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Solid woodblocks for relief printmaking, in various hard & soft woods, hand made using traditional skills using mainly hand planes etc., by David Rodgers in the UK.

Japanese Planing Beam - Trial Version 1.0

> Blog > Japanese Woodworking Adaptations > Japanese Planing Beam > Japanese Planing Beam - Trial Version 1.0
Wed 18th Nov 2020

For 30+ years I've had rare health conditions, and am exploring Japanese methods of woodworking, using hand tools, to see if this can help me. Ip to now I've been using a traditional European Woodworking bench and techniques such as pushing all tools away from me to do the work.

Japanese Planing Beam - Trial Version 1.0
Trying pulling a wooden plane towards me on a trial Japanese Planing Beam (want to sort out clutter behind it!)

What is a Japanese Planing Beam?

One technique the Japanese use is a Wooden Planing beam which is a thick, but not so wide, piece of timber sloping from a trestle down to resting against a solid fixed piece on the ground. It is very simple, and mobile - very unlike traditional European (and other) ways of working.

The work is placed on this beam, up against a dog on the lower end of the work. The plane is then pulled down this beam, to plane it, with the dogs or similar stopping the wood being pushed down the beam, and the solid fixed piece on the ground stopping the beam from moving away. So simple really.

From the photos I've seen, Japanese craftsmen stand when using this beam - and understandably so they can plane a long piece. With the right tools and a good piece of timber, they can plane a nice shaving right along it's length.

Japanese Planing Beam - Trial Version 1.0
Japanese Planing Beam - Trial Version 1.0

How am I adapting this for my own use?

I have created a Trial beam, just as described above, but as I want to avoid standing, have set it up low so I can plane kneeling. This of course means I can only plane shorter pieces of timber - but I only work on smaller things so that is fine.

As my health conditions create a lot of pain it may seem strange that I'm doing this - it could make it much worse - but the thing is I want to try it - along with some other techniques - to see which works best - or use a combination of different techniques.

With so many variables, both on the beam, and whether it will affect the chronic pain, I decided to make a test beam from a larger piece of stud timber, and see how that works. I will can then try it, and if it works, know what size, position etc. to make one from a good thick hardwood that will last.

Japanese Planing Beam - Trial Version 1.0

Trial Planing Beam
Setting out the trial Japanese planing beam - it is really very simple beam sitting on a stool, running down to the ground on right (unlike clutter behind it!)

Beam Materials
100mm wide stud timber - Pine. Not suitable for long term use, but fine for a trial version.

Top Trestle
Stool from parents-in-law old kitchen - it is the right height. Curved edge at front isn't ideal, but it is fine for a trial piece.

Bottom support
The bottom of beam rests against a large cabinet in my studio with a firm edge, and a breeze block on top to weight it down.

Back support
Very simple Back support - cabinet in studio with a breeze block on

3/4" holes drilled in beam, with 18mm dowels inserted, with nails to prevent them from falling out, and wood stop inserted before to create flat even surface. I've used this method for 8 years on my European standard bench, and work fine. They allow different lengths of material to be planed, and to experiment with different heights for me to work. So very simple (and no, the dogs don't bark!)

Dogs on beam
3/4" holes drilled in beam with 18mm inserts as dogs for support - simple but it works

Kneeling Support
To kneel, I need something soft under my knees - my studio floor is plywood. I'm using an old big towel folded up (but may find something more suitable).

Kneeling support
A towel provides a very simple kneeling support

Tags: japanese planing beam carpentry carpenter wood worker woodworking cabinet maker cabinetmaker furniture maker furniture making

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