Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything.Wyatt Earp
In the previous post in this series we talked about the difference between mass-produced and hand-forged gennou heads. In this post we will take a look at a more antique style of gennou head.
A Laminated Gennou Head
Prior to the advent of cheap imported steel from Europe, gennou had bodies forged of soft low/no-carbon steel with wafers of hard, high-carbon steel forge-welded to each face. The shiny strips called “Hachimaki,” meaning “ headband,” polished onto the sides of the ends of genno heads sold nowadays, while purely decorative, are vestiges of this old-timey method.
The photos above are of a laminated gennou head hand-forged by Kosaburo which came to me long ago as payment for a debt. Laminated gennou heads made this way are still available today at exorbitant prices. I understand Hiroki occasionally makes a few.
Some believe the combination of hard face and soft body produces a softer impact and less vibration making the gennou less tiring to use. Others prefer the slightly different sound a laminated gennou head makes. I have used this laminated Kosaburo head for many years, and while I am very fond of it, I cannot detect any advantage to its laminated construction.
While laminated gennou are much more expensive, the blacksmiths I have spoken with have told me that they are significantly easier to make than one-piece high-carbon steel gennou since they do not require the more difficult differential hardening process. And they all agree that laminated construction provides no practical advantage to the end user. A curio in other words.
If you are just getting started in woodworking, or are on a tight budget, a quality mass-produced gennou head will do the job if you clean up the eye and replace the handle with one that fits your body.
Better yet, buy a hand-forged head by Hiroki or Kosaburo and make your own handle in the best craftsman tradition, and take pride in a custom tool of the highest possible quality that will serve you well for your entire life.
However, if you have the budget and enjoy collecting traditional tools, then by all means try a laminated gennou head. They are not easy to find nowadays.
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2 thoughts on “The Japanese Gennou & Handle Part 10 – Laminated Gennou Heads”
Very interesting! I suppose it would be worth a little money to have one’s hammer make a more pleasant noise all day. These days in the USA carpenters sing along with the radio in Spanish for acoustic entertainment, at least at the house being built next door.
I’m not so sure it’s a more pleasant sound, just different.
Sounds like you’ve got some happy mariachi workers next door! Brings back pleasant memories of when I was an apprentice carpenter working summers in Las Vegas with a mostly Mexican crew. They were good men and kind to me. Do me a favor and take over some cold beers or soft drinks to them near the end of the day on Friday. I’ll pay you back.