Canadian Woodworking

Kakuri hand planes

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Excellent value in Japanese made hand planes for final smoothing.

Author: Carl Duguay

If you’ve never used a Japanese hand plane before,  you’re in for a real treat. They produce an exceptionally fine finish and most often you can dispense with sanding and go straight to applying a finish. They’re relatively easy to use (though they require some adjustment before each use) and are, in general, much less expensive than Western planes.

I recently had the opportunity to try two hand planes from Kakuri Sangyo, who have been producing Japanese hand planes, chisels and saws for over 75 years.

Manufacturer: Kakuri Sangyo
Models: Hand Plane 50mm; Hand Plane 42mm (replaceable blade)
Price: $64 (50mm model); $47 (42mm model)
Plane length: 243mm/9.6″ (50mm model); 180mm/7″ (42mm model)
Blade width: 42mm/1.65″ (50mm model); 35mm/1.4″ (42mm model)
Plane bed angle: 40°
Blade bevel angle: 30°
Made in: Japan

Apart from size, the difference between these two hand planes is with the plane blade. The 50mm model uses a conventional Japanese blade and chip breaker. The 42mm model uses a replaceable blade that is housed between the blade carrier and chip breaker. The replaceable blade model offers greater convenience for the user – there is no need to resharpen blades and you don’t have to make any minute adjustments to the chip breaker when you resharpen the blade (as you may have to do with a conventional blade set-up). Because these planes are all hand made and the planes adjusted to accommodate the blades, the plane bed angles and blade bevel angles can vary slightly.

Kakuri hand planes
L to R: Conventional blade and chip breaker; replaceable blade with carrier and chip breaker

The conventional tapered Japanese blade is at least twice the size of a comparable Western blade. It’s made of a thin layer of hard steel laminated to a thick layer of softer mild steel. This makes flattening the back and sharpening the bevel quicker and easier. The hard steel is SK85, similar to the more widely used 1085 steel. SK85 steel has the same amount of carbon content as 1085, but slightly less manganese, sulfur and other components. I find that blades made with this steel are easy to sharpen and have good edge stability, though not as good edge retention as other steels.

The bodies are made of Japanese white oak – hard and durable. The bed, cheeks and mouth are crisply cut. Like any wood bodied plane they do require more maintenance than steel bodied planes. The soles need to be periodically adjusted because of wear and changes in relative humidity in the shop. The process isn’t complicated, but does take practice to do so correctly. The soles of Japanese planes have a very shallow relief just ahead of the mouth and towards the front end (larger hand planes also have the area behind the mouth relived). Fortunately Kakuri has clear sole tuning instructions on their website.

Kakuri hand planes
Crisply cut throat area.

Adjusting the blade takes some finesse. There’s a degree of tap, tap, tapping that you need to do. The goal is to get just a hint of the blade showing evenly across the mouth. This will deliver the thinnest of shavings – and the smoothest of cuts (assuming of course that the blade is razor sharp).

Kakuri hand planes
Blade set to take off the smallest shaving.

When it comes to hogging off a lot of material, I still resort to a Fore plane. However for final smoothing cuts I like to use a Japanese plane. Many woodworkers, including myself, find that cutting on the pull stroke makes it easier to control the plane – essentially keeping it flat on the work surface, particularly when planing narrow stock.

These Kakuri planes are The 50mm plane is ideal for use on wide stock and panels. For narrow stock the 42mm plane would be my choice. At under $70 and $50 respectively these are very well priced. Both planes come completely pre-conditioned.  Temperature or humidity changes during transportation and storage may cause changes to the wood bodies, so you may have to adjust the blade, but essentially they are ready to use straight out of the box.

Kakuri hand planes
Blade and chip breaker well seated.

Kakuri hand planes

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Last modified: May 11, 2024


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