The Varieties of Japanese Chisels Part 2 – The Mentori Oiirenomi (面取追入鑿)

42mm Mentori Oirenomi by Hidari no Ichihihiro, a beautiful sculptural chisel by a renowned blacksmith, Mr. Yamazaki (RIP)

The Oiirenomi (pronounced oh/ee/reh/noh/mee) is the most common variety of Japanese woodworking chisel, and the style best known both inside and outside Japan. There are several varities of oiirenomi made, but in this post we will examine the most popular one called the ”mentori oiirenomi” ( 面取り追入鑿) meaning ” beveled” oiirenomi.


As your most humble and obedient servant mentioned in the previous post in this series, “nomi” means ” chisel” in the Japanese language, but the term ”oiire” 追入れ” is not so straightforward. I am uncertain of the origin of this word, but some hints of the original meaning may perhaps be deduced from the Chinese characters used to write it: ”Oi” 追い meaning ”to chase” or ” to follow,” and ”ire” 入れ meaning ” insert” or ”place in.”

As the name suggests, this chisel’s face is beveled at both sides making it lighter and better able to get into tight locations than the bulkier kakuuchi oiirenomi, the older forerunner of this chisel, which we will examine in a future post.

I think most people agree that the two bevels moving up the blade, curving around the shoulder, and feathering into the neck give this chisel a sculptural, elegant appearance. While these bevels do indeed make this chisel handier and better able to access tight spots, they also sacrifice some stiffness, and authority compared to the kakuuchi style. But clearly, these compromises are acceptable to most consumers.


A member of the tatakinomi family, it is designed to be struck with a steel hammer and has a hoop (called a “katsura” in Japanese which means “crown”) on the handle’s end to prevent it from cracking.

There are larger types of tatakinomi called atsunomi better suited than the oiirenomi to heavy cutting and wasting wood in applications such as timber frame joints, and most of those share the same mentori bevel detail, but oiirenomi are handier and better suited to lighter tasks such as furniture work and interior installation work the same as Western bench or butt chisels.

Oiirenomi in general and mentori oiirenomi especially are light-weight, relatively inexpensive, and handy to use. All woodworkers in Japan own at least a few of these.

Materials and Manufacturing Techniques

Our oiirenomi are hand-forged by traditional self-employed blacksmiths each with more than 40 years of experience working in their self-owned one-man smithies. They are stubborn gentlemen absolutely dedicated to quality.

These blacksmiths use only Hitachi’s Metal’s Yasugi Shirogami No.1 Steel (aka “White Label Steel”) for the cutting edge, a plain, exceptionally high-purity, high-quality, high-carbon steel that does not contain significant amounts of chrome, molybdenum, nickel, vanadium, or tungsten, chemicals which are added to nearly all commercial tool steels to make products easier to mass-produce by factory workers (instead of more expensive skilled blacksmiths) with fewer rejects. These alloys add considerably to the cost of the strip steel, while resulting in a finished product that will not become as sharp as Shirogami steel, will not hold a sharp edge as long, and will be more unpleasant and more time-consuming to sharpen. If you have the sharpening skills, then Shirogami No.1 is a steel you should experience.

The blade of this chisel combines a strip of this high-carbon steel forge-laminated to a softer low/no-carbon steel body and neck. During heat treatment the high-carbon steel layer becomes very hard, but the low-carbon steel body and neck remain relatively soft. In use, this construction protects the more brittle steel from breaking, which is what would happen if the entire chisel was made of one piece of steel hardened to the degree Japanese professional woodworkers demand. It also makes it easier to sharpen the hard cutting edge, a task that would be difficult if the blade was all the same hardness. Please see this page, this page, and this page to learn more.

Our blacksmiths perform a minimum of 3 heats to each blade while using hammers and spring hammers to forge this special steel. This “hand-forging” process, combined with special heat-treating techniques they have perfected over many years, such as multiple quenchings, the application of temperature modulating clay coatings, normalization and low-oxygen carbon soaks produces a “fine-grained” steel of the sort that has been coveted by professionals for tools and weapons since ancient times.

The final hardness is between 65~66 on the Rockwell C hardness scale. Most Western Chisels are softer at 55~60 HRc. This extra hardness makes the blade stay relatively sharper longer, and the fine-grain crystalline structure of the steel ensures each blade will become sharper without sacrificing durability.

These are professional-grade tools made by craftsmen in their own smithies, not factories, and are intended to meet the severe performance expectations for Japan’s most uncompromising woodworkers, unlike the mediocre-quality but attractive-looking “hardware-store-grade” chisels peddled inside Japan to the amateur market, and outside Japan to the uninformed. How much bacon do you like with your sizzle?


Our oiirenomi are available individually, or in discounted 10 piece sets (3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, 30, 36, 42mm widths) with Japanese Red Oak or White Oak handles.

We usually have all varieties in-stock ready to deliver, but as the blacksmiths that can reliably produce these handmade products are few, and are becoming fewer every year, there are occasionally times when our stock is low. We apologize for any inconvenience that may result and humbly beg your kind understanding.

Our Sukezane brand 42mm oiirenomi with Japanese Red oak Handle. Face View
Our Sukezane brand 42mm oiirenomi with Japanese Red oak Handle. Ura View
Our Sukezane brand oiirenomi 10pc box set with Japanese Red oak Handle. Also available with White Oak handles


© 2023 Stanley Covington All Rights Reserved

If you have questions or would like to learn more about our tools, please click the “Pricelist” link here or at the top of the page and use the “Contact Us” form located immediately below.

Please share your insights and comments with everyone in the form located further below labeled “Leave a Reply.” We aren’t evil Google, fascist facebook, or thuggish Twitter and so won’t sell, share, or profitably “misplace” your information. If I lie may I swallow a thousand needles.

10 thoughts on “The Varieties of Japanese Chisels Part 2 – The Mentori Oiirenomi (面取追入鑿)

  1. Wow, I just find out about this site! I owned a small set of C&S mentori oiirenomi that I got through Chris Vandiver, with white oak handles( Chris told me they were the higher quality nomi in the ones you offer). I really like them, I didn’t do a great job on the back to keep the ura nice and even(some of them were like that to start with lol) but they work great none the less. If I want to buy more from you and directly how do I proceed?
    Thank you


    1. David:
      Just let me know via the “contact” block on each blog post what kind of chisels or planes interest you and I can send you pricing and pictures. The chisels I carry are all defined on the blog under “Varieties of Japanese Chisels.” There is a “Category link” at the right bottom of the blog with links to them. I think I’ve posted 13 in this category already.

      Thanks for your interest.



      1. Thank you I will spend a bit more time here to read more and educate my self!!

        Thank you again!


    2. David:

      There was a period where my sharpener was ill with cancer and his precision could have been better. He died earlier this year after a long hospital stay. And then I had to train a new sharpener. They are getting hard to find, believe me. Things have improved greatly.

      I have a 100% guarantee. don’t hesitate to use it! (ツ)



  2. Only the essential, but the essential. The Sukezane Oire Nomi are… incredible, became incredibly sharp, stay incredibily long sharp and fits incredibly in your hand. There is something magic in this tools!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your kind comments. He does a great job. I will let him know you like his oiirenomi next time we meet. Unfortunately, his production has dropped off the scale. He won’t admit to being retired, but nether is he filling orders. I despair!


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