Concluding the Kanna Journey-Actually Just the Beginning


OK…I’m sure that you all are getting tired of my posting about kanna.  I have to admit that it does seem like my life has been all kanna, all the time for the last several weeks.  Even management has been asking when I’m going to actually build something again.

My goal was to transition to using the kanna for the majority of my work.  I’ve made that goal in the past and always seemed to fall short for reason or another, but that was not going to happen this time around.  So I immersed myself in the subject until I grasped the concepts and the use.  All that remains is to build my skill in maintaining and using the kanna and that will only come once I start using these planes for building projects.

To fully transition to using the kanna I needed to have a few working planes.  At the very least I needed one for rough work (jack plane), one for truing (jointer) and one for finish planing (smoothing).  I managed to salvage one of my original dai by installing a fairly thick shim and reworking the bed.  That kanna will be used for rough work and I cambered the iron accordingly.  To end up with a finishing/smoothing plane the path was a little more involved.  I purchased a used blade and chip breaker from Japan thru the big “E” auction site and I had to learn to make the dai (plane body) for it.  There were several ups and downs, but I managed to bring everything together in the end.  Which brings me to the truing/jointing plane.

Starting with a blade set that I already had, I began fabricating a dai.  The dai needed to be a little longer and a little wider than a standard dai.  Technically, any kanna can be setup to be a truing plane, but purpose-built can add a little extra functionality as well as durability.


I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow and just hit the important points.

The extra width is offset to the right side of the plane.  This gives me extra material for maintaining this edge 90deg to the sole.  For many truing operations this plane will be used on its side (think shooting board) as such, this edge will require periodic maintenance.  Hence the extra material/width.



The extra length is subjective and can be a function of personal preference and/or material generally being planed.  I simply made mine as long as my remaining blank of maple.  How’s that for scientific? LOL


The sole is conditioned with three points of contact, one point at each end and one just in front of the blade.  I kept the scraped areas of the sole as shallow as possible.  Of course it works.


So now I have a working set of kanna, roughing, finishing and truing.  I even ended up with a couple of handy block planes to boot.  The path has been steep and a little bumpy, but the journey should be much smoother from here on out.


From left-right. Chamfer plane, scraping plane, 36mm block, 42mm block, assorted test dai for testing construction and blade angles, roughing, finishing and truing planes.

Greg Merritt

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20 Responses to Concluding the Kanna Journey-Actually Just the Beginning

  1. Coisas EM'adeira says:

    So… management thinks it time to end the “garage kanna affair”… You’ll be better listening to management 😛
    You could entitle this “kanna series” as “kanna for western dummies – the studie”
    Its very comprehensive with god instructions!

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Yep, management is not impressed with my work on the kanna. The only thing she knows is that nothing on her list has gotten done.

      I don’t know if what I have done will prove helpful to others, but I sure have learned a lot.

  2. BrianJ says:

    Management schmanagement….. (Don’t tell her i said that okay? Lest she happen to find a way to connect to mine then .. Well you know. ) at least she knows where you are, not out carousing on the wrong side of the tracks. I believe many of us that follow along (well me anyway) kind of live vicariously through your shop when i cant spend the time in mine. That’s quite a collection you have built. I admire your get it done attitude and follow through.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      Careful Brian…they know all that we say and do! She doesn’t have to worry, I’m too old and tired to run the streets.

      Don’t be too impressed. I have given up on the kanna several times in the past, but I finally formed myself to stick with it.

  3. juryaan says:

    that is a really nice set of kanna you got there Greg.

  4. Sylvain says:

    Now I understand. You are refering to your own body, while pulling the plane towards you, to name the front, back, right and left.
    If we were using “port” and “starboard” , “bow” and “stern”, it would not matter if we were pushing or pulling the plane 😉
    Nice set of planes.
    ” L’ Amirauté” ( the Admiralty) as i have refered to her from time to time is also asking for more work for the house.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      LOL…I think we all know where we fall in the chain of command. Management says I can wear the pants, but she is the belt that holds them up.

      The whole front vs. back thing is how the Japanese refere to the kanna. To my western mind it is backwards though.

  5. Dave G says:

    Hi Greg
    Have enjoyed reading these series of Blogs as always you never cease to amaze me, but I have a question it may be a dumb one. But why?? I am sure that only having Western planes was not holding back your ability to turn out fantastic projects


    • Greg Merritt says:

      Thanks Dave…I have asked myself that very question several times over the past several weeks…”WHY!?) LOL. I’ve been interested in Japanese woodworking and tools for a long time and t’s been a personal goal of mine to learn and use the kanna. I’m finally close to meeting that goal…I think.

    • Why? If I may offer a suggestion, the Japanese pull method encloses the forces within your own body and workspace. You push the workpiece with one hand and pull the plane with the other, contrast the Western push plane which needs an extra buttress such as anchored bench to push against. Sorry to butt in and hope that makes sense. Your work is lovely, Greg.

  6. Bob Easton says:

    Hi Greg,
    I’m not a bit tired of learning about kanna. It’s been a good education and I see no reason to stop. More is welcome whenever you want. Til now, they’ve been one of those mysterious things from the other side of the world. You’ve removed the mystery and shown the beauty.


    • Greg Merritt says:

      Thanks Bob! It is encouraging to know that some of my ramblings have made sense, but even I need a break from talking about the kanna. I’m sure the topic will continue to slip in and out from here on.

  7. Joe says:

    Very nice. I started this past weekend making own fore plane as I had all the parts and wood laying about (i.e. free plane). Did you chisel out the center of did you cut the sides off? Just curious. I cut my sides off and am quickly getting better at sawing to a line.

  8. Dave says:

    HI Greg,
    Excellent posts on the kanna thus far. Do you have any insights on the conditioning planes? Is it possible to use an old chisel in a block of wood to create ones own “on the cheap” ?

  9. Salko Safic says:

    I couldn’t wait any longer to read both your posts so I took time off work to do it, yes once more I’ve taken another headache on my shoulders even though I said I wasn’t going too. The cheapo worked out great but if you didn’t know what you were doing you would be stuck with the flaws of it and probably wouldn’t know the difference.

    Your other plane turned out well as well, I’m envious of you that took the time in teaching yourself well. I still have my new bench to build then I need to make a tool chest and eliminate many scattered drawers around the shop. I want to consolidate everything into a few cabinets. I’m not sure how many cabinets nor drawers I will have to make nor the costs involved which has placed a delay on all these projects. You need a banks full of cash to pay the ludicrous costs of timber.

    My aim is to free up space, have everything in one or two cabinets in case I ever have to move there’s nothing to pack plus it looks neater and is so much easier to clean up after a days works.

    • Greg Merritt says:

      You just can’t help yourself Salko. LOL

      The “cheapo” worked decently out of the box. The nice thing is that it is an inexpensive way to try out a kanna and gain some experience in adjusting it. Nothing I did to make it better was difficult and could be done as one gained understanding.

      Basically, I refused to give up this time around. No matter long it took, I was going to figure it out.

      My shop needs some major work too. I still haven’t finished moving in and half of the garage is still being used as a staging area for things that need sorted and put away. So I know how monumental it can seem. Good luck to you.

      • Salko Safic says:

        Cheers Greg, a funny thing just happened to me. I’ve been thinking for a long time now how I wish I had a 1 1/4 threadbox well I was gong through my drawers and guess what popped untouched in it’s wrapper. You just never know how many tools you really have till you start going through the dreaded drawers.

If you don't comment this is just a fancy way for me to talk to myself.

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