El Cerrito – Kezuroukai USA 2023

by Karl Bareis

Kez 2023 Blacksmith - Chris Chan

Photo by Chris Chan

The end of September was moist and warm in El Cerrito, California. Trucks rolled into the El Cerrito Community Center early Saturday morning and loads of folks were ready to manhandle their cargo of heavy redwood logs fresh from the peeler. Other volunteers helped to carry the heavy blacksmiths’ anvil to its station.

A village was springing up and woodworkers’ shops unfolded into fascinating, engaging displays of craft. The entire 6000 foot space, both outdoors and inside the main hall, had displays, timber framing stations, and ten planing stations. These were efficiently assembled by the Kez Colorado contingent with help from Laney College woodworking students. Long before the morning program was scheduled to start, all the rooms were completely set up with chairs, tables, charts, and displays.

Kez 2023 Ginger Bareis

Photo by Ginger Bareis

Basically, the outdoor courtyard had five unique stations working all day Saturday. Each station demonstrated a process centered around a single aspect of traditional woodcraft.

At Dave Bernard’s gas powered forge, they were heating up tool steel, and woodworkers could come and talk about their individual tools. They could also see the methods used in forge-welding Japanese style blades.

The hewing station with Yann Giguerre started the day with two large redwood logs. Beginners could see how round logs are laid out, by aligning sighting rods attached to both ends of the logs.

Kez 2023 Sharpening - Karl Bareis

Sharpening station. Photo by Karl Bareis

Up the hill, closer to the main hall, were the sharpening tables. From early Saturday morning a diligent group of woodworkers were honing kanna (plane) blades with various grades of natural and synthetic polishing stones.

Other attendees were working on the process of notching large cross beams, pausing now and then to go sharpen a blade.

It was all quite unplanned; almost as if a village had unfolded in the heart of the Community Center. Perhaps, because our movement has been going for nearly a decade, it appeared that this weekend’s Kezurou-Kai was self-organizing around the various themes being displayed in the main hall.

Our resident stone sleuth, Alex Gilmore, unveiled many “old-new” natural polishing stones at his professional polishing station, where he lectured and demonstrated the best methods to sharpen knives. He shared space with a quiet class by master carpenter David Bassing, who demonstrated use of the sashigana ( Japanese framing squares) to map out roof hips and rainbow rafter curves. This class introduced many students to the rules, steps and tricks of using this essential layout tool.

Whether one came to the Kezuroukai USA event to compete, to volunteer, or to explore, there were plenty of places to fulfill aspirations and gain knowledge.