mon, or in the case of family crests, kamon, have been an important element in Japanese design for centuries. Their history and usage throughout the ages is an interesting subject. I will not go into the history in this posting, but you can do your own research on the internet. The crest symbols were originally used by the samurai and powerful warlord families. Today they are used primarily as decorative symbols for fabrics, tattoos, and corporate logos. The three diamond Mitsubishi logo for example, seen on all their vehicles, is actually the family crest. It symbolically represents three water chestnuts.
I started by getting a good reference book which shows hundreds of Japanese crest patterns and variations. Certain designs are perfect for carving; others are not. Some crests, even though very beautiful, are just too detailed and intricate to carve in wood. Some crests are very dramatic and impressive; others are rather mundane.
Most representations of the mon symbols are seen as two dimensional impressions on paper, fabric or skin. Carving them into wood presented some problems with proportions and spacing because of the depth dimension and sloped edges. Also, in the two dimensional representations, there is almost always an important contrast of positive and negative spaces…usually dark printing on a light background. Showing this contrast in uniformly colored wood required some added steps. I wound up using dark background stains and pyrography.
Despite these challenges, I was able to find a few crest designs that seemed to lend themselves to carving on the top of a wooden box. Three are shown in the photo above. Have you ever used Japanese crests in your work?
Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Thursday, June 14, 2012
I have not posted on this blog for quite some time now. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is spring. Spring always brings an abundance of thing to do, mostly outdoors and away from my workshop. There is yard clean-up, planting and lawn maintenance. I haven’t been doing any small woodworking projects; instead I have been totally consumed by one big one. I built a new wooden back porch.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The botanical name for the yew tree is taxus baccata. The Latin word taxus is from the Greek “taxon” which means “bow”. For millenniums, yew wood has been used for long bows, and still is today. Most parts of the yew tree are poisonous and thus it is often called the “Tree of Death”. Shakespeare acknowledged yew as a poison in both Macbeth and Hamlet. In mythology and Celtic tradition, the yew is associated with dark goddesses. It is the tree of winter. Go to any New Age, Celtic folklore or Wicca website and you will find enormous amounts of information on the mystical nature of the yew tree. One very informative one is White Dragon.
|Box in yew wood by James Baxendale|
The wood from the yew tree is known for its beautiful grain patterns. Even though it is classified as an evergreen, yew wood is very dense and hard. The tree grows very slowly and has tight growth rings. Objects made out of yew wood have a naturally hard and smooth finish. A lot of sanding with fine grit sandpaper is often unnecessary.
There is so much to write about the yew tree that I could fill volumes. For instance: It is a fact that a new cancer curing drug called Taxol has been derived from the bark and berries of the yew tree (Tree of Death or Tree of Life?). Or the fact that, even though vast yew forests once covered many parts of ancient Europe, the yew is an endangered species today. Then there are the pictures by Archie Miles, who is on a quest to photograph all the spectacular and interesting trees of Britain, including many yews. You will enjoy his website.
|Artwork in yew wood by Edric Florence|
|My own pocket boxes with compass made out of yew wood|
|Photo of yew wood grain by Archie Miles|
Thursday, January 19, 2012
I was getting tired of carving flowers into empty wooden cigar boxes and transforming them into jewelry boxes and tea caddies. I needed to make something more manly; something a man could appreciate. I wound up making a box for my son-in-law for Christmas. A woman puts her “stuff” in a jewelry box. A man puts his “stuff” into a…valet box, or utility box, or something. I guess it doesn’t have an official name.
After carving and sanding, I used an Ebony stain to darken the recess area. I then stained the entire box with a Golden Oak stain. I lightly sanded all the raised areas of the design to give added highlights.
I made the interior trays entirely from wood from other scrap cigar boxes. The sides are Spanish cedar and the bottoms are thin plywood. It is not shown here, but I left the cigar manufacturer’s imprinting and brand on wood on the bottom of the trays. It sort of keeps a connection with the original use as a cigar box. It says “Made in Honduras” and “Hecho a Mano”. I added small wooden feet, which helps the transformation from an ordinary cigar box to handsome valet box.
I used a maroon felt with an alligator skin pattern, adding to the manly look. The top tray slides back and forth over the bottom tray to expose or hide the bottom compartments.
If, like me, you are tired of carving flowers, find a Celtic tattoo pattern and carve something manly.