Friday, 19 September 2008

One file to rule them all - and in the Ebony dust bind them.

Over the last 8 days, I have fit the front buns and rear infills of 7 coffin smoothers. Two XSNo.4ss's, three No.4ss's and two A5ss's. Six of these planes have Ebony infills. Needless to say - my hands are disturbingly filthy. The fitting process goes something like this;

1). Waste out the bulk of the infill using saws (thanks again Mike!).

The above shoulder cut that defines the overstuffing still feels “dangerous” - even after 100+ times.

2). With the bulk removed - I turn to files, rasps and chisels to further refine the shape.

3). Once the footprint is close - I add in my 1/2" wide, by 3-3/4" long shoulder rebate plane to get the fit of the shoulder to mate perfectly with the sidewall. There is still some refining of the footprint involved - but at this stage it is a bit of a dance between fitting the footprint and the height of the shoulders of the overstuffing.

The above photo is one of many tests of the fit between the overstuffing and the sidewalls. The thing that makes coffin shaped planes a bit tricky is there is very little wiggle room with regards to the fit. On a parallel sided plane, the infill can be slid in from either end. With a coffin plane on the other hand - it needs to drop down from the top.

Take an A5. The handle is already shaped, the bed angle is established, the slot for the adjuster is cut and the section of wood that connects the top of the handle to the bed is already defined. There is really not much of an allowance to move the infill forward or back before any of these aspects will be fatally compromised. Anyway - it requires all of my wits being present to do this task.

Back on topic. Until now - the rasp and file stage took the longest. I was typically using about 6 different files and rasps for this stage, but it was never quite perfect. One of the issues was finding a tool that would remove material quickly, but do so in a very clean manner. Generally - this is not done with rasps. I love rasps - but the cutting action leaves deep V shaped grooves as opposed to a file which leaves a more level surface. Rasps are great for stock removal - but it is sometimes difficult to accurately gauge the depth of the bottom of the V shaped cut. When fitting infills +/- .003" can be the difference between the perfect fit and disaster. So I turned to files because the surface was more level. The trouble with files - they are much slower and tend to clog up much more quickly - especially when used on exotic woods.

Enter this file made by Toshio Fukazawa.

This was unlike anything I had seen before. The teeth one side were completely unfamiliar. They were not like a rasp or a file... but rather a bit of a blend of the two. They had peaks on them that was rasp like - but they were still flat-ish like a file.

The other side was a little more familiar - like a fairly aggressive single cut file. Another nice feature was both edges were safe - and very well done.

I have had this file for several months now, and when I got it home (it was a gift from a very good friend), there was a rear infill and front bun for a No.4 to fit. I decided to quickly try the unhandled file - just to see what it would do. I was blown away. The toothed side removed wood so fast - I could hardly believe it - but what really got me, was how smooth the surface was. I tried another pass - just to make sure. Same thing - rapid stock removal with a super clean surface. I could hardly contain my excitement. I took of my jacket and kept going. What would have taken 6 rasps and files I was doing with a single tool at twice the speed. Once it was shaped, I flipped over the file and tried the other side. This side was very different. It too cut very quickly, but left an almost polished surface. There was absolutely no clean up after this side. I had both infills fit in record time.

Back to these 7 coffin smoothers. All 7 of them were fit using this single file in conjunction with my Wenzloff saw and small shoulder plane. This process has become much quicker, more accurate and consistent - thanks to this last missing tool being added. The only thing left is to find out where to get a few more of them.


Blogger Will said...

Konrad, please leave a hint as to where one might purchase one of these files made by Toshio Fukazawa. Googling "Toshio Fukazawa" results in nothing useful.


1 October 2008 at 08:39  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hello Will,

I certainly will post if I am able to find a source for them.


1 October 2008 at 08:41  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


You have become one of those dangerous people who can create a run on a particular tool. I have found your recomendations to be dead on. I have no doubt that I need one of these files.

Thanks for sharing your techniques with us amateurs.


1 October 2008 at 11:39  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Dan,

I was a little reluctant to write about this file for fears that I will start a "wifes against Konrad" site or something:)

It really is a staggeringly amazing tool. I am also glad to hear that my recommendations have been accurate thus far.

Best wishes,

1 October 2008 at 16:10  
Blogger Jameel said...

Very interesting post, Konrad. Both about fitting infills and the file. The rewards from work that requires us to perform at the top of our game can be very satisfying. But the wits you mention keeping are a volatile commodity at times. I find it hard to see you chucking a troublesome workpiece across the shop--something I'm ashamed to admit! I doubt I'm the only one that enjoys your posts on the how-to's of what you do.

5 October 2008 at 14:20  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Jameel,

While I have not tossed anything across the room... there are a few poor pieces of maple that bear the scars of ball pien hammer blows. Thankfully, I at least had the good sense not to hit the anvil in frustration!

Best wishes,

5 October 2008 at 22:06  
Blogger Daedalus said...

Note to self: Maple offcuts should be stored next to anvil.

Good tip Konrad :)

(and add me to the list of people interested in just where these files can be obtained... I promise not to tell my wife where I found out)

6 October 2008 at 12:05  
Blogger rookster said...

I found that there used to be a way to order his files through EdoCrafts, but it looks like he no longer uses this site. You can do a little mouthwatering window shopping through the Wayback Machine:

7 October 2008 at 16:05  
Blogger Konrad said...

Thanks Rookster! I few people have commented that Edocraft is a place to start. The window shopping link is great.


7 October 2008 at 18:52  
Anonymous Chris F said...

I recently used one of the Nicholson milled-tooth files to shape some hard maple blocks to support a vise. It's sort of like a float but with smaller curved teeth (which will make it harder to resharpen, I suppose).

It cuts much quicker than a typical file, but leaves a smoother surface than a rasp.

Might be worth trying out for those that can't find a Fukazawa file.

8 October 2008 at 13:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a colleague speeking and writing Japanes and he found this website after translation. looks like the master himself.

Greatings from The Netherlands, Bas Hemmen

9 October 2008 at 17:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a colleague speeking and writing Japanes and he found this website after translation. looks like the master himself.

Greatings from The Netherlands, Bas Hemmen

9 October 2008 at 17:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here is another good link

Bas Hemmen

9 October 2008 at 17:10  
Blogger Ken M said...

From the translated interview originally on the Edocrafts site, it looks like he runs (or ran) a one man shop, and made most of his files and rasps to order.

In fact, the interview was more than a bit depressing since it looks like when he's retired, no one will take over. Which is bad enough for woodworkers, but I wonder what the orthopedic surgeons that use his rasps to fit replacement joints will do...

13 October 2008 at 16:42  
Blogger Ken M said...

I wonder whether these Iwasaki floats/files are similar. The picture isn't detailed enough to be sure.

5 March 2009 at 11:06  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks for the link. I did not know Lee was carrying rasps. From the photos - they look like machine cut teeth - they are very uniform compared to the somewhat random teeth of the handcut one.


5 March 2009 at 18:45  
Blogger J said...


Frustrating search for this file...until I stumbled across this today:

Sometimes things hide in the most obvious places!

You've probably found them by now, if not, leave some for the rest of us!

8 February 2010 at 21:28  
Blogger Konrad said...

Hey J,

Wow - what timing! I had not found the files at Japan woodworker and as incredible as this is - I am in San Francisco right now!!!!!! Thanks for the tip... and I promise to leave a few for you:)


9 February 2010 at 11:12  
Blogger J said...


I did purchase one of the 8" Fukazawa files. I have to say, you did not under-qualify the excellence of this tool. Now I'm afraid to use it too much and wear it out!

Did you get any more at jwoodworker? If so, I'm curious about the 6" furniture maker's file. Let me know if you've used one. Thanks.

15 May 2010 at 10:13  

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