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Contemporary Japanese furniture

 
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Betting



Joined: 01 Jun 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 6:11 am    Post subject: Contemporary Japanese furniture Reply with quote

Hi all, my first post here! I've been living in Japan for about 14 years and have recently decided to learn a few more things, never too old to learn new tricks.

One of things I'd like to learn about is Japanese furniture. Would anyone know the names of the woods that are used here in contemporary/modern Japanese furniture (that is made in Japan, not made overseas and imported)? I've been searching the internet for days but it seems to be quite a hard topic to research. I know a few of the basic woods, but if someone could give me a few tips or point me in the right direction it would be greatly appreciated.

Best regards
Betting
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Hotaka Kagu



Joined: 10 May 2007
Posts: 89
Location: Hotaka, Japan

PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 7:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The major ones for furniture are:

Hardwoods

Nara, Misu Nara - Oak
Tochi - Horse Chestnut
Keyaki - Zelkova
Tamo - Ash
Sakura - Cherry
Mizumi zakara - A kind of cherry
Kaba - Birch
Kaidei - Maple
Nirei - Elm
Enju - A Legum like Acacia
Kuwa - Mulberry
Kerumi - Walnut
Nashi - Pear
Kuri - Chestnut
Kiri - Paulownia
There are others like Yanagi and Katsura, used more sparingly, or for specific applications.

Softwoods

Ichi - Yew wood
Matsu - Pine
Sugi - Cedar
Hinoki - Cypress


Last edited by Hotaka Kagu on Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:38 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Betting



Joined: 01 Jun 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 9:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks HK, really appreciated!
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Hotaka Kagu



Joined: 10 May 2007
Posts: 89
Location: Hotaka, Japan

PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2007 8:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One more comes to mind, Sen wood, of the ivy and ginseng family. It is frequently used in both the solid and veneer.

HK
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Chris Hall
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 439
Location: Vancouver Island, B.C.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 1:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dennis, a couple of notes on the spelling...

Japanese walnut is kurumi 胡桃 (not 'kerumi'). Curiously, the kanji used for this wood literally means 'foreign peach'

And yew is ichii with two 'i''s 一位 (not 'ichi')

The list was pretty much complete - nicely done!

Betting, if you live in a city larger than 250,000 there ought to be a decent mokuzai-ya around. I see you're in Tokyo, so there will be lots of places within a train or subway ride I'm sure. Would it be possible to find a local woodworker and ask him where to source materials?

Kiri, called Paulownia or Princess Tree, is commonly used for interior parts of tansu, though often enough the whole chest is made of kiri as well. It is very light, both in color and density, and very stable in service. Sugi is a common enough substitute for kiri for interior furniture panels, drawer sides, and so forth. Keyaki is a common choice for tansu carcase pieces as well, often lacquered. It has a vivid flat grain appearance. Hinoki use is confined mostly to household shrine furnishings and the like, and is too soft for regular use as a furniture piece.

Chris
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Betting



Joined: 01 Jun 2007
Posts: 3
Location: Tokyo, Japan

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 4:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Once again guys, many thanks for these replies, they're really appreciated.

Now it's off to research into Janka ratings. I'm doing a special project, hopefully I can show you guys in a few more months why I've been asking this stuff!
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Hotaka Kagu



Joined: 10 May 2007
Posts: 89
Location: Hotaka, Japan

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 7:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the corrections, Chris. There are also regional dialects for the names of some spcies. In my area Of Nagano ken, the locals refer to Ichii as "Minezo". That's the only one I know of, but I think there must be more.

In Tokyo there is an area called Kiba. A lot of wood merchants have their operations there, the place has a history for it. I don't go there much because the prices tend to be quite high. Good material is available however.

Probably a bad typhoon season is coming here. Betting might be building another Ark? Leave out the %@+^ monkeys please.

Dennis
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bakabo



Joined: 27 Dec 2006
Posts: 53
Location: chicago, illinois

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 11:55 am    Post subject: Contemporary Japanese furniture Reply with quote

Chris,

Are you sure hinoki is not used anymore for tansu? It certainly was the main carcase wood for mizuya-, kaidan-, and futon-dansu.

Bakabo
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Chris Hall
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Location: Vancouver Island, B.C.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 1:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well Bakabo, I can't really say with absoluteness whether Hinoki, or any other wood is used strictly for some item or another, however Hinoki would not be the best choice for furniture to be used in the daily environment. In Japan, Hinoki is strongly associated to Shinto ideals of purity and cleanliness, and is thus usually used in the shiraki manner, that is, without any finish applied. So, if you handle Hinoki (or it's cousins in N. America, AKC ("beihiba" in Japan)and POC ("hiba")), the oils in your skin transfer quite readily and show up (up to a year later) as marks on the wood - not to mention what happens if you have dirty hands).

The typical applications I have seen for Hinoki in furniture is, again, home shrine equipment, as well as furniture pieces locked away and never used inside of some shrine buildings. Architectural millwork is where Hinoki is most used, and it is among the most expensive options available, sold in upwards of 14 different grades. A very wealthy person might have hinoki-framed shoji, along with other components of their house, like posts, ranma, etc. Like I said, it's not a good choice for a furniture piece that will receive a lot of handling or usage, as it shows marks and dents very readily. Now, some people actually like wood that shows marks and dents readily, but that's another discussion....

I believe each wood has its ideal applications, and for me, woods of the chamaecyparis family are outstanding in their workability and resistance to fungi. Thus, exterior architectural applications, use in carved panels, or in wooden o-furo oke (soaking tubs) make the most sense to me. In timber framing, I would readily choose it for posts, but would tend to look for other woods for use as beams, since these are many choices which exhibit greater resistance to deflection than Hinoki and its relatives, at a lower price point.

Betting, I've visited Bruce Hoadley at the Univ. of Massachusetts before, and seen a Janka-scale hardness testing machine. It's pretty simple: a press is used to push a 0.5" ball bearing into the surface of a piece of wood. When the ball is pressed in to 1/2 its diameter, i.e., 0.25", they measure at that point how much force was used to press it - this comes back as a certain number of p.s.i (or other measure, like kN/cm if I recall correctly). The hardest wood, as far as I know, is lignum vitae, requiring over 4000 lbs. to push the ball halfway in.
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bakabo



Joined: 27 Dec 2006
Posts: 53
Location: chicago, illinois

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 1:45 pm    Post subject: Contemporary Japanese furniture Reply with quote

Chris,
I refer to to Ty Heinken's Tansu and David Jackson's Japanese Cabinetry which both show numerous examples of hinoki used in everyday cabinetry...as noted in my previous post. Your preference vs. the JN craftsmen in previous times is noted.
Bakabo
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Chris Hall
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
Posts: 439
Location: Vancouver Island, B.C.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Heineken book Tansu is an excellent reference for authentic Tansu and other furnishings (the same cannot be said for the Jackson book, IMO), and thumbing through my copy, I can only find a few examples of pieces made from 'cypress':

p. 45 "Samurai trunk for official possessions" (unlikely to be used or handled much, and lacquered to protect the finish)

p.47 "double door clothing chest" (again, lacquered, used for kimono storage, and now a museum piece)

p.129 "Tsuruoka trousseau chest" (again lacquered for protection, and note the Shinto and Buddhist motifs - perhaps the bride was marrying a priest or was a priest's daughter)

The other hundred of pieces illustrated in that book are overwhelmingly of Zelkova and/or kiri construction, and to a lesser extent cryptomeria, with a smattering of other woods.

I thumbed through the Jackson book once, and if I recall (I'd rather not) it doesn't deal with authentic tansu to any great extent (excuse my snobbery here), so I can't comment upon its contents. It's a glossy coffee table book dealing with superficialities of the form, and that's about it.

I think Japanese craftsmen have long made intelligent choices about which woods were suitable for which applications, and I definitely take that lesson to heart.
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bakabo



Joined: 27 Dec 2006
Posts: 53
Location: chicago, illinois

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 3:32 pm    Post subject: Contemporary Japanese furniture Reply with quote

I try to avoid myth perpetuation. So the Jackson book fails on what evidence? Nice images mean superficiality? How are the tansu inauthentic?
Are the attributions to time , area of construction and wood species wrong?
It would be disheartening if his work was somehow proven to be inaccurate or flat out wrong...he is a dear friend. I'll forward your comments to him. I'm interested in his feedback as well as yours.

Thanks,


Bakabo
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Chris Hall
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Joined: 31 Aug 2005
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Location: Vancouver Island, B.C.

PostPosted: Sun Jun 03, 2007 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My apologies. I'll take another look at the book when I get a chance ( a friend of mine has a copy)- I may have rushed to condemn Jackson's book prematurely, without having had a decent enough look at it. I know I decided not to buy it for some reason - it was 3 or 4 years ago that I last came across it. I hope your friend does not take my words too much to heart.

What myth perpetuation are you referring to?
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