Shogawa woodcraft Shogawa hikimono kiji
Warm and attractive natural wood grain patterns
Simple and beautiful traditional crafts
What is Shogawa woodcraft ?
Shogawa woodcrafts are mostly woodcraft articles such as bowls or trays made in a wide area of the Toyama Prefecture including the city of Takaoka and the city of Tonami. Shogawa woodcrafts were designated as a traditional craft by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 1978 for its simple yet beautifully made wood craftwork. The characteristic of Shogawa woodcrafts is the intrinsic appearance of texture of the Japanese zelkova with its unique figure grain. In the making of items, logs are sawn in a longitudinal direction and processed so that the grain runs laterally, allowing a clear display of the grain. Even items made with the same procedure will be finished very differently as it utilizes each characteristic of different trees. Every different unique characteristic adds enjoyable moments to choose an item. Shogawa woodcrafts develop their unique features with time. There are two main types of Shogawa woodcrafts, which are the plain wood finished ones and those finished with Japanese urushi lacquer. In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for unpolished plain wood products by enthusiasts who like to apply their own coating themselves.
At the end of the 16th century, the Kaga domain was ruling the area around the current city of Kanazawa and had started to transport Japanese cypress and Japanese zelkova along the Shogawa river leading to Toyama bay. This new trade is said to have led to the subsequent development of Shogawa woodcraft, as before long, driftwood lost in transit were washed up in a basin in the town of Shogawa. During the late Edo period (1603-1868), people attempted to utilize the gathered timbers, which was the beginning of the production of plain-wood products. In the Meiji period (1868-1912), lathes started to be used, and this was the origin of the Shogawa woodcraft known today. It is said to take ten years of practice to be able to really operate a lathe and make Shogawa woodcraft. For this reason, at that time, many artisans began training immediately after they finished compulsory elementary school education. During the Showa period (1926-1988), the market of Shogawa woodcraft expanded across the whole country, and even today the traditional manufacturing skills are preserved. These beautiful pieces of woodcraft are still much appreciated nationwide.
General Production Process
- 1. Raw wood Shogawa woodcraft mainly uses Japanese zelkova and Japanese horse chestnut. Japanese zelkova is hard, has rigidity and a beautiful wood grain. Japanese horse chestnut fits well with Japanese lacquer and is resistant to warping. Recently, the use of other types of wood such as mulberry and Japanese pagoda is also increasing.
- 2. Sawing Logs are sawn into boards of the size of the products to be made. They are usually cut at a saw mill, not in the artisan's workshop.
- 3. Stacking the boards The sawn boards are stacked in piles, exposed to the wind and rain, and left to dry naturally for about six months to one year. This removes the lye, which are substances that cause discoloration, and the lumber becomes rigid and resistant to warping.
- 4. Cutting to size The designs are carefully traced avoiding any knots and cracks found in the inspection carried out beforehand. This process requires years of experience and heavy attention. Then the lumber is cut into the rough size of the products with a circular saw.
- 5. Rough turning As the lumber has only been roughly cut to size, the shape is pretty angular. The next step is rough turning using a lathe and plane to round off the angles.
- 6. Drying The roughly turned wood pieces are piled up with some space between each pile in a flame drying chamber and are dried until the moisture content is around 8%. They then go through a process to restore the original moisture. The wood is removed from the drying chamber and exposed to the outside air until the moisture content has risen to about 12%, and is then dried for another two weeks. This is an important process to correct any warpage of the plain wood products.
- 7. Finishing In the finishing process, the lathe and plane are used again to plane the wood into the final shapes. Shogawa woodcraft has a unique finishing procedure which starts from the outer surface. Thick planes perform rough planing to adjust the shape, and a plane with a thin blade is used to smoothen the surface. At this time, in order to create natural curves, planing is performed in single strokes, which is another characteristic of Shogawa woodcraft. After the planing, the surface is filed with sandpaper.
- 8. Applying Japanese lacquer All the processes for plain wood products are finished with the filing. However, if a lacquer coating is to be applied, the process of rubbing in lacquer and polishing repeatedly is carried out. A lathe is used to coat the piece repeatedly with raw lacquer to give a good shine and gloss.
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