Since 1975 there has been a growing interest in the West in traditional Japanese hand tools. These are quite distinct from and not to be confused with the cheap reproductions of European patterns that are exported by both Japan and Taiwan.
Japan has a long tradition of working in wood, predominantly in its traditional housing, and its craftsmen have become masters in joinery construction. However, unlike their Western counterparts, they do not have a history of working at a bench in hardwoods, but on the floor, and mainly in clean, straight-grained cedar (hinoki) that cuts like cheese. This simple fact has affected the design of their tools over many centuries and thus, while we cannot fault the quality or the steel of Japanese tools, it has to be said that not all of them suit the Western way of working.
However, there are no such doubts about their inexpensive water stones which are excellent, and many craftsmen in the West now use at least some Japanese tools in their work, with chisels and handsaws being the most popular.
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