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Japanese finds

Bakafish

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 21, 2022
Location
Tokyo Japan
I'm located in Japan and I'm always on the lookout for good deals here. I wanted to start a thread of my more interesting domestic finds, usually older metrology gear, and interesting tooling.

I have quite a variety of JAM precision vises, I pretty much use them exclusively. This is my latest acquisition:

JAM HP150 Hydraulic Vise
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I paid a little less than $200 including shipping and the wooden storage box, quite a fantastic deal as it is basically new. The hydraulic secondary is engaged in the handle to provide up to ~15kN of clamping force with just an easy turn by hand. Parallel to under 2 microns, square to less than 5, these are really dependable, dead straight, carefully made vises and I can't recommend them highly enough.
 

Bakafish

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 21, 2022
Location
Tokyo Japan
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The box is a little rough, but it was made in the 50's so I can forgive its condition. The anvils are in great shape and replacements are still offered by Mitutoyo. After the full disassembly and cleaning, this Sonoike (absorbed by Amada and Mitutoyo) thread micrometer works great, was only $20.
 

michiganbuck

Diamond
Joined
Jun 28, 2012
Location
Mt Clemens, Michigan 48035
QT; ( I paid a little less than $200 including shipping and the wooden storage box, quite a fantastic deal as it is basically new. )
Both are very nice. Really an interesting micrometer set.
Can you buy outside of Japan?
And if yes are there duties, or high shipping costs?

OT: Does Japan seem safe with little crime, and little civil unrest?
Is China's rattling swords an issue, or is that overstated here in the USA?
From here it seems Japan is a sensible country, and japan products are regarded as high quality.
 
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Bakafish

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 21, 2022
Location
Tokyo Japan
QT; ( I paid a little less than $200 including shipping and the wooden storage box, quite a fantastic deal as it is basically new. )
Both are very nice. Really an interesting micrometer set.
Can you buy outside of Japan?
They don't make it easy. Yahoo Japan (a vastly more successful entity than the original one) geoblocks their auction site, so you likely can't easily see what's there. [<--- This appears to be incorrect.] Many sellers won't do business with you if they get the impression you aren't Japanese as well. It means it is mostly a closed market, but there are certainly foreigners poaching key items, getting my Biax was a multi-year trial as there is someone buying every one that comes up for sale and willing to outbid any reasonable deal.
And if yes are there duties, or high shipping costs?
Shipping would be the biggest issue since you would need to have access to a Japanese address and then reship it from there. I think there are companies who will do that, but everything service related here is really expensive, and shipping lumps of metal isn't cheap either. Buying a $3000 vise for $200 and jumping through those hoops is likely still well worth it, but those deals don't come along often and the best values are with smaller, even more difficult to access sites that are more akin to well polished Craig's list sort of places.

OT: Does Japan seem safe with little crime, and little civil unrest?
It is so incredibly safe and pleasant. As an American who grew up in the countryside but spent much of my adult live in dense metropolitan areas, the erosion of 'feeling safe' was a slow and subtle process, a real boiling the frog sort of thing. After living a few years here it is so clear how insane things are in the US, and every time I went back it felt more and more obvious. I have zero interest in even visiting anymore, the experience sucks and I feel unsafe. I don't even bother with Hawaii anymore, and it's a hell of a lot better than the Bay Area. I hope you guys can figure it out.

Is China's rattling swords an issue, or is that overstated here in the USA?
No one really thinks about China or North Korea too seriously. Japanese doesn't really obsess on that sort of thing, they are an Island people and really don't worry much about what might be happening elsewhere, for good or bad.

From here it seems Japan is a sensible country, and japan products are regarded as high quality.
Customer expectations here are higher than anywhere else in the world. It makes the quality great, but increases the cost of everything. Buying these tools so cheaply has a lot to do with professionals not risking their product quality on used tools (safer to buy new with support and a manufacturer standing behind it), lack of foreign poaching, and a very tiny hobby market demand.
 
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Joined
Apr 14, 2018
Location
Airstrip One, Oceania
They don't make it easy. Yahoo Japan (a vastly more successful entity than the original one) geoblocks their auction site, so you likely can't easily see what's there. Many sellers won't do business with you if they get the impression you aren't Japanese as well. It means it is mostly a closed market,

I have never tried from the US but from China it's pretty easy. There are people who make a business out of buying for you and reshipping. And the cost wasn't bad at all.

You're right, Yahoo Japan is great, and there's lots of very nice stuff on it. One thing different from fleabay, most everything on yahoo japan is in really good condition and it's very seldom you get fleeced.
 

eKretz

Diamond; Mod Squad
Joined
Mar 27, 2005
Location
Northwest Indiana, USA
I've purchased a few Japanese natural razor sharpening stones from Yahoo Japan. Didn't have any issues but there were specific sellers I knew to buy from.
 

Bakafish

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 21, 2022
Location
Tokyo Japan
I've purchased a few Japanese natural razor sharpening stones from Yahoo Japan. Didn't have any issues but there were specific sellers I knew to buy from.
Interesting. Is that from their "Auctions" pages, or just the Yahoo hosted store fronts? My friend in the Netherlands is completely unable to connect to auctions pages, so I assumed they Geo-walled it. The Auctions content is vast, basically Japan's eBay.
 

eKretz

Diamond; Mod Squad
Joined
Mar 27, 2005
Location
Northwest Indiana, USA
Interesting. Is that from their "Auctions" pages, or just the Yahoo hosted store fronts? My friend in the Netherlands is completely unable to connect to auctions pages, so I assumed they Geo-walled it. The Auctions content is vast, basically Japan's eBay.

Store fronts for me, but I know of others in the U.S. that were able to purchase stones from auctions. And I can definitely peruse the link you listed.
 

Bakafish

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 21, 2022
Location
Tokyo Japan
I tangentially referred to these in another post, but they are one of my most treasured items. TOTO is the largest, and likely most famous brand of Japanese ceramic housewares, toilets and sinks. Like most Japanese companies that have been around for a while, they have quite a diversified portfolio. What I never knew or would have suspected is that, as part of their Advanced Ceramics group, dedicated to extremely high precision parts manufacturing for the semiconductor and LCD manufacturing industries, they have a small team making lab grade metrology equipment. There is virtually no information about the group, the products they make, or pricing. The items are manufactured on demand, for established customers, likely where the price isn't really a consideration. From an older item list I was able to find, it was clear that unlike most metrology companies they do not bother with making anything less than laboratory grade, I suspect due to them making these items on demand and not having a need for accuracy bucketing.

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I'm including the manufacturing evaluation certificate, but keep in mind when looking at these numbers that Japanese are ridiculously conservative when making these kinds of measurements. I was unable to measure any deviation at all (with good equipment, but certainly not the skills or environment to really refute what they found.)

toto_cert.jpeg

This was being listed as an antique by someone who found it in his grandfather's things, so it wasn't really categorized where it would have gotten the right attention. I only found it while searching for something else when the box caught my eye. I was like, that is strange, it looks like a metrology or instrument box, and clicked it for more details.

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I searched all the items he had posted and found he was listing this beautiful creature as well.
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I paid about $150 for both items. I've no idea what it would cost to buy them new, I suspect you would be rightly incredulous about the price even if I were able to get a quote, it's not really the point anyway. Somehow they found their way to me, and I treasure them. I hope Grandpa approves.
 
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Bakafish

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 21, 2022
Location
Tokyo Japan
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In the land of Earthquakes I guess I shouldn't be surprised how many precision levels there are floating around. A while back I saw Keith Rucker working with a little version of this someone had sent him, and I thought "I'm here in Japan, I must have one!" This was one of the first ones I bought, it was sold cheaply (~$30 delivered) as 'Junk' because the person selling it (clearly not a machinist) couldn't find any 'level' places in their house with it and assumed it was broken. 🧐 When the postman delivered it, he gave me a pointed look, which upon handing it over to me I almost dropped it on my feet and quickly understood. The thing is a solid casting and weighs a ton, his annoyance was pardonable. In my experience, it is an unusually large one at 300mm square, and is japanned in a lovely deep purple color that my iPhone wasn't able to really capture here.

The company, Fuji Seimitsu Keiki Seisakusho Co., Ltd. (now thankfully just FSK) is still making these levels, and even has rental and calibration services. To buy this one new (in this grade) is several thousand dollars, but I'll be the first to admit that the used market here is flooded with variations of this unit sold quite cheaply, although usually in smaller 150mm and 200mm sizes and in rougher shape. Conventional style engineers levels are also commonly seen, most of them use, like this one, the Japanese precision standard of 0.02mm/M indication, although I have a few with up to 0.01mm/M graduations (and certified accuracy.)

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It came in the factory box, still wrapped in the original oil paper which preserved it nicely. This is no spring chicken, from the certification label inside the box lid it was made in Showa 45, which is 1970 for the rest of us. The measurements there are not totally intuitive, I don't know how it is done in the US, likely the same way, but most of those numbers are referring to tenths of a graduation. The chart shows measurements done from both directions in red and blue lines, I guess that bubble stiction can cause variation based on which way it is traveling, although mine doesn't seem to suffer from that. It shows deviation of 0.1 graduation or less across its range, or less than 6 microns of error over across its width (if I did my numbers right.)

The left and right sides are +2 and -3 microns off, making it a pretty useful square on its own. The top is 0.2 graduations off, and the V ways on the bottom is 0.3 graduations off. As of now, that makes this unit a top rated JIS Class AA, but the standards were not codified until 1993, so this predates that by a few years :LOL:

Since getting this one, I've picked up quite a number of Japanese levels, not that they are of any great use to me at the moment, but they are kind of magical in their simplicity and self proving nature. Even this old $3 masons level is made with a beautiful casting that is easy on the eyes.

mason_level.jpeg

I only pick something up these days if it is highly unusual, as I justify all these unnecessary levels to myself as some kind of a 'collection', but truthfully it breaks my heart seeing them unloved and given away for a few dollars and I just have to pass them by.
 

Bakafish

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 21, 2022
Location
Tokyo Japan
One of the brands I always keep my eye out for is Obishi Keiki, and it's distinctive OK diamond trademark. This is a company that was established in the post war ashes, and you can certainly see the evolution of the brand over time. Like most of the older gear I pick up, I cleaned this 750mm camelback straight edge and did as little modification as I could to restore it to working condition. In this case I was forced to repaint it, as the original paint had turned to chalk and completely degraded. I did a lot of work restoring the filthy and splintered factory surface guard that indicated the A grading as well.

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The hand scraping is still quite distinct, despite the age. There are a few scratches, but nothing seriously wrong with the surface, and it was sold and delivered for well under $100. The care and complexity of the packaging the seller shipped it in was astonishing, the wooden crate had custom standoffs, and everything was well padded and wrapped. The cost of the custom packaging and freight alone had to be more than I paid for it. I just never cease to be surprised by the Japanese way of doing things.

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I really like the stamped Eagle logo, this likely dates it around the 50's or 60's, but I have to do more research to be sure.

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Bakafish

Aluminum
Joined
Feb 21, 2022
Location
Tokyo Japan
I end up with a lot of stuff because I see someone like Stefan or Robin using one, and the first time I saw Wolhaupter universal boring and facing head, I wanted one immediately.

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Luckily for me they were licenced for manufacture here in Japan by several companies and I picked up several of them in various condition and set completion quite cheaply. I don't own a Wolhaptur to compare them to, but I can't see how they could be improved quality wise. I suspect the parts would be interchangeable they are so well made. Mine are all manufactured by Kuroda precision, and although they come in many sizes and two different mechanical variants, I stuck with the smaller UFB-2 & UFB-3 models (that use Morse Taper 2 and 3 shanks.) I keep my eyes open for the tiniest UFB-1, I'd like to have it just because it would be adorable, but the 3 I have are already 2 more than I will likely ever need.

UFB-2.jpeg
In collecting these, I've found that they are often sold missing some key parts, and if you are going to get one I'd try to make sure you buy a complete set. The metric boring bar sizes that they use can be a little odd, and a full set will come with various extensions and a full set of adaptor shims. But the most common missing parts are the two little end stops on the back side which are actually quite ornate little units and would be hard to replicate or replace. There's a long rod to hold the rotating advance ring, and a little lifting tool to help with disengaging the two stiff buttons on the unit.

UFB-3kit.jpeg
This is what a fairly complete kit should look like. The newer ones come in steel boxes, you should be able to pick up a good set for $300-400, but they regularly sell for much less if you wait for a deal. I just saw a massive UFB-6 sell for $80, and mine were all well under $150.

The shanks are not removable, at least not on the smaller sizes, and they make tanged and untanged variants of the MT shanks, so MT-2 M8 on the UFB-2 means it has a M8 retention thread and no tang. I ended up with both types as I had to buy two of them to get all the parts for one complete set. One was junked as it was missing some parts, but they were just a spring a ball and a few pins, all of which I was able to easily replace, and it actually was in better condition than my first one after the repairs.

Machinist Santa made a good teardown video, and with any old precision tooling I think it is smart to give it a full cleaning. There are a lot of tiny balls, rods and springs, so do it in a safe environment and make sure you understand how it goes back together. The small planet gears are also marked to be inserted in a specific way, none of it too complicated, just be careful. I found on all 3 of mine that they had been packed with grease through their oil ports, and needed a good clean, but all internals were hardened and looked like new. I think these things are really built to last. There is another unit out there, a Tree Taper boring head (want, don't have) that can do tapers in a much more natural way, but the gear ratios are listed online and with an adjustable feed you can make tapered bores with these as well.
 








 
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