Kanna on the Cheap

Earlier this week I need to place an order thru Amazon.  Since I have been doing so much searching on the internet for kanna, Amazon presented me with some “suggested items”.  One those was a very inexpensive little block plane in the form of a Japanese kanna.  Out of pure curiosity I spent the ~$19.00 and added the plane to my order.

The plane arrived a couple of days later and here it is straight out of the package.

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Without doing anything to the plane, I simply removed the vinyl mouth protector, set the blade and chip breaker and took a shaving.  Not too bad.  So it works fine without any adjustments, but I think I can make it better.

This blade is just a piece of stamped high carbon steel, similar to a Stanley blade.  So no lamination here.  Nor is there any tapering to the blade.  I couldn’t find any specs on the rockwell hardness, but on the stones it feels on par with most high carbon, O1 steel blades.  Interestingly, although not needed for this softer steel, the blade back is hollowed to mimic a typical Japanese blade.

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So I spent about ten minutes on the stones and brought the blade into decent shape.

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I gave the chip breaker a little love too, but didn’t get carried away with it.

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A typical Japanese kanna has a laminated blade that tapers in thickness.  It is this taper that wedges the blade into the dai block and the chip breaker plays little or no role in securing the blade.  In this plane the blade is a flat piece of steel and the chip breaker is used as a wedge to secure the blade.  The arrangement was very tight straight out of the package.  To loosen the fit slightly I simply reduced the bend in the “ears” of the chip breaker with a hammer blow or two.  I made sure that the adjusted chip breaker still sat squarely on back of blade with positive contact at the cutting edge.

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With the blade reinstalled and just shy of the sole, I flattened the sole of the dai on sandpaper adhered to glass.  Once I was sure the sole was flat, I used my scraper plane to create a very shallow three-point contact conditioning on the sole.  Then set the blade for a light cut.  Better cut than before, actually a very nice cut, but with the dreaded snipe at the end of the board.  This snipe results when the end of the wood being planed falls into the mouth opening in front of the blade at the end of cut.  The result is a small chamfer on the end of the workpiece.

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There are ways to avoid the snipe tendency.  You can skew the plane, speed can be effective and a combination of the two works well.  Since I doubt that I will be using this plane for heavy thick cuts, I decided to go the extra step and install a mouth insert.

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Another round of flattening and conditioning and I was ready for another test cut.

Much, much better.

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At this point the plane worked very well and would serve as a general purpose block plane, but….I wanted to go just a bit further.  To keep the flat blade from sliding straight through the plane, the manufacturer created a high point down the center of the dai bed.  Works great, but leaves the outer edges of the blade unsupported. This is not an issue for a standard thickness cut, but if you try to go to a finer cut you will get chatter and I did.  To remedy this I removed the high spot.  This, of course, made the blade fall through the block.  So I glued in a full-width shaving as a shim.  Now the blade doesn’t fall through and is fully supported.

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This means I can now set the blade for as fine a shaving as I want…well a pretty fine shaving at least.  The shaving, of course, is not the important part, the surface left is what matters and this little plane leaves a glassy smooth and burnished finish.

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All-in-all I think this little plane is well worth the $19.  Sure, I had to spend a little time and effort refining it, but only about an hour of actual shop time.  The added benefit is that I will have no fear in really working this little plane since the initial investment was so low.

Well there you go.  A way of having a Japanese pull plane on the cheap.

Greg Merritt

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6 Responses to Kanna on the Cheap

  1. This is somewhat related, I thought of you when I received the latest Lee Valley catalog. They’re wooden Kyougi Pads which are made of pine shavings. Check it out, the part numbers are 09A307.31 and 09A07.30. No, I have no financial stake in this at all, just found it interesting!!

  2. Matt McGrane says:

    Nicely done, Greg. I can tell that your knowledge and comfort with making and fettling these planes is increasing by leaps and bounds. Good stuff.

  3. BrianJ says:

    I saw those lee valley items as well and thought of you right away… In a ‘hey there’ manly sort of way of course. So why did you wrap your Dixon Ticonderoga pencil in wet rice paper? Lol

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