Many aspects of Japanese tools have remained unchanged for centuries, because there has been no need to improve upon their design. Saws, for example, still retain the long wooden handle wrapped with rattan, not because better handles are hard to make but because the philosophy of simple, minimalist design has become part of what the tool is all about. Gripping a Japanese saw comes naturally, and it is hard to find fault with the design. The long handle instinctively tells us that there’s room for both hands, which is useful for long rips.
My minimalist workbench has seen me through most of my work and will continue to do so. I no longer yearn for that mighty Roubo workbench because I’ve come to appreciate a versatile, no-frills worksurface that is easy to make and maintain. I’ve grown and matured as a woodworker using mainly Japanese tools, though I refuse to call myself a Japanese woodworker. Although these tools have influenced me in terms of woodworking process, and have become a gateway into the world of Japanese culture and furniture design, I still think in terms of a wide spectrum of woodworking, with many traditions and cultures to learn from.
– Kim Choy, excerpt from “10,000 Hours: A Journey into Japanese Woodworking” in Issue Five, available here.