LumberJocks Woodworking Forum banner
  • Please post in our Community Feedback thread for help with the new forum software! If you are having trouble logging in, please Contact Us for assistance.

Project Information

Yes another Japanese style box. This one is a classic writing box design, a suzuribako. It is complete with most of the accoutrements of the Japanese brush writing technique. These elaborate, luxurious boxes decorated with a range of lacquer techniques become very collectable items for 'westerners' from the mid 1800s onwards. You can see more of them here where I got my inspiration from.





They command high prices today. A suzuribako was often made as part of a set together with a writing table -bundai, and a letter/document box - fubako. I may get round to making these as well to complete the set!

The design style of this box called a katamigawari pattern. Essentially a lighten bolt divides the surfaces in two with different veneers on each half. It is also found on the interior as as well.



Its quite a simple box veneered with contrasting red maple burl and birds eye maple. Traditionally it would have been different lacquer designs on each half, though they were often red and gold. It was constructed as a sealed plywood box and then cut in half. Splines were used on the corners. The inside has the same katamigawari design as the outside but with the addition of sprinkled gold dust. This was done beforer the box was glued together.

To get the pattern to match on the outside, I didn't apply the veneer until after the box had been cut in half and the lid fitted accurately. Cutting it after veneering would have meant the line of the 'lightening bolt' would have been off-set as some would have been lost in the cut.



More difficult than making the outer box was, the removable tray for all the calligraphy tools. It is made from jarrah strips with small halving joints, housings and the odd mortice and tenon.



The tray holds most of the classic accoutrements associated with writing boxes of the 1800's



The tools are:
Suzuri - ink-stone The most prized item.
Fude - brushes. Three of these have a common handle that the tips screw into.
Fude oki - Brush rest
Kogatana - paper knife
Kiri - pricker
Suiteki - water-dropper



Unfortunately I didn't have room for a Sumitori - ink-stick holder, or the ink stick - sumi. I found all these items either on eBay, AliExpress or Etsy.



The box is finished with around 10 brushed on coats of polyurethane, sanded down between coats, and then finished with a small orbital sander working through from 600 grit through to 3000.



Please ask if you have any questions.

Thanks for looking, hope you enjoyed it.

Gallery

Comments

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,144 Posts
Another beautiful example. Great workmanship, as usual!
Jim
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
160 Posts
Wonderful detailing and completeness. I've made a couple of much simpler ones, but you set the bar much higher, as always.

When I bought a water-dropper in Iga Ueno back in 2019, they were confused when I called it a suiteki. They sold it to me anyway, but suggested calling it a mizuhashi. :shrug:

I confess that I was unaware of the paper-pricker before. What is it's use? I don't really do calligraphy, but I have spent some time tracing emaki illustrated scrolls.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,077 Posts
Gorgeous work and very intricate detail on the tray for the accoutrements.
Amazing pieces and the write up of the process is very illuminating too. The veneers you've chosen are fantastic especially with the gold dust added to the finish. The little flourishes really bring this box together.
Thanks for sharing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,688 Posts
Great attention to detail, and write up. Thanks
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
160 Posts
suggested calling it a mizuhashi.
Ah, please excuse my bad memory and limited Japanese language skills.

It's mizusashi, not what I wrote above.
Mizusashi is also what they call the cold water container used during the tea ceremony.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
3,555 Posts
Another fantasic production. I will bet that interior divider took some serious planning.

Some questions, if you dont mind answering.

You are using plywood cores and then veneering, but the antique Japanese boxes would have been made from solid wood. Any idea what type of wood they used for those?

The brush-rest is opal?

Are you using real gold dust? I have looked up prices for that, vury spensive.

Why is the inkstone prized?

Have you developed your own "tool" for sprinkling the gold dust? Or using traditional method?

Thanks…............
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
372 Posts
Hi Bryan,
Some answers
Yes I usually use plywood. For the bottom and top I tend to make my own as local commercial stuff is too thick. But I have also used solid wood and then just veneered the outside.

From what I've read the predominant wood for Japanese boxes is Paulownia or Kiri. A bit like balsa wood - soft! I've found it very hard to work, as unless everything is razor sharp the grain tears out. It's very stable and and doesn't seem to expand/contract at all. My sea captains chest was made from it, as were some of the storage boxes (kiribako) for some of my last Japanese boxes.

The brush rest is ceramic.

I use real gold dust and also 'gold' effect dust. The amount used is minute so even though the real stuff is expensive it goes a long. long way. On this one I used 'gold' effect dust. Its quite coarse and stays as a sparkly individual grains. With some of the super fine dust you can get, real or otherwise, when you sprinkle it on the wet poly it all merges together and looks as if the surface has been painted. Which is where the gold painting - makie, sprinkled picture technique comes from. You need to buy/make a sprinkler



These are a tube (bamboo)or otherwise. with some very fine gauze over the end. Different sized perforation holes give different effects. Here's a great article on the whole makie technique though you might need to use Google Translate to read it - scroll down the page for details. I bought some on a trip to Japan but have also made my own.


The one on the left with the green end was bought, the small one on the right in the petri dish I made. The petri dishes hold real and or fake gold/silver dust.

It seems the quality (coarseness?) of the inkstone determines the quality of the ink. Brushes wear out, the inkstick gets used up, but the ink-stone can last for ever! It's therefore the most expensive and valued piece of calligraphy kit.
 

Attachments

·
Registered
Joined
·
160 Posts
brian johns:
You are using plywood cores and then veneering, but the antique Japanese boxes would have been made from solid wood. Any idea what type of wood they used for those?
Sugi (a type of cedar, often listed as "cryptomeria" in books) was also common for smaller items like this.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
720 Posts
Lovely work.
 
Top