Sunday, February 17, 2013

Exploring the Construction details of the Curly Koa and Sugi Chadansu

 This is post three in exploring the  construction details of  the recent Chadansu 
completed by Matsu Kaze Woodworking in Hilo Hawaii.

 The chadansu started out by milling the Koa for the carcass flat and true.

 The joinery, after the grunt work is done by machines, is carried out primarily by hand.
                                                     My rule is, if you can see it, then it's done by hand.

I have come to be quite quick at it.  For one off custom pieces, it is the most versatile and fastest route.

There are more than 200 dovetails in the chest. All hand cut!

Making the pins and tails smaller towards the edges creates tension, more surface area= more friction, creates greater mechanical strength in the corner and is pleasing to the eye. 
 For Isho Tansu I use a coarser pitch.

 Full blind sliding dovetails hold interior shelves in place above. And below is a sliding dovetail concealed in a sword tip miter joint.  It was pretty tricky getting that interior drawer assembly together. It could not be test fitted with the back of the cabinet in place.
There are no screws or biscuits used, only traditional ( and not so traditional) joinery methods.

 Combined with the twin tenon joint  coming up thru the bottom of the sliding dovetail joint below ,


                                      Together they create a locking  four way intersection.


All the other vertical dividers are morticed and tenoned with twin tenons each. All wedged so that they can not be pulled apart even when the glue fails.

The drawer guides are held in place with mortice and tenon joints as well. Designed to allow expansion and contraction of the wide panels of the carcass.

In all there are about 150 mortice and tenon joints in the piece! Built to last Dynasties!

The back was made in frame and panel construction, morticed and tenoned with thru tenons combined with sword tip miters and adorned with the bead and corner detail that would tie with the decor of the front.
The goal was to create a piece that could be appreciated from all sides.

The koa used here for the back was as fine grained as any pattern grade Mahogany  Beautiful creamy gold color. It polished to a high sheen with hand planes above. And with the blonde shellac finish below...

The bead on the frame was created with a small detail plane I made fashioned after an antique I had found
on the internet. The original was designed only to be used from one direction. But since I work many
gnarly woods I made mine so that it could be reversed and worked in two directions depending on the grain.Here is the original....


And my rendition.....

Here's a pic of the doors using the same bead detail as the back panel. Made with the kanna above.

This was a HUGE improvement of my earlier method of creating the bead with several other small koganna , shirabiki,followed by detail knives etc.... The corners are of course carved in.

Trying to rush thru a bit now. There is much more that could be elaborated upon, please feel free to ask.
I am only highlighting the overall construction and the methods used.
The piece took some 400 hours  to complete. Much of which I took the time to photodoc. I do not normally take so many gratuitous pics but this was a big piece and rather involved. Just in sheer amount of parts alone. And I thought a disc with construction images for the new owner would be nice to give.

 I am already on another project , so am hoping to catch up the blog an get current.
Here's a sneak peak at the current Monkey Pod Slab Table I am building for some amazingly patient clients;^) Thanks for hanging in !


It features a 4" thick by 42~54" wide by 10 foot long Monkey Pod slab with a splayed leg base that is designed with lay out methods of Japanese convention dealing with splayed post construction such as water towers, bell towers, even step stools and saw horses. Should be a stout table, weighs  in about 700lbs........

Thanks for stopping by the shop and reading about what's current at

simple devices for inspired living

H    i    l    o         H    a    w    a    i    i

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Bit About What Makes Matsu Kaze Woodworking Tansu Truly Unique

Aloha Everyone, Thank-you for visiting the

 Matsu Kaze Woodworking Blog!

 I wanted to take a moment and share some images taken during the production of the Chadansu I featured in the last post. Much to do with the Chadansu's construction is not immediately apparent from pictures of the piece. And the process in which the Tansu are created has a distinct affect on the finished work.

  I would like to introduce some of the material used to recreate this piece that was featured in the book  "Traditional Japanese Chests" by Koizumi Kazuko. This Tansu is not an exact reproduction. Although I took many liberties in the construction, it's scale and proportions are similar, merely improving upon an already great work. The tansu is built for today's modern client.

Let's first meet the wood.
And  ALOT of wood was used in the creation of this piece.The cabinet weighs about ( or over) 300lbs to my estimations with well over 100 board feet of lumber used. Approximately 50 board feet (bft) of Curly Koa, 24 bft of fine grained gold Koa , 35 bft Cypress,  10 bft Port Orford Cedar, 6 bft Curly Sugi and a little piece of Koa'ai.

Let's start with the Sugi.
 I helped a friend slab up a gnarly curly Sugi log in Mountain View here on the Island of Hawaii near the volcano a few years ago. Like most of my materials, I get them fresh cut (green) or cut them myself, slow air dry them and finish the drying in a solar kiln to a desired moisture content.You really get know the material like an old friend as you shape it from tree and years later, a piece furniture.
 Here is a picture of a slab and face of a plank resawn from that Sugi log.

This is NOT typical Sugi. It's quite rare. The Sugi, a Japanese cryptomeria, were planted here around 1910 in upper elevations which would still be quite warm for the specie. They tend to exhibit the darker colors that the warmer areas in Japan produce. Otherwise Sugi is typically lighter in color and the growth rings denser. It is a soft wood and this particular log similar to curly Redwood I have seen.

The primary wood of the cabinet is Curly Koa from the Palani Ranch. It's very interesting and lively. There are wider bands of flowing curl similar to quilting that is over laid with tighter curl. It was pretty much the same through the whole log. This is an image of an interior shelf  finished with shellac prior to assembly.

Another project using the Palani Ranch koa is this Isho Hitsu pictured above. When I found this wood I was so inspired by it I purchased most of the tree. And then went back and dug around the mill scavenging the last bits on other occasions since. Simply beautiful material.

My basic methodology is to build like they did in the 18th century. Wide boards and traditional joinery.  If I do have to glue boards to make a larger panel, it is never any more than two. 
Wide boards are not readily available and sources for matching material or sequential lots are quite hard to come by.  Usually you will need to buy a log , then have it custom cut. This is desirable as you can be part of the creative process right in the beginning and have lumber sawn for specific projects. Machinery to process wide material is not common among furniture shops but it was important for me to be able to incorporate it as a design element in my work. Some of the advantages of using wide boards is continuity of grain and figure across the panel , more strength = longeveity, also one less step in the process of preparing material for joinery!

The top of the Chadansu is one nice 14" wide single plank. Shown above freshly hand planed and below after completion.....

The Portuguese cypress ( above) is a wood that I have been using as a replacement to the Port Orford Cedar (really a cypress) in an effort to use locally harvested materials as much as possible to reduce the carbon foot print of my business. I use it primarily for drawers and cabinet interiors, backs and such. It is mostly planted as an ornamental but can get quite large. For a conifer growing in the tropics the growth rings are very dense and the wood can be exceptionally heavy. Here's and image of the growth rings up close.....

And then the cypress used in drawer construction......

The drawer interiors are left with only a hand planed surface. The Japanese planes I use leave such an exceptional shine on the wood that finish is not needed and it does not cover the aromatic qualities of the Cypress.

I have been really enjoying using the Acacia Koa here in Hawaii where it is endemic and  found no where else in the world. It's different than other Acacia in that it has a deep inner glow with gold overtones. The wood refracts light in a unique way changing throughout the day as the sun moves around your home. It creates different moods within the same cabinet.

In the next post I will share the construction and joinery details of the chadansu and why it makes this piece uniquely hand crafted.
 Follow this blog to be notified of current posts!

Simple Devices for Inspired Living

H  i  l  o      H  a   w   a   i   i