It was destiny to stumble across Michihomono, one of Japan's most comprehensive, evolving, and unique carving tool makers.
While living in Tokyo and walking home from my inlaw's workplace I passed the Michihomono headquarters in Akabane. I could not believe my good fortune in finding this company so close to where we lived and worked.
Needless to say, many years on we are proud to offer a wide selection of tools Michihone has to offer.
Recently I was offered a guided tour of the factory and training on sharpening some of the tools we haven't been able to conquer getting razor sharp again.
Every time I visit a blacksmith or a tool maker in Japan I am blown away by the unwavering concentration, dedication, and skill of the craftsmen, but above all their age.
Please enjoy the video of some of the processes that go into the tools we use and love.
What makes Michihamono special?
Michihamono's range of carving tools is truly massive, with about 600 items made available to us at JTA. We finesse our range with every order, trying to make sure we have the most comprehensive range possible to meet the many specific and sometimes idiosyncratic needs of craftspeople.
At JTA we are proud to carry the largest range of Michihamono carving tools outside of Japan, and we already know where we will be taking that range next.
Laminated steels in Japanese carving tools are almost a given across all manufacturers. As with all other manufacturers, Michihamono offers ranges with high carbon steel edges, and depending on the tool, also forges with white paper (shirogami) or blue paper (aogami) steels. These are high quality, high purity, high carbon cutting edges the likes of which are not produced outside of Japan.
However, Michihamono also produces carving tools that are laminated with High Speed Steel (HSS) edges. HSS steels are highly alloyed and are metallurgically more complex than their high-carbon cousins, however, normally we wouldn't make a song and dance about them. These tool steels can operate at very high temperatures and very high feedrates, usually coming at the expense of the properties that make good Japanese woodworking tool edges (good hardness, ease of sharpening, edge holding etc).
Michihamono, however, does a few things differently. Amazingly. Innovatively.
1. They laminate HSS, which we have not seen done as common practice by any other manufacturer.
2. They form sizes out of these HSS laminations that would otherwise be impossible. Michihamono understands that carving is a craft of expression, and for those who want to produce intricately detailed work, Michihamono's 0.5mm u-gouges, v-gouges and flat-gouges are the finest that we have seen.
3. The bevel angles Michihamono can get on their laminated HSS tools is incredibly fine. Their carving knives are a great example of this, and their cutting quality is utterly addictive.
Making the Carving Craft Accessible
Michihamono understands that while an experienced carver can be deliberate and discerning about the profiles of their tools, someone just starting out can find choosing carving tools difficult - if not impenetrable.
For this reason, Michihamono have an extraordinary eye for developing kits that help the beginner along their carving journey, often including the raw material to be carved and the basic accoutrements needed.
Our favourite example of this is the teaspoon kit that allows a child to produce a small, simple spoon with minimal tools in one or two sittings. The logical extension of this are their spoon carving and block printing kits that not only leave a new carver with a finished project, but also a set of high quality tools for developing their skills and enjoying their carving into the future.
These kits get even better - entire sets of tools and instructions for carving cat-themed cutlery, your own hanko stamp from limestone, or even a full Noh mask from a big, beautiful block of hinoki.
Looking for a simpler carving project? We also stock Michihamono's walnut carving blanks for simple trays, hinoki spoon blanks, and shina plywood for you to carve if you'd like to try working in Japanese timbers and materials.
So, whether you are an experienced carver or just starting out, we know that there is a beautifully forged and exceptionally finished Michihamono tool for you. If you have any questions about where to start, we are always here to chat on (02) 9527 3870 or email@example.com.