Before we head for 2011 I am going to share the last pictures from my woodworking trip in Japan. This one is about the forerunner to the plane the spear plane, yariganna or yari-kanna. Here is the yariganna in use.
I have not been able to corroborate the info below as well as I would have liked, it is primarily based on information and experience from the Japanese carpenters. Up to the sixteenth century Japanese carpenters cleft and hewed timbers with axes and adzes and when fine finishing was required the tool used was the yari ganna or spear plane. These tools are shown in old painings of carpenters at work. Modern planes were introduced at the same time as sawn rather than hewn timber becoming more popular through the 17th century. The yariganna died out completely, there were none made and no one used them for 300 years. In the 20th century as carpenters became more interested in old tools and techniques and also in replicating the exact toolmarks when restoring old temples the yariganna was rediscovered.
These are newly forged yariganna in the specialist tool shop we visited. They are simple exquisite tools. laminated steel and perfectly honed, ready to use, they come with a handle similar to the ones seen on Japanese pull saws.