied at all to know it's rosewood, because this familly is so vast that it tells us almost nothing. But the pity is that I do not know more. In Taiwan, the guys at the milling or lumber companies do not know any scientific name. If I'd go there and ask for chamaecyparis obtusa of the cupressaceae familly, they'd look at me and say they don't have that here in Taiwan. But they'd be wrong, since the wood is the famous hinoki, that you will find in a good number of Japanese temples (the cypress used in many Japanese temples comes from Taiwan).

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