New store: extended Japanese tool range

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Businesses are often born from personal passions. Here's one Sydney based hand tool retailer whose interest in Japanese woodworking and culture has led to the creation of a specialist offering. We spoke to Protooling's owner/operator Paul Tayar.

You've moved recently, opening a new store. Can you describe the range of tools you offer? Do the new premises mean you have extended it?

The impetus for the move was to expand our range. We’re always on the hunt for tools of all level and application, it’s not just about the higher end. My main focus is to bring items to Australia that are difficult to source and that I personally want to use in the workshop or onsite. It could be a $20 nail punch, a $70 chisel, or a $1000 plane. I’m doing joinery work as well as larger construction projects, I’m always looking for tools at different levels, and for differing environments. The entire business began with my desire for products I was seeing in Japan that I could not access in Australia.

What is the main criterion for selecting the tools you offer? How do you source the brands you carry?

We work with many smiths and suppliers in Japan but have a core partner group that are constantly on the move. We speak (almost daily) as they are in the blacksmiths workshops and stores across Japan about what is on offer and what they can make for us. It’s not uncommon for pages of photos and information to pop up on our group chat as they walk through a workshop or store. I lust for all tools but it generally comes down to a price to performance measure… which comes back to the first saw and chisel I bought in Japan. These tools were worlds apart from what I could find in the chain tool shops at the time and outperformed items which cost a lot more.


What's the biggest misconception people have about using Japanese tools?

We often hear people are worried about the ongoing maintenance of Japanese tools. That sharpening or setting these tools is a mysterious art or the like. Some of that seems to come from the throw away culture of products in todays mainstream markets but I don’t see them any different to the tools I used with my grandfather as a child. Any and all tools need some attention to keep them at their best, and it’s easier to sharpen Japanese carbon steel as an example to most of the steels you see in mass produced tools.

For those looking to get into or try some Japanese hand tools, what would your starting point suggestions be?

Either a pull-saw or a carbon steel chisel would be the best starting points. For under $50 for a saw, or $65 for a white steel chisel you can have a very high performing tool. They are directly replaceable to their western counterparts and don’t require much (if any) change in technique to achieve great results. It also wouldn’t be a bad start to get a Japanese whetstone and just sharpen the tools you already have.

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