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  1. #1
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    Default Buying Japanese tools on ebay, advice needed.

    Hi, I'm new on the forum. I consider myself a beginner (mostly) hand tool hobby woodworker. It has been about 6 months since I became interested in wood. Prior to it metal was my favorite medium for a long time )

    I have all the basic western tools, but I became interested in Japanese woodworking hand tools after reading Toshio Odate's book. I ordered a Gyokucho brand ryoba, and later a z-saw brand kataba saws. I've been using them on my latest project and I really like the light weight of them, the pull stroke, and how thin they are. So I decided to explore Japanese planes (kanna).

    I know the general advice is to buy something small and cheap for a start to get used to setting it up etc. Basically a Japanese block plane, but smoothing planes interest me much more. I also do some hobby blacksmithing so I would like to get a fairly good smoothing plane to have some baseline to compare my forgings against.

    That was the background information, now to the point of the thread. Looking on eBay I found a user kanamonoya71 (I have no relation to the seller) who seems to have listed some fairly good quality smoothing planes made by Takeo Nakano for pretty low prices. At auction those planes go for between $40 and $80. Shipping is quite expensive at $45 (to Europe), but overall it seemed like a great deal. I ended up winning one auction.

    I didn't hesitate, because this seller has been on eBay for years and years and I remember someone even mentioning his username on this forum long time ago as a good source of Japanese tools for beginners.

    Unfortunately, after paying I looked at his latest comments on eBay and there is a very weird picture emerging. He has over 600 positives and 23 negatives in last year, but most of the negatives are quite new. For example last month he had 23 positives, 7 negatives and 4 neutrals. All negatives mention him not posting items for weeks, forgetting to post, cancelling with just saying sorry etc. Even some positives say stuff like "eventually it was OK after chasing repeatedly".

    With regards to my purchase, it had postage of "same working day" set. It has been almost a week and it hasn't been posted. Few days ago I asked about that "same day shipping" and I got a reply that he's sorry and he will look into it tomorrow. Surprisingly (not really) days have passed with no further contact.

    So now I'm wondering, is this what the usual "bargain kanna" shopping experience on ebay is? It is not the delay itself as much as uncertainty if this purchase will ever happen at all that makes this not a great shopping experience.

    The seller seems to be having kanna auctions ending every 4 hours (selling over 10 per day) so I'm hoping perhaps someone on this forum has bought from him recently and can confirm what is going on.

    I can't imagine it being a scam as there is no way to profit by not sending, also if he continues like that he will ruin his good ebay score very quickly. So perhaps it is some sort of procurement issue, but then why wouldn't he be up front about it and say something like "it will take 14 days" rather than be silent and let his auctions run with "same working day", "next working day" or "5 working days" dispatch info then not meet it.

    There is also a website named e-kanamonoya.jp that sells Japanese tools, but the selection is different so it may be unrelated.

    Perhaps it is a case of if a deal appears to be too good to be true it often is. Is it completely unrealistic to find a fairly good quality(doesn't have to be a famous blacksmith, but a blacksmith nevertheless rather than a factory production line) 70mm smoothing plane for around $100?

    If it is, perhaps it is possible to buy just the iron for such price?

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  3. #2
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    Hello, Woodforge - welcome to the forum (quiet as it is,..)

    First, I hope you do get your tool delivered (at least the Seller is responding to queries, that's a hopeful sign). It's not been my experience with "bargain/cheap" (or expensive, for that matter) tools or items of any sort on Ebay to not have a positive outcome. Generally I would say Sellers in Japan especially, are very conscientious about being prompt to ship.

    I would also say that it is definitely possible to find a good used-condition smoothing plane for a reasonable price. There is certainly no shortage of tools on offer - you just have to be patient perhaps and stick to your guns about how much you are willing to pay (don't be tempted to splurge on a "famous" name). The price asked isn't necessarily an indicator of quality either. My advice is to:

    a. set a maximum price you are willing to pay,
    b. look for a tool in the size(s) you want and in good condition (plenty of life left, not too much rust, no big chips or evidence of hollow-grinding in the edge, etc.). If the body (dai) is included, it should also be in good condition (unless you want to make your own),
    c. ask the Seller, or here, for info about the blacksmith (no guarantee about a definitive answer) if you have questions.

    Hope this is helpful and hopefully others will chime-in with further advice as well,

    Steve

  4. #3
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    Welcome to the forum

  5. #4
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    Thanks for the replies )

    I'll give this seller few days after the weekend and I'll ask him again.

    A number of people do seem to get their purchases fine from this seller. Perhaps he is very busy and those "low priced items" are not a priority.

  6. #5
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    EMS (Express Mail Service Japan) has been the preferred postage means by Japanese sellers however because of Covid EMS is not running to many countries. This has caused problems for sellers and buyers. I have tools sitting in Japan that cant be shipped because UPS consider them dangerous weapons and will not ship. I have been waiting a year now. I had use UPS it costs more and is slower to get some tools out of Japan.

    About 3 years ago I bought a kanna from e-kanamonoya.jp without problems. e-kanamonoya.jp is the same person as your ebay seller.

    If you are looking for an excellent seller I will recommend daiku-dougu.jp - Teshiba san is very reliable and can get you anything you want at many price points. But again he has shipping problem at the moment.

  7. #6
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    I might have already replied to this thread, but the post might be awaiting moderation. Or I forgot to click send on it. I'm not sure. Either way, if both posts appear later please excuse double posting.

    Thanks for the advice.

    EMS seems to be working fine from Japan to my country at the moment. We'll, customs processing is a bit slow due to the EU wide rollout of new centralised VAT collection scheme (IOSS). It is not just receiving from Japan, but last month I had a package from Norway (a country EU has a free trade agreement, except food stuffs) keep bouncing between various customs offices for 9 days. Eventually they applied a "zero charge" plus of course a non zero customs submission charge.

  8. #7
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    I've dealt with Tomohito plenty of times including getting custom made paring chisels from Konobu via him. Nice guy. I think most of the recent negative feedback on ebay is mostly related due to all the blown out postage costs and issues that were coming out of japan due to covid and similar so maybe be patient there is a global pandemic going on.... Takeo nakano planes are good but typically these auctions go for cheaper as they use lower quality dai's and the sub blades are not made by the same smith they are more generic just keep this in mind. e-kanamonoya.jp is a different dealer, His website is actually where you can see the range of prices the full quality blades/sub blades and dai's normally go for. www.japantool-iida.com

  9. #8
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    Lots of useful japanese tool info here and Stanley is another great guy to deal with. He uses Takeo Nakano kannas a lot from memory.


    Covington & Sons Tools – Information about using and maintaining woodworking tools, especially Japanese chisels planes and handsaws

  10. #9
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    Good news ) the order was updated with a shipping label.

    When it arrives I'll post photos etc.

  11. #10
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    I hope you get your plane OK.
    I twice had winning bids on chisels with this seller a couple of years ago, each time after chasing up when they were going to be sent he just refunded me with no explanation.

  12. #11
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    That's iida - I've gotten a bunch of stuff off of his listings. Everything has shown up, including an inexpensive Nakano 70mm kanna (it was OK, I had another in the past with a thin lamination that was done more nicely, but I don't know the story = one may be forged, and the other may be from prelaminated material - the first was from an andrews steel that was less common and maybe he was making it thin to spread the use of it).

    One never knows what's going on over there unless they know the actual maker.

    At any rate, I also ordered about half a dozen marking gauges from Iida off of ebay, and they were to come with laminated blades (otherwise I wouldn't have ordered them) with a mark from a specific maker. Instead, they showed up, and they're OK (the wood bits have a mark on them, It may even be nashiya or something, I'd have to look - but all of the blades were just inexpensive punched steel - it's hardened, but not what the listing said).

    There are some folks here who love Iida. I'm mixed on him - it's nice of him to dump stuff on ebay for cheap, and even if the nakano kanna that I got second go-around isn't a match for the first (which came to the united states decades ago), it's still a 70mm kanna for about $150 with shipping. But I"ve seen him do things that I don't like, too, and my opinion, he's in the business to find the person who is easily separated from their money.

    Years ago, I got an ogata kanna blade and subblade from alex gilmore - it's a pattern that ogata did a lot of. It was OK (ogata's blades supposedly have a reputation for being easy to sharpen, and some old wives tales about steel choice, etc- the one that I got was swedish steel and it's just tempered a lot softer.). Anyway, Alex charged $260 or something for the pair (and alex marks things up a healthy amount).
    Ogata was supposedly retired.

    A couple of years later, ogata's planes show up on iida's site, as do nakano's. They're both $500. I guess ogata may have retired for real, or maybe someone continued making them. japan woodworker (another sideways operation here - anything stu tierney had, JWW is double, with lots of nonsense stories like chisel maker's wives swinging the hammer to help out - that stuff is done in dies or power hammer now, probably has been for 100 years). JWW got a bunch of ogata irons, claimed to be the only ones with them, and IIda's site went down for "redesign" and came back up and iida's price matches JWWs. This is an interesting development given alex gilmore probably doesn't mark anything up less than double.

    Any time I find someone else (other than JWW) selling a tool that Iida carries, he's about double, but he knows how to find buyers and find what they like and then keep contacting them any time he finds more (but the double thing applies.).

    Why he dumps things on ebay, I don't know - I guess it's probably stuff he doesn't want to sell full price or just large runs he comes across.

    When I did get marking gauges, it was hit or miss as to when he shipped, too - he shipped all of them, but some came 40 or 45 days later - it wasn't EMS so I wouldn't buy that excuse if he gives it. I've gotten a bunch of stuff off of buyee and all of it has shown up EMS or DHL in less than a week.

  13. #12
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    (I have no other better suggestions, though -I think iida's dump off stuff is about as good as you're going to get for a reasonable price. I ultimately went to buyee based on experience having had a whole bunch of tools and started buying used tools with the characteristics I like. For all of the nonsense we get about this or that master making tools far better than someone else, it's generally aesthetics. I've found the unknown used tools on buyee with good characteristics as good as the mosakus and so on and so forth, and you don't have the same feeling that you need to be precious with them.

    Almost all of the japanese tools that I still have came from buyee. But you have to be able to see if what you're looking at is good workmanship - like good kamaji and a thin lamination and neat other work that doesn't come on cheap tools).

    I think the simple reality will be when you're dealing with people who sell to english speakers, they've gone to the effort to learn to communicate with you and they're going to get something out of you more than they'd get in country.

  14. #13
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    OK, the order arrived, it looks good based on first look. I'll take pictures ond submit them later. However, I'm writing this, because I'm seriously annoyed by having to overpay VAT by a huge amount. It is ridiculous really.

    Perhaps this post will serve as a warning to EU buyers to ensure the overseas sellers are capable of supplying correct shipping information when they dispatch an order.

    In my case (not the first, but definitely the worst) I bought two kannas for $109. The seller combined postage so it came to $75 for postage. This is rather steep for posting 2kg of stuff from Japan to EU, but it arrives quickly so it is worth it. (it is UPS saver service, delivered in about 5 working days)

    However, ebay also automatically charges VAT on top of the total in my case VAT charged by eBay was $42. So the total was $226. Fairly OK for two nice kannas.

    But then, a surprise emain from UPS arrives informing me I'll have to pay extra $74 of VAT and duty on delivery!

    Why? Because the package was sent without special electronic info that VAT was already paid. So they charged VAT on top of the whole amount (which ironically contains previously paid VAT - so a VAT from VAT essentially now). And the whole cost now exceeds the importation duty threshold so they slapped extra importation duty on top.

    The worst is not the fact I overpaid import duties, but the fact how difficult it is to correct this cluster****. The seller has no authority to refund VAT paid to eBay, nor to correct the purchase invoice to remove it. So I had to raise a case with the seller asking him to escalate it to his seller support.

    Hopefully, once all of the above goes through I'll get the $42 back from ebay(not from the seller) , and an invoice showing the correct value. Which I can take to local customs who will then return my $34.

    Ridiculous.

    I has a slightly similar situation with a much smaller purchase on amazon too. With that amazon strong armed the seller to refund me which I definitely didn't want.

    It will probably take weeks to get the few dozen $ I overpaid. Imagine how many people will not even notice they were overcharged etc.

  15. #14
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    As promised, I'm posting few pictures.

    My initial observations (in comparison with the kakuri plane I got from Amazon earlier).
    - the chipbraker/cap iron has been most likely hand fitted to the iron. I think it because it was polished a little more on the sides. I get the same pattern when hand flattening.
    - both dais were either hand fitted to iron's back, or to a template based on the shape of the iron. Additionally one can see slight individual chisel marks in few places. If it was cnc cut it would look very different (perhaps it was roughed by cnc and hand finished).
    - Regarding the irons. They are forge weld laminated. I don't think they were made from a larger piece because one can clearly see where the high carbon piece ends halfway up the iron. If this was made by a factory rolling process I suspect the whole back of the iron would contain the lamination. Not just the bottom half. I can see all surfaces were ground prior( or during?) the final heat treatment as oxide black is visible in the bottom of grinding marks too (I looked under a microscope).
    I suspect the low carbon steel is mild steel as no slag inclusions characteristic to wrought iron are visible even under a microscope.

    I'll test the flatness when I'm preparing them for use.

    Here are pictures. You can see both Musashi Taro and Suwa Goro. Where single iron is visible it is the Musashi Taro. They both look almost identical.
    20211007_115950.jpg20211007_120022.jpg20211007_120227.jpg20211007_120247.jpg20211007_122256.jpg20211007_122139.jpg

    On the last picture I'm showing the side of the iron to demonstrate the high carbon lamination going half way.

    Overall I'm pretty happy with the purchase. I just need to get the overpaid VAT back and It'll be all good )

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