Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Bit About What Makes Matsu Kaze Woodworking Tansu Truly Unique

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 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.
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Blog is mainly for sharing images with clients and news about Matsukaze Woodworking. Other comments about craft, woodworking etc... are welcome at my other blog spot. Thank-you!