Japanese vs Western Chisels: Key Features & Differences Explained
EgawaRiho·September 29, 2023
There are some differences between Japanese and Western chisels in how the blade is made and designed. These differences and the characteristics of Japanese chisels are introduced below.
1: The difference between Western Chisels and Japanese Chisels
Let's look at the difference between Western Chisels and Japanese Chisels.
Western chisels(left) are thin and long structures, while Japanese chisels(right) are shorter and have thicker blades.
Blade construction is also different between Western and Japanese chisels. Western chisels are made from a single steel layer (full steel), while Japanese chisels feature a two-layered structure of steel and soft iron called "Jigane."
The back of a Western chisel is flat, while the back of a Japanese chisel is concave due to a technique called "Ura-suki."
1: Characteristics of Japanese Chisels
The shape and material of the handle of a Japanese chisel vary depending on the manufacturer, but most are made of wood. Some Japanese chisels have a metal collar called a "katsura" inserted into the head of the handle.
The traditional Japanese chisel forging technique called "Hagane-tsuke" has been used to create two-layer base metal and steel structures for centuries. The steel layer is known for its hard and sharp cutting edge, while the base metal layer provides resilience and flexibility, allowing the blade to be easily corrected. The presence of the base metal layer also makes the chisel easier to sharpen. The two-layered structure of Japanese chisels combines the durability and ease of sharpening base metal with steel's hard and sharp cutting edge.
Japanese chisels feature a technique called "Ura-Suki," which creates a concave surface on the backside. The chisel can achieve a flatter surface with a reduced contact area by creating a hollow back. Regular sharpening and usage of the chisel will help maintain the blade's longevity.
In certain types of Japanese chisels, known as "Tataki-nomi" or striking chisels, there is a hoop ring called "katsura" fitted on the head of the handle. The katsura helps to prevent the handle from splitting when the chisel is struck with a hammer. To ensure prolonged usage, the essential practice of "Katsura-Otoshi" or "Setting the Chisel Hoop" is necessary.
3: In conclusion
We have seen the differences between Western and Japanese chisels and the characteristics of Japanese chisels. The differences in culture led to various differences even within the same chisels. We hope this serves as a helpful reference for selecting chisels. We hope you can explore Japanese chisels and discover their unique qualities.