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Surface Treatment

Bob T

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I'm a new member of the forum. I have posted an intro on the Who's Who section, and I have a question. Are tool marks (subtle or otherwise) on netsuke a no-no?


Most, if not all, of the netsuke I've seen photos of show either a surface that has been sanded to within an inch of its life, or fully textured hair, shell, etc.


My personal philosophy is that tool marks show that the piece was made by a human. My favorite style of carving is Scandinavian Flat Plane, a style that strives to show the essence of a subject with the minimum number of cuts. The use of the Devil's Paper is severely frowned upon. Sanding, in my opinion, is a tiring, dirty, boring process. A good, sharp edge leaves a lovely polished surface that I find superior to a surface sanded baby-butt smooth. But that's my opinion. Your mileage may vary.


So, are there netsuke out there that show the facets of edged tool use? Or do I need to bite the bullet and corner the local market on sandpaper?




Bob T

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Hi Bob,


It was only a matter of time that this subject should arise! I will not say that one way or another is the only way to go. The historic evidence is a great resource for finding answers.


There is a style of carving in Japan called 'Ichii-ittobori' which means: one kinfe carving or single knife yew wood carving.


I have just sent a question to my Japanese friend to ask permission to post a document written by a man who collects and speaks to groups about this sort of carving.


Meanwhile, follow this link to see the workshop of TSUDA Suketomo (the older brother) and TSUDA Sukeyoshi, seventh generation carvers of teh Matsuda netsuke carvers. They practice the ichii-ittobori style of carving. Tsuda Suketomo brought out his historic collection of netsuke that were carved by the earlier generations showing the marvelous style of ichii-iitobori carving.


I do not have permission to post those images on the forum, but I will try to find some images that might already be on the internet. (That will take some time though, and I have appointments to go to this a.m.)


More later,



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