Wednesday, June 04, 2008


6 days in Japan

Reflexion of the sun on a copper foil used for roof restoration of the Inu Shrine

Daily work in a Japanese workshop

During this 6 days stay in Japan I have had the chance to work in Mr Sugimura's workshop. Mr Sugimura is a temple maker, also head and creator of kezuroukai.
What stroke me in the workshop, and I believe it is the same in most if not all similar workshops around Japan, was the cohabitation of modern electric machinery with traditional tools and instruments.

Tenons, at least those I have seen being cut in front of me, on beams meant for a house structure, are not with a hand saw but with a device (which I can not name) equipped with 4 motors and 4 blades, cutting in one single pass all sides of the tenons.

At the same time, these tenons and other markings are drawn with a sumisashi dipped into the ink pot of a sumitsubo. The later is also frequently used when it comes to draw straight lines on long beams, including round ones.

Marking tenons with a sumisashi

A sumisashi. They are made from the outer part of big bamboos, sold preformed and to be finished by the craftman.

Mr Mori's selfmade sumitsubo

An interesting tool is this power plane. The blade is fixed and the piece (big, otherwise small hand plane would be used) is carried on top of it. It is impressive to see in work, the beam on the photo is grasped and accelerates significantly before reaching the blade, then it stops at the end of the table and comes back in the hands of the operator. It happened that the pressure of the upper rollers was not enough and the beam continued its course straight ahead, of the nobody was at the other end to catch the beam back.
I used the machine and it is actually fairly simple to operate.
Shavings are checked to assess the quality of the planed surface: a continuous long shaving promises a smooth surface.
For an effective and tear free surface, care must be taken to send the beam ... foot first, with the head (atama) pointing toward the operator. Foot and head refer here to the tree as if it was standing. The head is marked with the sumisashi, if it is not then one has to observe the wood grain, knots are very helpful for this purpose.

Inu Jinja (dog shrine) restoration

The Inu shrine is located in Nagoya, Aichi prefecture. It was believed that the emperor Temmu (天武天皇) was harvesting rice in the area surrounding the shrine. Temmu was the 40th emperor of Japan, where he ruled from a.d. 672 to 686.
One of the main purpose of the restoration is to remedy to a decaying roof: replacing decomposing parts, replacing macadam paper with more durable cooper sheets. Against common belief, hinoki or its Taiwanese brother kuaimu (which made parts of the shrine) does decay, if it is left in a constant humid envrionment, such as under sheets of macadam papers. It could however be kept decennies if kept in water.

Coper smiths at work on the roof on the Inu Shrine

Kiso wood market

Kiso is a town in Nagano prefecture. It is a 100km drive from Nagoya.

All the wood sold at this timber market is kiso hinoki, the place where it is harvested gave its name to the wood.

It is different from the Taiwan closest relative, chamaecyparis obtusa var formosana and chamaecyparis formosensis. The smell is different, though somehow related, the kiso hinoki smell is lighter and maybe a bit more spicy than its two Taiwan brothers. Color is pale yellow as the Taiwan's closest relative.


I ask for their help in the following purchases of wood products.
Wholesalers, distributors are looking for.

Ayous/samba/obeche veneer:-0.6mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 10mm.
Paulownia/kiri/sugi veneer:-0.6mm, 1mm, 4mm, 5mm, 10mm.
Hinoki veneer/ wood:-0.6mm, 1mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 10mm.
Width: 180mm-250mm
I look forward to the prices of veneers.
Can I have a list price of veneer and other wood exota.
What is the minimum quantity of each size available?
How much is the postage to Hungary and under what conditions?
What are the payment terms?
Thank you.
Tibor Hegedüs
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