japanese tools

Japanese Woodworking Tools

Woodworking itself is one of the oldest art forms in existence; Japanese woodworking is one of the earliest known forms of the craft to ever be in existence and used for building homes and furniture. 

Japanese Woodworking is Considered Art

Japanese architecture is predominantly timber or bamboo construction using special jointing techniques that do not require nails or screws. This is why Japanese artisans have developed there own unique woodworking tools to craft these joints for instance: locking scarf joints.

To create anything using the Japanese woodworking technique, you’ll need to equip yourself with the right tools. There are several Japanese woodworking tools available; each one provides a distinct benefit and usage purpose depending on the specific item you’re trying to craft.

What is Special about tools from Japan?

All of the Japanese woodworking tools we’re going to cover below utilize Japanese tool steel. Japanese tool steel is made from a fine mix of carbon allot steel with a carbon content of about 0.5-1.5%. The carbon content in Japanese Tool Steel makes it highly resistant to breakage, making it perfect for crafting furniture and working with hard materials.

Each Japanese woodworking tool will serve its own unique purpose related to crafting furniture pieces and other wood accessories. Read each tool description carefully so you’ll know exactly what to do with each of them.

In this article, we will give you a list of these great tools with a brief description linking to a full article on that tool.

Common Japanese Woodworking Tools

Each Japanese woodworking tool we mention below will serve its own unique purpose related to crafting furniture pieces and other wood accessories. Read each tool description carefully so you’ll know exactly what to do with each of them.

Adzes are called chouna or chōna (釿) in Japan

An Adze is similar to an axe in its construction; however, the cutting edge is perpendicular to the handle. It’s one of the earliest woodworking tools know to man dating back to the stone age. You can use an Adze to make various wooden accessories like canoes and bowls. The Chouna is often used to face raw timber flat or square and can be used to texture a surface with beautiful undulations. Like many hand tools, the Chouna is no exception to the rule that to successfully utilise the tool you will need to train and practice for years. MORE ABOUT THE CHOUNA JAPANESE ADZE

japanese choana

‘Axe’ or ono (斧) in Japan

An Axe is a steel blade attached to a wooden handle at a right angle. Throughout centuries Axes have been used to cut and split wood, be used as weapons, and to harvest timber. For Japanese woodworking purposes, an axe is used for log-building and joinery. The weight of the head provides inertia and cutting force. This makes the cutting of large joints easier but some skill is required also the joint is often trimmed using other Japanese tools.

ono japanese axe

Japanese ‘Chisel’ or nomi (鑿, のみ)

Chisels are long-bladed or short-bladed hand tools that have bevelled cutting edges stuck onto straight handles. The key difference between western woodworking tools and Japanese woodworking tools is the steel and collar protected handles designed for impacting with a mallet. Japanese chisels use white or blue steel that is much harder than the steel used in the production of western chisels. On closer inspection, you will see that the back of the chisel blade is the hollow ground which helps to produce a finer edge. Unfortunately, the life of the chisel is reduced so careful sharpening is important with water stones.

nomi chisel

‘Hammer’ of Japan or ‘Genno or Gennoh’ (玄能)

Genno like a hammer are tools that consist of a weighted head attached to a long handle. Genno is swung to deliver impact and force to a specific area or location. As it relates to woodworking, genno drives nails into wood and used to strike some tools to shape wood. Unlike a western pattern hammer which can be found in many different patterns such as claw, pein and cross pein the genno is a generally simple design.

japanese genno hammer

Japanese ‘Saw’ or nokogiri (鋸)

Saws consist of a rugged wire, blade, or chain with hard-toothed edges. For woodworking purposes, saws are used to cut through different material types, shape objects, and cut off excess material. You can find saws in various lengths, blade rigidities, and sizes, so you can achieve the exact result you’re looking for. One of the primary differences between western saws and Japanese saws is that Japanese saws cut on pull strokes while western saws cut on push strokes.

nokogiri japanese saw

The Japanese ‘Handplane’ or kanna (鉋)

A hand plane is a specific type of Japanese woodworking tool used to shape wood using your bare muscle. You force the cutting blade over the wood surface using your hands to achieve the desired result. A hand plane can also be used to reduce the thickness of wood, flatten it, and impart a smooth surface finish to a rugged piece of timber.

Kanna japanese hand plane


These are the primary Japanese woodworking tools you’ll use when trying to craft anything out of a solid piece of wood. Each woodworking project you undertake will require different tools and techniques to mould whatever item you’re creating. It’s essential to educate yourself about the various uses and applications that each of these tools can be used for so that you can avoid ruining your woodworking project by making a simple mistake.

Use this article as an informative guide to help you become acquainted with the various tools you’ll need to have ready for your next woodworking project.

Check out our other Articles on Japanese Handtools

The Japanese Kanna (Handplane) (鉋)

Japanese Nokogiri (Saw)(鋸)

Japanese Nomi (Chisel) (鑿, のみ)

Japanese Genno (Hammer) (玄能)

Japanese Ono (Axe) (斧)

Japanese Chouna (Adze) (釿)

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