Apr 022016

Kintai-kyo Bridge

All of the wood I’ve carved so far has come from Lummi Island or the Pacific NW except for some pieces of hinoki cypress. It’s the Douglas fir of Japan, grown for lumber and used in construction. The chunks I have came from the Kintai-kyo Bridge in Iwakuni, Japan. Iwakuni and Everett, Washington have been sister cities for many years and a few years back Iwakuni sent craftsmen and lumber to build a small replica of the Kintai-kyo Bridge in the Japanese Garden at Everett Community College. The Kintai-kyo Bridge was rebuilt around fifteen years ago and my pieces of cypress were left over from that rebuild. So, I don’t know if the wood is from the old bridge or the rebuild. This wood could be 100 years old!

Suffice to say it is completely dry and very hard. The grain is straight and the wood has a wonderful lemony odor. An essential oil is made from the wood is said to have a calming and relaxing effect.

It splits like a dream, has no knots and has a buttery texture. It also sands beautifully. So, except for being very hard, requiring lots of stropping of blades, it is fun to carve. I got brave and decided to try and carve a large bowl. The risk was ruining a very nice piece of wood that could have produced four or more spoons.

The challenge is to carve the bowl with some kind of symmetry. Having the right tools help. One useful tool is a pencil that writes on wet or dry surfaces. I also use a compass to make circles and arcs.


Click on photos to enlarge

I start with a big gouge and whacking on the butt of the handle with a mallet start to rough out the bowl part. Using the gouge I outline the edge of the bowl.

IMG_7538Next I use an adze to clean out as much wood as I can.

IMG_7539 Finally, a large curved knife cleans out the rough spots and evens things up.

This is quite an amazing knife that has a foot long handle I carved which is big enough for two hands giving one lots of leverage and control.


IMG_7544The corners are shaped with a hatchet. Up to this point it’s like orthopedic surgery. Not very pretty.

Really good carvers tool finish their pieces. That is, they don’t sand. They like the look of the tool marks although many of them seem to be able to carve pieces that look like they were sanded. I’m not that good. I reach for the sand paper and use it like plastic surgery to finish up a piece.

The finished bowl still has that lovely hokoni odor. I’ll be sad when I use it all up.The bottom right photo shows the bowl oiled and kolrosed (more on kolrosing later) with the kanji for “Kintai-kyo”




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