I found this in my mailbox the other day. It’s an essential addition to the collection of every contemporary man and woman: a book on making planks out of a tree. With hand saws, no less, as you can probably guess from the comically proportioned saw in the cover. Not something you see every day. The man behind the saw is the writer Iichi Hayashi. Coincidentally, the kanji character for the name Hayashi is
which means ‘grove’ or ‘forest’. See the two trees? Or rather the tree trunks sticking out of the ground and the three roots underneath each trunk?
But I digress. The whole title of the book in romaji is Ki o yomu – Edo kobiki, kantan no waza. ‘Kobiki’ were sawyers who cut planks out of logs in Edo period 1603–1868, and possibly before and some time after that before industrialization made their profession obsolete. Roughly translated the title is Reading trees – Edo sawyers, Admiration of technique. It’s quite amazing that there is still a person, if not a few people, with the know-how, and who took the time to put the knowledge in covers.
Here’s a peek of a couple of random pages.
Basic anatomy of an ‘oga’ saw. Literally translated ‘big saw’. Kanji characters have different pronunciations and slightly different meanings depending on context. The kanji for ‘big’ is ‘大’ often pronounced dai and ‘saw’ is ‘鋸’ or nokogiri.
But put together they become just oga. Go figure.
A detail of a saw tooth. I’ve seen one or two pictures of such teeth before. I think the hollow round shape at the tip acts as a kind of chip breaker for the wood being cut, curling the chip away from the tooth. It may be explained in the text. There’s just one obvious problem. I spent 10 minutes coming up with a translation for the book title alone. There’s only one way to fix that:
No hidden meaning in the picture.
Back to the book. Here the author is marking out a cut.
I bought the book second hand via Amazon. The previous owner had left a bookmark between the pages. I wonder what “puratonikku sekkusu” or “platonic sex” means… If platonic love is non-sexual love, is platonic sex non-loving sex? Or rather, what is to sex that sex is to love?
I’m sure you’re eager to get your own copy, so here are the details of the book:
Printed in Japan
I was out mountain biking and came across a possible source of iron ore. I took small samples in my pocket.
At home, I carried out some tests on the pieces to determine what minerals I got. Mostly to refresh myself on what I learned in the Making of Money. Looking at these pictures now, I should have put something for scale, a ruler or a banana or something. The biggest pieces are roughly 50 mm / 2″.
By scratching the piece with a steel spike you get a rough measure of the hardness of the mineral on the Mohs scale. Ore minerals are quite soft and can be easily scratched. There are other red rocks that are not iron ore that are hard enough to resist scratching. For example, quartz can be red or can be stained red by iron oxide on the surface but is harder than steel and doesn’t contain iron. Of course, steel comes in many flavours as well and the spike that I used doesn’t feel very hard. I ground it from an old tool, maybe a screwdriver, that I found somewhere.
Scraping the specimen against unglazed porcelain – I used a fuse for this – leaves a streak of powdered mineral. The color of the streak is important. Limonite leaves a yellow, brown or reddish streak and hematite leaves a deeper red color. I think that most of my samples are limonite and one piece is hematite. What I believe to be hematite is the small flaky rock to the right of the fuse. The brightest red streak on the fuse is from that rock. It also partly has a metallic sheen, which is common with hematite.
I touched the rocks with a magnet but didn’t feel any attraction. Hematite and limonite are not magnetic but yet another iron ore, magnetite, perhaps not surprisingly, is. However, if you take a piece of hematite or limonite and heat it bright red, it becomes slightly magnetic. I think some of it converts into magnetite but I am not quite sure what happens. I tried to look it up, but couldn’t really find any sources now. No matter, I decided to try that anyway.
I set up a tiny firebrick “oven” and placed a sample in.
I heated the piece with a gas torch, turning it around with a steel pick to get an even heat througout.
Let it cool.
Now, can I grab it with a magnet?
Another sample seemed like it was inflating in the fire. The rocks were still moist since I had just brought them inside. I think the water in the cracks of the rock expanded and caused it to swell. Only a red shell was left intact with sandy texture inside.
Here is the same roasted piece on the right. On the left is the other half of the same rock that I didn’t roast. You can see the different composition on the inside on that one too. The roasted piece turned a much deeper red color, except for the inside which remained pretty much unchanged.
The roasted part is really crumbly. From these close up shots it looks to me like the insides are quartz sand weakly held together. Quartz is common in iron ores, but this seems to have a lot of it. It has a lower melting point than iron and becomes slag in the smelting process. That is normal, but too much is too much. I would try to remove most of it before the smelt. In this case, by picking up the good stuff with a magnet and throwing the quartz out or mixing it in with the clay to make the bloomery itself.
Here’s the flaky bit that I assumed to be hematite, which I broke to pieces after roasting to show the cross section. Seems nice, especially the top surface, but I still don’t have any kind of certainty of the identifications. I’ll go collect some more of this stuff and make a small bloomery again.
I didn’t take many pictures while making this one, but here’s what I got.
The piece sawn out from the blank. The steel stock is the same 2 mm steel plate, that I used for the Whiskers.
I wanted the silhouette of the cats’ ears, feet and tails to be the main focus along with the silver eyes, of course, but a completely flat base seemed to be lacking something. So I decided to hammer a slight dome in the blank before sawing out the shape to give it a bit more depth.
After sawing, the dome looked like it could have been a little deeper. By cutting out the ”not sculpture” areas I also cut away some of the overall effect of the dome. The shape is there, but could have been a bit more pronounced. I guess you’re not supposed to point out your flaws, though? Oops. Wait, that makes for two flaws in a row!
Instead of keeping with strict traditionalism, I applied some improvised ghetto jewellery techniques. I glued some rough sandpaper on the flat ends of 10 mm diameter wooden dowels to make sanding bits. I figured that they would wear out fast on steel, so I made a bunch and went for lunch.
I attached the workpiece to the pitch bowl and a sanding bit in a cordless drill and tried if I could make some swirls of fur-like lines on the base. I didn’t try to define any recognisable cat shapes but rather just an abstract texture. It’s a pile of kittens after all, you can’t tell where one cat ends and another one begins.
A surprisingly difficult task, actually, to make a texture that is both even, but not too repetitive, flowy, but still chaotic.
You can see the center punch marks at the locations of the eyes. At the time, I didn’t think that I would show these work in progress pictures anywhere so I didn’t take any of the inlaying of the eyes. I’ll write another post on that sometime. The technique is called ten zōgan (点象嵌 dot inlay). Basically you punch a round hole in the base metal, but not all the way through. Stick a piece of wire in the hole – 1 mm silver wire in this case – cut it so it protrudes slightly. Then tap the wire in with a suitable sized punch that has a hollow round face, forming the round top of the inlay.
For lack of pictures, I’ll skip to the end… Here is the Pile in its final state.