Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus. blog comments powered by Disqus

Landscape 2 - Finished!

Finished the piece on Friday. I finished the actual kumiko work on Wednesday, then a couple of days to fit the frame and backing, and put a few coats of finish on the frame. So after a few anxious moments about the cut-off date, I eventually had a week to spare. It’s now safely tucked away. The photo below is the final section. A multi-coloured collection of kawari-asa-no-ha.

Final section of landscape

So today, I set about on some long-overdue maintenance on the machinery, then upstairs to give the hand tools a bit of TLC.
First of all, the
ha-ganna. Eventually, I’ll add a section to the website describing some of the specialist tools I use for the kumiko, but these four planes are the most critical for the fine detailed work. Without these planes, it would be impossible to cut the short pieces, which can be less than 2 or 3 mm in length.

They work by cutting angles across the grain. This is fine with the soft timbers, but the harder timbers, especially the bloodwood, purpleheart and saffronheart I used in this piece certainly took their toll. My kumiko were 1.6 mm wide, so even for the pieces that ended in a “v” shape, such as the ends going into the vertices in the
kawari-asa and yae-zakura in the photo above, the planes had to cut through 0.8 mm of very hard and dense wood. And for the pieces that had to be cut all the way through, such as the shorter pieces on the kawari-yae-zakura and yae-zakura, it had to cut down to the full 1.6 mm. The photo below is the end result of using the hard timbers. Painful, but one of those unfortunate things that can’t be helped.
All the ha-ganna have some form of blade damage as above, but a few hours on the stones and they’ll be back as good as new. Then a couple of days off before I start on the next project.

Landscape 2 - Light at the end of the tunnel

At last seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. Probably another week or so to go until it’s all finished.


Our hearts go out to all the people caught up in the earthquake and tsunami last week. I think only in the coming weeks will the true extent of the tragedy become clear. Fortunately, all our family members (including daughter Naomi, who is working in Tokyo) and friends are safe, but our thoughts are with those who have not been as fortunate. It will take years for the affected areas to recover, but with the incredible stoicism of the Japanese people, recovery will come and life in those areas will eventually return to some form of normality.

Dahlia pattern

This is the dahlia pattern. It’s the first time I’ve tried this, and I’m reasonably satisfied with the results. It’s fairly straightforward, but as with all other patterns, accuracy is the key. This dahlia is Huon pine and a purple-heart and silver ash feature in the middle.
Dahlia (ダリア) pattern - Huon pine and purple-heart

Over the years I’ve read a lot of comments by so-called “experts” about Japanese woodworking and Japanese tools, and how they’re really only suited to the soft straight-grained timbers such as
sugi, hinoki, aka-matsu, hiba and other softwoods commonly used in Japan. I believe these comments are purely based on poor technique. If you know how to use Japanese saws, planes and chisels properly, and, just as important, know what “sharp” really means and how to get blades truly sharp, then they are just as effective on the hard hardwoods as Western tools.

The following dahlia is silver ash and purple-heart. Silver ash is not especially hard, but purple-heart is certainly a hard and dense timber. The joints were cut in exactly the same way as I cut the Huon pine with my very thin-bladed kumiko hand-saw. And although the hard woods dull the blade much more quickly, there were no broken teeth or other problems that many of the “experts” complain about.
Dahlia (ダリア) pattern - Silver ash and purple-heart

This one is with silver ash and Brazilian bloodwood, which is much denser and harder than purpleheart. The bloodwood was too hard to cut the
jaguchi by the normal technique, so I swapped the timbers around a bit, and used silver ash for these parts instead. But the half-lap housing joints caused no problems at all.
Dahlia (ダリア) pattern - Silver ash and Brazilian bloodwood

So with the proper technique, blades that are truly sharp, and the appropriate care, Japanese tools are not only for softwoods, but certainly suitable for all types of timber.

I’ll add the dahlia to the other patterns in the near future.

Landscape 2 (8)

Progress has been mixed, to say the least. The most time-consuming part has been the kuruma-kikkou pattern for the sky. As I mentioned in the pattern explanation, although this pattern appears fairly simple and straightforward, it is quite difficult. For each component piece, all cuts have to be exact: the interval between the joints, the length from the joints to both ends, and the overall length of the piece. Each triangle consists of three interlocking pieces, and each one has to be exact in relation to the other two. At least I’m now starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel (well off into the distance though).