As a traditional craft
In 1986, it was designated as a “traditional craft” by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (then Minister of International Trade and Industry). Traditional crafts are carpentry tools such as “Nomi”(chisel), “Kanna”(plane), “Chona”(adze), and “Masakari”(broadax).
We also manufacture kitchen knives and knives using our traditional technology.
One of the axes, which has a wide blade width and is constricted on one side, is called a “Chona”. It is used to scrape off the sides of logs to make square timber.
It is used for processing traditional Japanese techniques such as wood joinery (a technique for joining wood without using nails), and is indispensable as a tool for carving wood. There are tapping chisel that is used by hitting the tail using a hammer to, and poking chisel that is used by poking with both hands.
It is used as a tool for flattening wood. Recentry, it is used to beautifully finish the wood surface, and the cleanly ground wood surface repels water and the surface reflects like a mirror.
It is used as a tool for rough cutting logs and square timbers, such as finishing beam materials for wooden houses. It is also used for design purposes because of its characteristic shaving marks in modern times.
400 Years History
The 400-year history of Echigo Yoita Uchihamono dates back to the Warring States period(around 1550).
Naoe Kagetsuna (the father-in-law of Kanetsugu Naoe), who became the owner of Yoita Castle, brought japanese swordsmiths and they started making japanese swords in Yoita.
Echigo Yoita is a town of hardware, and the dawn comes from the sound of a mallet.
there is traditional song that “Echigo Yoita is a town of hardware, and the dawn comes from the sound of a mallet.”
Yoitamachi, Nagaoka City, Niigata Prefecture is a town of Uchihamono.
People’s activities began around BC in the town of Yoita.
Echigo Yoita Uchihamono began about 400 years ago. Yoita Castle(built on a small hill in Yoita) owner, Sanetsuna Naoe (later Kagetsuna, father-in-law of Kanetsugu Naoe) got a swordsman from Kasugayama(Joetsu City) around 1550. This is said to be the origin.
Around 1700, the production of carpentry tools began, and the development of building cutlery was caused by the rapid increase in demand due to the development of rice fields and the many fires in Edo. The carpentry tools produced at Yoita around this time were called “Toi Nomi (by Toi Sukeemon)” and “Hyobu Nomi” and were known throughout Japan.
Around 1850, Yoita craftsmen went to work in Aizuwakamatsu, which was the number one hardware producing area in Tohoku(North-East in Japan). They have honed their skills by joining the swordsmith Furukawa Izumi Mamoru Kanesada’s disciple, and have acquired the skills that continue today.
In 1927, the Yoita metal hardware mutual encouragement unionunion was formed, and there were 117 members, but the demand for carpentry tools dropped sharply due to the advent of power tools, and now it has dropped to about 10 houses. Even the youngest craftsmen were in 60s and suffered from a shortage of inheritors.
The feature is “forge welding” which is a technique to bond a steel and iron.
The material bonded by a technique called forge welding unique to Japan, is slowly beaten and forged at a relatively low temperature to give it a unique stickiness. We use the iron which is manufactured before 1877.
About Namaji(old iron)
“Namaji”, which has the characteristics of being easy to sharpen, is iron manufactured before 1877, and is officially called wrought iron. It has a low carbon content (basically, the lower it is, the softer it is), but it is also contains a large amount of impurities (non-metal inclusions). This iron is refined by a manufacturing method called the paddle method, and unlike the current manufacturing method (Bessemer method), it is thought that the fact that it contains a large amount of impurities may lead to ease of sharpening.
Although it is a technical story, the paddle method vacates semi-molten pig iron (iron as it is taken out from iron ore, which has a large carbon content of about 5% and is hard and unsuitable for processing) in the reverberatory furnace. Wrought iron is refined by stirring with an iron rod inserted through the window, reacting impurities with oxygen in the furnace to remove them, and finally entwining them with the iron rod and taking them out. Especially in reverberatory furnaces that use coal as fuel, the carbon content is 0.02 to 0.05%, which is very low iron. However, the refining was incomplete and it contained impurities. By the way, the famous building made of wrought iron is the Eiffel Tower.
The Characteristic of Yoita Uchihamono: Using Two Irons for Kanna(Plane)
Planes made from “Namaji(wrought iron)” have the characteristic of being easy to sharpen, but because they are old iron, the place where the inscription of the plane is placed does not have a very clean surface. Also, when using a plane, tap the head of the plane (the rounded part at the top) to adjust the way the blade comes out, but the “Namaji(wrought iron)” is relatively soft and easily dented. Therefore, by using steel on the cutting edge side and ultra-mild steel on the head side of the fabric, a hard head and a clean surface can be obtained.
The Characteristic of Yoita Uchihamono: Making two Nomi(Chisel) at once
By placing a steel for two chisels on the iron, the chisel can be cut in the center and taken for two pieces after forge welding. This method enables efficient production.
Echigo Yoita Uchihamono Union
Five blacksmiths have joined the Echigo Yoita Uchihamono Union.
Mizuno Kanna Factory
Main Products: Plane, Small Plane, Large Plane, Spear Plane, Knife
Funahiro Cutlery Factory
Main Products: Chisel, Plane
Nakano Chisel Factory
Main Products: Chisel
Komori Small Kanna Factory
Main Products: Small Plane
Usui Cutlery Factory
Main Products: Chisel(Mainly HSS Chisel)
The number of blacksmiths in Yoitamachi, which was 300 at one time, was closed one after another, and now there are about 10 blacksmiths.
In order to become a Inheritor, Mr. Shimada has been training as a disciple at at Nakano Kanna Factory from 2017, and Mr. Nitadori has been training as a disciple at Mizuno Plane Works since 2020.