The production process of Wajimanuri
There are 124 stages in the wajimanuri production process.
Here, we provide a simplified explanation on the process.
The base shape is created with the wooden base. Once the rough shape is created, it is smoked and then it is dried and rests for around one year under the normal temperature. The outer surface turns blackish (as seen on the picture), and the white inside appears when scraped. By completely removing the moisture in the wood, it prevents deformation and cracks, and increases durability.
Four key processes are involved in shaping the wajimanuri.
At Wajima, the craftsmen specialised in this wooden base production process have their own studio.
Base Coating Process
The base coat is invisible to the final product. However, it plays an extremely important role in enhancing the durability of the wajimanuri. It can be described as the unsung hero that is the least appreciated, but most valuable. First, raw lacquer is pored onto the wooden base to prevent the wood from absorbing moisture. "Kosoku Urushi" used in the wooden base making process, is used again to enhance durability and intensity. This process is called "Kiji Katame", literally meaning to harden the wooden surface.
After "Kiji Katame" is the transformational coating process. The delicate ends of the wooden base are coated with a special material made up of a mix of raw lacquer and rice glue. This process is called "Nuno Gise". Next is the "Soumiji Tsuke" process which is the smoothing of the surface after the base is dried. The entire surface is then polished using a grinding stone.
The next process is "Jizuke", which requires three layers of lacquer and three layers of scraping. For the first "Ippen Jizuke", grinded powder made of raw lacquer and rice glue are painted in several layers, and a rough grinding stone is used to lightly scrape the surface to make the next layer of lacquer blend well.
"Nihen Jizuke" which is the next process, means using water and grinding stone to sharpen the surface of where the raw lacquer and rice glue were placed. The grinding powder used for "Nihen Jizuke" is more concentrated than the first "Jizuke" process.
Lastly, "Sanpen Jizuke" is the same as the previous two processes but using smaller powder particles. The difference of the toughness in texture between the three "Jizuke" layers are hard to tell with the naked eye or by touching the surface. Since the finishing touches of the base coat layer can affect the final shape of the product, the Rokuro (wood turner) can be used to perfect the shape.
Internal coating is the painting of purer lacker in preparation for the final coating. Here, lacquer that is purer than the one used for the base coat is used. Then, the item is dried in the "Nushi Buro", a special storage room composed of Japanese cedar trees to dry wajimanuri. It is more about hardening the lacquerware through the moisture removal process, rather than drying up of the water. Therefore, managing the humidity and temperature is extremely crucial. The "Nushi Buro" helps to create strong lacquer.
After internal coating, the dust is removed using the "Kanna", and the grinding stone and water are used to smoothen the internal coating. This process is repeated once and finally, it is cleaned with a cloth.
In the top coating process, the best filtered lacquer is used to paint the surface. The thickness of the paint requires accuracy and a wide range of brushes are used. Extra caution is paid to avoid getting in contact with dust, and therefore, top coating is conducted in a separate room.
When drying, the product is turned around from time to time to maintain the thickness of the lacquer in all directions. The wajimanuri is complete and some go in to the decoration process.
Decorations for wajimanuri are categorised into three different techniques.
The "Makie" technique can use sea shells to enhance the colour and luster of the lacquer. The biggest difference of "Makie" is the detailed size of the gold powder particles in comparison the "Chin Kin". This additional detail helps to create a three dimensional effect in the art. The brush used in "Makie" comes from boat mouse fur, and this is surprisingly becoming rare and expensive.
There is a variety of gold used for "Chin Kin". Gold leaf or gold powder may be used, depending on the product. Gold leaf is more chip-proof so it is used in the carved spaces, whilst the details are left for gold powder. Red and grey powder can also be used. At Taya Shikkiten, we offer unique non-gold "Chin Kin" products.
Lacquer Wiping (Fuki Urushi)
The final touches are the lacquer wiping process, "Fuki Urushi". The surface is coated with raw lacquer and is wiped using a special cloth. This process is repeated. This is a relatively quick process compared to the main coating process. The freshly finished product is a warm, perfect blend of lacquer and wood.