I've seen carpentry contests, cabinet making contests, and a contest where competitors had 60 minutes to build a usable boat from plywood, caulk, and duct tape. But I've never seen anything like the wood planing contest that takes place each June in Japan.

The goal is to produce the thinnest possible shaving. The tools are a mix of old and new, with contestants using the pull-style wood-body planes favored by traditional Japanese woodworkers and the judges using finely calibrated micrometers to measure the thickness of shavings.  The judges are so concerned about accuracy they use a Q-tip to wipe dust from the jaws of the micrometer between readings.

The winner of the 2012 event produced a shaving 9 microns thick. How thin is that? Let's not even bother with the usual comparison to human hair (which is many times thicker); a 9-micron shaving is so thin you can see through it. I'm sure there's some technique in pulling the plane but the greater skill has to be in putting an extraordinarily keen edge on the blade and adjusting it so it projects less than a hair's breadth beyond the sole.

In the video below some western visitors try their hand at planing.