Two on Test

I’ve been supplied a pair of Japanese bench chisels, or o-ire-nomi (お入れ鑿). The word nomi means chisel, and the word o-ire means ‘(honorable) housing’. These are your basic workaday chisels for the majority of woodworking tasks. Not ideally what a timber framer might choose, but perfect for furniture and cabinetmaking work.

The chisels are of two brands not normally seen much outside of Japan – Yamahiro 山弘 (on the left) and Kunitoshi 國寿(right):

Both chisels are brand names. Yamahiro chisels are made by a blacksmith called Okayama, Takeshi (岡山 猛), and Kunitoshi chisels are made by a smith by the name of Takeishi, Horioshi (武石博). Both smiths specialize in making chisels.

The smith Okayama was born in 1934. His forge is located in the famous tool production center of Miki City, Niigata. Here’s a view of this Yamahiro 24mm bench chisel:

A closer view of the top side with mei:



It seems a well-proportioned chisel. It is made from White Steel #1.

At this point the lacquer is still on so the view is not truly representational, but the ura is nicely defined, and evenly shaped:

The striking ring, or katsura (note: katsura is a non-standard reading for the character, which  means ‘crown’) is beautifully faceted with a filed finish:

The label reads ‘shin-tsuke‘, which means the handle, of white oak, is made from a branch and contains the pith of the branch. Handles made with that part of the tree are reputed to resist splitting better and are an extra-cost option on Japanese chisels. I’ll provide a price breakdown of both these chisels in the next post.

Mr. Takeishi was born in 1949 and became a deshi (apprentice) when he was 15 years old. He received a national award for craftsmanship in 2009 and his forge is located, like many of Japan’s top blacksmiths, in Yoita Village near Tsubame City, Niigata Prefecture.

Here’s a look at his chisel with red oak handle, the blade made of White Steel #2:

The mei on the upper part of the head are stamped with a slight misalignment:


The ura of the Kunitoshi chisel:

Nice and even.

The striking ring:

I’m a bit busy with a project at the moment but in a few days I’ll prepare the chisels for use and put them through their paces, with a detailed report to follow.

7 thoughts on “Two on Test

  1. Hi Chris,

    Are these the two chisels I saw sitting on your bandsaw?
    I meant to ask you about Japanese chisels: maybe next time I see you.


  2. Hi Dick,

    actually, no, those must have been other chisels. These two were photographed on top of my jointer and so far haven't made acquaintance with the bandsaw yet.

    Please do drop by the shop next time you're in the area.


  3. Hi Dale,

    great to hear from you! I'm looking forward to seeing how these two chisels perform. I'll probably get a chance to work with them next week.


  4. Hi Chris,

    The Yamahiro brand does indeed have an attractive striking ring, I don't believe it is very common to see the faceting detailing done to that extent, a nice touch! It also appears to have a larger diameter handle, probably somewhat more comfortable to use by people with larger hands. I'd be interested in seeing a description of the method that you prefer in fitting the ring and mushrooming the wood over the top.


  5. I have a set from Lee Valley. The name of the chisels escapes me…they arent terribly great chisels maybe thats why haha, starts with an I. about 30$ a chisel. the steel is very brittle, but they get SHARP! I've used both western and Japanese chisels and the weight distribution of Japanese chisels is what i love, that and the fact the back takes only a few minutes to flatten. As my cheapo chisels get shorter, i plan on individually replacing my most used ones with the premium ones.

    but this whole “steel” thing confuses me, blue steel, white steel, sword steel…

  6. Dennis,

    good to hear from you. Hope things are going well for you these days! I like the look of the Yamahiro as well, however it is quite a bit more costly than the Kunitoshi, so….

    I'll post up how I set up the chisel, and would be interested to hear your observations.


    thanks for your comment. I also find great preference for Japanese chisels and own no other, though I have tried most western chisels at some point or another.

    The 'steel thing' – well, I see if I can provide some demystification in a future post. In the end, it's not really something to worry too much about- the skill of the blacksmith is really more critical in obtaining a good final result: a chisel that sharpens easily and has good edge retention. It's an elusive combination.


Anything to add?