Japanese hatchet and axe heads from Mizuno Seisakujo in Sanjo, Niigata Province are normally made with a 3-layer laminated steel head (Warikomi): there is a hard steel insert of 0.45% carbon steel in the middle for the cutting edge and two softer iron laminations to support it and form the rest of the head. The forest hatchet and the splitting axe are made of unlaminated steel. The axe handles, or hafts, are made of the sapwood of Japanese white oak.
With the individual Japanese axes and hatchets, in the second line we list the Japanese name provided by the manufacturer. These names are very inconsistent in Japan, and also vary a great deal by region. Masakari is translated, for instance, as "battle axe" but we have been assured that it is certainly not a weapon but simply means a hatchet with a broad blade. The generic term for "Axe or Hatchet" is rather Ono, or sometimes also Chouna. But the latter name is more frequently used to mean an "adze."
We translate the term Masakari here to differentiate it from the big axe used to split logs on a chopping block. But the head of the Masakari can be swung behind the head and the haft passes close to the head, in order to produce finely cut kindling. This head for also makes the Masakari an interesting option for sculptors.
The manufacturer of the Japanese splitting axe calls it a Kiwari, but in other areas the name Kiwari Ono is used for the type. The edge is very narrow, and so very thick, so as to be able to split well. The Kiwari Ono is normally a little lighter than Western splitting mauls, and so a somewhat longer haft is used.
The next hatchet we offer is the Bakin, a small, all purpose “kitchen” hatchet.
With our experience with the very different climate conditions between Japan and Central Europe, we needed to find a solution for problems we have experienced with Japanese hafted tools. In Japan, the air is always very humid, but in Europe rather drier. So when a haft is finish-fitted to an axe in Japan, and then stored by us here in Germany, it is possible that the haft will dry out and loosen up in the head, and in use the head can then fly off the haft. So originally we have arranged with the manufacturer that these tools are shipped to us with the haft only provisionally fitted to the head and the wedge only slightly inserted. But sometimes customers had the problem to disassemble this provisionally fitting. So now we are in the process to change to ship them unfitted. This will be a rolling change and therefore you will find a notice with the product description whether the specific item will be shipped provisionally fitted or unfitted. The user must finish the fitting of the haft and attachment of the head! This is best done after letting the wood acclimatize at least a week to the area where the axe will be stored and used. To fit the haft to the head, the shape of the end must be slightly reworked to fit into the hole in the axe head. For an exact fit, as much as one or two inches may need to be removed to completely fill the hole, or eye, in the head. We currently have a few axes in our store room that feature unfitted raw haft blanks. If you would like one of these tools, please write your preference in the Message field. Directions for shafting an axe