Articles

Sometimes, Seeing is Believing

What is learned by observing craftsmen more skilled than yourself comes with certain surprises. First is how easy, comfortable and relaxed they seem to be while working. From personal experience of 40 years, this comfort and ease are hard fought challenges to be won. Learning to get out of your own way is not always easy or obvious. Figuring out the intricate steps of procedures and techniques are usually seen as “in the way of getting done” – sharpening a chisel/plane blade when way past due. Read More …

The Path to Japan Winds Through My Grandfather’s Tool Chest

My grandparents’ farmhouse in Stockton had a dirt cellar. In it were many things: jars of pickles, crocks of dried fruit, paint cans – the usual stuff. But what drew me like a magnet was my grandfather’s tool chest. Because he was extremely protective of it and its contents, I learned from my older cousins that the chest was to be treated like a sacred object. I remember sneaking into the cellar to examine the mysterious artifacts in the chest. To my regret, the barriers of language and the generations kept me from learning more. I could only guess what they were and what could be done with them. Yet these were the tools that he packed across the Pacific Ocean to a strange land with the hope that with his hands and tools he could earn enough to live and to send home to his wife and family. Sixty years later grandpa’s tool chest lives with me. Read More …

Self Introduction by Shohei Araki (Daiku-san from Takayama City, Gifu Prefecture)

Kimoriya The basis of the traditional Japanese life style is the desire to co-exist with nature. The workings of nature and of the human relationship with the forest-built house is older and closer due to the agricultural base of Japan. We are interested in the many kinds of trees which make up the traditional home and, as a carpenter, it is my mission to make the “future home of the tree” using the traditional construction methods by-hand with nomi and saw. Everyone knows that the traditional construction methods, combined with knowledge of the careful use of the forest resources, has influenced the way houses were designed and built. If there is support for the continued skills of carpentry and methods allowing direct communication with (woodcutter’s) aimed to foster the forest and create wooden homes, more and better homes will be designed as the result. Read More …

What Way

The matter of how best to do a thing, any given thing, seems to come up quite often. In almost every walk of life, even regarding the most mundane things, most of us have fairly strong opinions as to the best, or right, way to do almost everything. As a young martial arts student I struggled to practice form in the precise manner that my masters insisted, sometimes with great difficulty and sometimes with less than satisfactory results. At that time most styles were taught in a very rigid, systematic manner and deviation from form was considered failure. The same could be said for a wide variety of activities or pursuits, even today. When I began using Japanese tools and techniques I was still of the mind that there would be a right way to work using them and set about to find it. I never did. Read More …

Japanese Wisteria Arbor: A Traditional Concept Described

This year (2016) Hakone Garden is replacing its 60 year old wisteria azumaya. Described below is the most traditional way for suspending wisteria vines over a viewing platform. Function and form combined: It’s only on very close observation that the spanning proportions reveal the logic of this elegant structure, used in holding up the ancient twisted and heavy wisteria vines. Read More …

Flattening the ura (backside) of Japanese chisels

When a blade’s cutting edge is badly cracked or chipped a grinder can be used to speed the process of removing metal and getting the edge angle back to what the user feels is right for the type of wood being worked. I have always favored a hand-cranked grinder. It is slower and takes a bit of hand control to achieve good results but there is very little risk of the hard steel getting too hot and possibly drawing the temper out. Grinding causes a hollow grind on the bevel, which should be removed by sharpening on water stones, before attempting to tap out. This insures that the hard steel is well supported by the softer iron above it. Read More …

An Introduction to Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, CA

We were indeed fortunate to hold Kezurou-kai 2016 at the inspiring and serene Hakone Gardens estate. A more fitting setting would be difficult to find. In its centennial year in 2016, HG was the vision of Isabel and Oliver C. Stine of San Francisco who embarked on the creation of a retreat with a Japanese garden and buildings in 1916. While inspired in part by the gardens and structures at the 1915 Panama–Pacific International Exposition (San Francisco) and the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park, Hakone Gardens seems a natural extension of Mrs. Stine’s life-long fascination with Japanese performing arts and culture. Her visit to Japan early in 1917 (then the Taisho era) added further inspiration and work at the barren site began upon her return. Read More …

Fifty years of persevering as a blacksmith

The third generation Funahiro (Yuji Funatsu) attended night classes in high school while helping his father (Kouzou) during the day. When he was in 5th grade, Kouzou became an apprentice of first generation Mr. Ikeda (current Kunikei) of the Sanjo blacksmiths and continued until he was 20 years old. A famous kanna blacksmith, Hatsuhiro, lived nearby, and father visited him often and learned about heat treatment. He told me the stories often. Read More …

The Fresh Side of Old

The long road that is traditional Japanese joinery, construction, and tool making received renewed interest in the 1960’s when a few intrepid American individuals journeyed to Japan to work and study. Those few returned home after many years of toil and achievement, bringing with them the tools of the trade and the trade itself (this is not your father’s woodworking). A few traditionally trained Japanese Daiku also started to join us here with their specialized training and insights and camaraderie. After many years those of us who benefitted from what washed ashore with these craftsmen have stepped up to carry on the work of passing it on. It is this desire to continue the person-to-person transmission of work that led to the birth of Kezurou-kai USA. Read More …

Mini-Kez Is Back !

Soon after a nationwide lock-down was announced in March 2020, our non-profit organization began to mobilize a campaign to teach on-line classes. Our organization has continued to teach more on-line classes throughout the three years since Covid-19 disrupted our public gatherings. Now as our focus turns to the next big National event at the end of September 2023, we also want to report on an international kez movement which has grown and spread. “Mini-kez” is a term to describe the informal gatherings which have taken on momentum and help foster the Kezurou-kai spirit of sharing. Read More …