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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Paldacci Guitars

Japanese tools, a Perpetual Quest #1: How to get some?

"Japan, is an island in the middle of an ocean". This sentence is enough of its own, for me to describe this quest as perfect as possible... let me explain why.

Picture credits: Takenaka Carpentry Tool museum

To start this post, you should know that my love-story with Japan started with mangas & Dragon Ball playing-cards, when I was 7. After that, I discovered Ghibli movies, traditions and many other things from this country. So, lutherie-stuff was not involved, at all! There is one thing I noticed when you are a Gaijin (aka "a stranger") and that you've never traveled in Japan, is that you basically have a lot of difficulties to have access to good Japanese tools. Yes, there are suppliers all around the world, like Lee Valley, Japanese Tools Australia, Dictum or Hida Tools... but they are very expensive, or they only have "mainstream-stuff". On the other hand, this is amazing to start if you've never put your hands on Dozukis, Kanas, chisels or knives, but if you want to dig deeper... you are limited.

Picture credits: Takenaka Carpentry Tool museum So, if you want to upgrade your game with high-end tools, you need to order directly from Japan... but you could encounter many problems during your quest:

- Most of the shops, are not sending tools outside Japan. The shipping & taxes are very expensive, packages could be lost, and the most important issue: language. If you don't speak japanese, the only way for you to communicate with them is english, of course... and speaking 2 languages is not easy for everyone (I am french, believe me). - A lot of blacksmiths workshops are not big, so they produce small batches in terms of quantities. Naturally they can't supply to the entire world, and the local japanese market, will always comes first (and many other countries, tend to work like that. This is not a specific japanese-mindset).

- You have to wait for your tools. If you are an impatient person, forget it... every famous Blacksmiths, have a pretty huge waiting list. For example, if you are ordering a set of 10 chisels from Kiyohisa-San, you'll have to wait more than 8 years. Ouchi-San the 4th, just add one year to his list, because of the high-demand. - Like luthiers, crafts(wo)men are humans... that means that they could be sick, or hurt themselves. So, that is the reason why their tools are highly revered. You are buying decades of experience in terms of skills and you just have to wait the time it would take, to have your amazing tools.

- The COVID situation was very intense in Japan and like everywhere else, the supply-chain suffered a lot. Same thing for the shipping, because the japanese-post stopped mailing packages to many countries. UPS, Fedex and DHL are working, but the costs are very high. - Jigane (Iron) and Hagane (steel) from Blacksmith's stashes, are very old. For various reasons, it is very hard to get some these days and the main One is that it is too expensive for the industry, to cook small batches of metals for an one man's shop. So, like luthiers, they are in trouble when the time comes to source themselves.

Picture credits: Takenaka Carpentry Tool museum

So, when comes time to start business with japanese shops... it took me years. It basically is similar when I had to build the relationships I have with my wood-suppliers as luthier. I couldn't harass them with questions (and in a personal plan, particularly when I didn't know my needs in terms of tools). Fortunaly, I had some great advices from some of my colleagues like Keisuke Nishi, Isaac Jang, Tim Frick and Ted Astrand. They helped me a lot in my quest and for that: thanks a lot! The japanese tool-shops I am in business with, gave me a lot of their time & supplied me with the most amazing tools I could dream of. Their service is amazing, they are packing things as perfect as possible, and they stand well behind their tools. I love the idea to buy my precious gear from Japanese local shops, who are very important for craftsmen and an entire market built for centuries. Without my tools, I can't build my instruments... and this is the exact same things about my woods and all the other things that are in my shop. For that, thanks a lot everyone!

Benjamin Paldacci

Benjamin Paldacci Guitars

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