Every year, wood planing experts from all over Japan meet up for a very unique competition in which everyone tries to shave off the thinnest piece of wood possible. I don’t know how skilled you are with a hand plane, but these guys can actually peel off see-through slices of wood that are measured in microns.
If you’re not familiar with the hand plane, it’s a tool used to smooth out the surface of lumber and timber. But at the wood planing finals held during the annual Kezuroukai exhibition in Japan, participants use it not to show off their wood smoothing skills, but to shave off the thinnest strip of wood possible. They are each assigned a bench to use for about two hours, during which time they exercise their planing technique, adjusting and sharping their tools for when it matters most. When the contest starts, each competitor has three tries to shave off the thinnest piece of wood in front of a judge who uses a special tool to measure the thickness. But producing strips of wood thin enough to see through doesn’t require only proper tools and practice, but also great wood, so planers are allowed to bring bundles of whatever wood they think yields the best result. Last year, the wood planing competition was held in the port city of Uwajima, on the island of Shikoku, and the thinnest shaving was only 9 microns thick. A micros is one-thousandth of a millimeter…Just to give you an idea of how impressively thin that is, the average human hair is 100 microns across, a cloud water droplet is 10 microns in diameter, and a human blood cell measures 8-9 microns. Even more incredible is the fact that the record for the thinnest shaving currently stands at 3 microns.
Competitive wood planing might seem pretty silly to some people, but while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, pushing the limits of one’s abilities and tools is not just impressive, but also quite entertaining.