A Roundtable Discussion

A little video to start off – really quite a boring one, but it does bring me around to the topic at hand, in a roundabout sorta way:

The above machine is a sort of relative of the super surfacer described in the previous post. The knife is fixed in a vertical table, and the table is spun with the work supported on a side table. This machine is called an en-ban-kanna (円盤鉋) and they are used in Japan primarily by box makers.

There used to be a video showing a box maker using one but it seems to have disappeared. I was able to find a few stills though showing some examples of this type of machine in use.

Here, wooden sake drinking boxes, masu, are being trimmed:

A coopered tub is trimmed along the grain of the staves:

And a larger box is worked on the disc:

I’ve also found this picture, showing the use of an en-ban-kanna with a lathe to trim spindle faces:

One manufacturer is Ban Machinery – here’s their flyer, showing a 3-knife machine, the BC-800, presumably an 800mm diameter disc model:

Nicely made and heavy duty.

These machines come with 1, 2, 3, or, as in the following example, many knives:

I was thinking these disc cutting machines were unique to Japan, but through some recent correspondences with a fellow in upstate New York I obtained a tool catalog from 1914 which showed that this type of machine was produced in the United States at one point. The manufacturer of at least one product line was Trevor Manufacturing of Lockport New York, which specialized in barrel, box, and shingle-making machinery.

Their smallest model was fully enclosed, with a 36″ disc:

Then moving up to the ‘Eureka’ model with 20″ knives, from 4 to 8 knives as the buyer might prefer:

And then the flagship model, ‘The Trevor’, a whopping 62″ diameter and 3400 lbs:

That must have been somehthing to see when going full tilt. As noted in the text accompanying the picture, they suggested the knives be ground a particular way:

The knives should be ground a little convex in the center to make the edges of the heading slightly concave to insure a tight joint. To do this, place a piece of thin metal, like tin, under each end of the knife when it is in the grinding machine to bend it a little. Extra knives are kept on hand.

In other words, they create the equivalent of a sprung joint.

The E.&B. Holmes Company of Buffalo New York seems to have many of the early barrel making machine patents, and an 1889 advertisement for their company shows a disc planing machine they call a ‘stave jointer’  on the lower right side:


That company filed a patent, #141,003, in 1872, granted in 1883, for “Improvement in machines for jointing staves”, which describes arranging the jointing knives on a circular wheel. Here’s the elevation view of the machine section:

Also see patent #166,872, by the same company, where a fan is incorporated to remove the shavings:

A 1891 print of the E.&B. Holmes equipment catalog can be found online, and in it the above machine is depicted, along with the #17:

They made quite a few machines actually. The number 24, featuring curved blades on one end:

The number 25:

The number 34:

The number 42:

Number 51:

Number 63:

Number 66:

And let’s not forget #67:

Whether these American models served as inspiration for the Japanese machines, or whether it was a case of parallel development, is hard to say. The Japanese made and make wooden barrels, but i don’t know if they adopted the western type of barrel at some point or produced them for export, or adopted such machines for their own type of cooperage.

As we see them employed in Japan, the Trevor machines were intended for use by barrel and box makers, for trimming staves and even the entire ends of larger barrels. I haven’t come across any extant examples of these pieces, so presumably they were melted down for scrap, at wartime perhaps, and never reappeared afterwards. The disc sander replaced them, even though abrasive never provides the clean cut of a knife – however the abrasive disc sander, I’m sure, is less finicky to set up and operate. It would be really interesting to learn somehow of how well these machines from the 19th century worked.

All for now – hope you’re not too dizzy from the, uh, whirlwind tour. Thanks for visiting!

14 Replies to “A Roundtable Discussion”

  1. Hi Chris, I had an interest in these machine many years back, a company named Takekawa used to make them. I recently was tempted to bid on a few that came up for auction in Japan last year. there was also one at an IRS auction in the us a few months back. It was wrongly identified as a disc sander, as someone had stuck a sanding disc on it, they also got the name misspelled .http://www.irsauctions.com/popups/bidders_paddle.asp?lot=281983&auction=N660MBWKV0M61Q0KJJ0O2NXH9GO0NK&id=17515


    I didn't know about the American version though, that is pretty interesting.

    I notice that there is a supersurfacer grinder in the photo of the two people trimming the sake box. These machines use the same blades as supersurfacers.

  2. Mark,

    thanks for the comment and helpful information. I wonder how that Takekawa on the IRS auction site made it over to the US in the first place? The odd piece of Japanese equipment comes over with Japanese carpenters that move here, but the en-ban plane is a fairly esoteric piece I would have thought. Nice spotting that – I wonder who ended up with it, and whether they continue to use it as a disc sander or have gotten it working as it should?

    A kenma-ki, as you pointed out, can sharpen a lot of blades besides those found in super surfacers.


  3. Bob,

    thanks for chiming in. I have seen those Delta Uniplanes before, but hadn't mentally associated them to the larger machines. I wonder if the designers at Delta knew about the older machines from the 1800's, or if the design was something they came up with on their own?


  4. Hi, I have run into a few Japanese machines over the years, i picked up a nice right angle jointer about 10 years ago at an auction in Springfield MA. It was a Shimohira 12″ jointer with a 4″ side jointer with a power feed unit, a nice machine. I currently have a couple of knife grinders for supersurfacers that will be leaving my shop shortly, one is a manual one and the other is a cnc one; i am doing up a video of the cnc one for the new owner and will post it on my website and my youtube channel; it is a pretty incredible machine.
    On the other hand all of these American rotary knife machines are quite a revelation to me, who knew? I guess it is like a lot of great machines that were developed during the heyday of the industrial revolution and slowly slipped into obscurity, only to be rediscovered and marveled at, at a later date. Lots more to discover , i'll bet.

    I had only seen the Japanese ones and assumed that it was probably a Japanese concept.

    I had one of those delta Uniplanes way back too; it is a slightly different concept with 6 small teeth that project through a groove, 3 teeth are scribers and 3 rakers if i recall.
    The infeed table adjust like a jointer table to change the thickness of cut. A very nice concept especially for doing really small pieces safely. Its a little tricky to get all of the teeth in the same plane. Its a machine that i would have again. I don't know where they came up with the design, it is different enough concept to think that it was an original design, but would be interesting to know where they got it.

  5. Takekawa also made some rotary thickness planers with two, three or four vertical spindles with similar ( concept) heads to what was on the delta Uniplane. The heads were aligned offset from each other and the bed had a beltfeed.
    The machine could do a really nice job on gnarly or plain grain woods, knotty or laminated. I was quite interested in acquiring one at the time and wrote to Takekawa and got all of the brochures and some wood samples, but the machine was quite expensive. I dont think that i kept the brochures, but you never know, i may come across them someday. The Japanese have made some pretty interesting machines over the years.

  6. Hi Chris, It is a small world for sure. I will miss that grinder, i have only used it a couple of times myself, but it sure spoils you. Thanks for the offer to look for a planer for me but i am not in the market for one these days. however if you come across one i would be interested to see it.

    It was not the Takekawa K-4, not sure what that machine does.
    There are a couple of companies making similar machines today, one in North America called Ogden; http://www.ogden-group.com.php53-2.ord1-1.websitetestlink.com/wp-content/uploads/documents/RotoplaneBrochure.pdf and a German company called Rotelle or something similar.

  7. Mark,

    interesting link to the Rotelle – I hadn't come across that machine before.

    The Takekawa K-4 looks like a 4-sided supersurfacer for thin and narrow stock. I believe their are also surfacers for moldings, but am not 100% sure as I haven't come across one so far.


  8. Hi Chris, I found a Takekawa rotary head planer; Apparently Takekawa changed their name to Amitec in 1989, maybe because i was pestering to much. Haha. Well they still produce the rotary head planers, and also a combination one which is a planer and finish sander. This is a link to the planer: http://www.amitec.co.jp/vertical/pv-50c.jpg
    And this is a link that shows the cutterhead setup. http://www.amitec.co.jp/vertical%20sandar-e.html#V-WIN

    The model PV-50c looks pretty much like i remember the one that i was interested in, the smallest machine was 20″ width of cut, if i recall.

  9. Mark,

    I've been seeing Amitec machines here and there and didn't realize that they were the new brand identity of Takekawa. Interesting machines you linked…


  10. A couple years late on the conversation, but for anyone still curious, I work at a cooperage and use this type of machine (which we call a jointing wheel). We have 15 stave jointing wheels (60″ diameter) and 8 heading jointing wheels (30″ diameter). All use knives which are changed and sharpened every day. Some are set to run clockwise and some to run counter. If a jointer gets a rough joint, he passes the stave to a jointer whose wheel runs counter to his, which usually takes care of it. Not sure how old the machines are but the cooperage was founded in 1945. Our company recently built a new cooperage and installed cnc jointing machines, but from what I understand more care has to be taken when selecting and sorting wood for them to work properly. We are required to joint 357 staves/hour, but most can run much faster than that.

Anything to add?

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