ono japanese axe

Japanese Ono (Axe) (斧)

The Ono (斧)or as we in Western cultures call it ‘The Axe’ is a Japanese tool and a weapon but also a tool for felling trees and processing of timber.

Japanese carpenters are highly skilled with the ONO

As a woodworking blog, my interest is how this tool can be used in woodworking. Not just today but also the history of this iconic Japanese tool. 

What is the ONO used for?

Japanese carpenters would use such a tool for the dressing of logs from the round to the square. These highly skilled artisans can not only shape the log but also use the ONO for the cutting of large joints. 

The Ono does make for a superb splitting axe

The ONO is a great tool for splitting logs but the splitting of short logs into a roof covering is more common. Wooden roof tiles are known as shingles and the ONO is still used to manufacture wood tiles for protection against rain.

In western culture, we generally use the Axe as a felling tool and the splitting of firewood. It is unlikely to see woodworkers using an axe for anything demanding more accuracy.

What makes the ONO Special?

The ONO or sometimes referred to as the Japanese Axe and it has some unique design features. The geometry of the ONO is not the same as a western axe. If you try to compare  them you will see the ONO has:

  1. A straight handle
  2. Head Shape
  3. Long cutting edge
  4. Superior steel
  5. A Fine edge
  6. Head has space for the hand for carving and precise work

ONO has a straight handle

The straight handle of the ONO is designed for simplicity but also it gives the tool more direct control. Unlike a western design which has a shaped and curved handle, the ONO is more simple. The simple design of the ONO is because many of the original tools would be made in the field and so complicated design and construction aren’t possible. The handle often originates as a branch and just whittled into shape.

How big is the Japanese AXE

Like western axes, the Axe or ONO originating from Japan is available in various sizes and weights. 

Using Senkichi as an example ONO tool maker. The 16” ONO (1.18 x 16.14 x 5.31 inches; 1.9 Pounds) is a fine tool and can be found on Amazon

Another popular Japanese AXE is the  Kings County Tools Japanese Kindling Hand Axe 4-1/2” Laminated Steel Blade, Hardwood Handle and Weighs 1.6 Pounds. Slightly smaller than the Senkichi but is good for smaller projects and also makes a fantastic kindling axe.

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