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Japanese Urushi


Guest ford hallam

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Guest ford hallam

Hello all,

 

I just stumbled accross the following webite which I thought may be of interest to some. It appears to be quite a comprehensive and detailed exposition of the craft by a fully trained and expert practitioner. Just click on the following link to be transported, as if by magic :lol:

 

http://www.urushi-kobo.com/index.html

 

regards, Ford

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Ford,

 

that is a great resource. Very good stuff indeed. I have been reading a lot about inro and their lacquering techniques and this site has provided a lot of insight.

 

not sure if I'd like to take their 'rash test' so readily , though :lol:

(witholding rash-decision puns.... :))

 

-tassos

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Guest ford hallam

Hi Tasso,

 

i would`nt be too worried by the rash, it is actually far less common in those of us of european stock, we`ve probably just less refined :lol: , mongrels, the lot of us :)

 

cheers, Ford

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I've always wondered about that irritant/rash thing as well. I've heard it compared to the same active ingredient in poison ivy, here in the US. There's the usual story about how generations of urushi craftspeople in Japan have inherited resistance to it and can work with the stuff better than mere mortals. Maybe this rumor is to keep newbies out of the craft, so as to not offer competition. :)

 

I even read once that just exposure to a room with raw urushi in it can cause throat irritation. :o

 

There are undoubtedly a few individuals with hyper sensitivity, but should we all be worried about experimenting with this material?

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I just did some quick chem research and urushiol which is the active irritant in Japanese lacquer (urushi) is identical to the stuff in poison oak/poison ivy. It is recommended to follow the same care and precautions as with these N.American plants.

 

As kids there were those of us who were very sensitive and those who weren't after a day spent wandering in the woods...

 

Ever hear the story about how forestry workers and lumberjacks would eat a small leaf of poison ivy as if sprouted in the spring and continue each week as the leaves got bigger?.. Story goes, they became innoculated against it by the height of summer. Probably just an urban legend...

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Being surrounded by multiple spieces of plants that contian that same chemicals I have dealt with the rashes both external and internal, in the eye and other sensitive places. I have fought with several spieces of fast growing vines and bushes on this property for most of my life. This website I found has some of the best info on the topic of sumac plants there history and why they do what they do to some people and not others. I have a mild reaction to it, but my girlfriend will have a major breakout by trace amounts. If she worked with Urushi it would probably kill her. I made the tough decision to get rid of all my cats because they casually rub the poison oak and it eventually gets trace amounts or more into places we touch. Not to mention the petting of the cat hehe. We are just tired of getting it. I don't think she can handle another cortisone shot. It kills the reaction but messes up your imune system. Anyway if you want to know more about the chemical that is in Urushi this website will give you a good idea of what your dealing with.

 

Urushiols, what, why, and how.

patrick

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Thanks for that. I have experienced the northern California rashes from poison oak, in the mid '70, when a prescription was necessary for cortisone ointment. Not a fond memory. I had a 9 week stay in a newly carved out camp site while attending a summer workshop with Marguerite Wildenhain. The first few weeks were extremely uncomfortable!

 

As for the cats, if you started fresh with new young cats, keep them indoors, ALWAYS. No fuss with the alergens, and the bird population will be stronger and remain alive for that choice, and the cats will be healthier as well. (getting down off the soap box smiley)

 

I followed a link in that site and found an explanation for certain type of burl wood and answered some of my unspoken questions about pieces of wood I have come across.

 

Thanks again!

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  • 2 weeks later...

When I discovered Japanese lacquer work in the early 80s I fantasized about practicing it. I soon learned it could give a reaction similar to poison ivy which I am extremely reactive to, so I abandoned all such aspirations. During my first trip to Japan(1988) Jean and I visited a shakuhachi maker. Early in our visit he explained that he used urushi in making his flutes(I think in the mouthpiece and on the interior). I was very careful not to handle anything, but got a mild rash from just being in his studio. I think you can judge your tolerance(or lack thereof) by any experience you might have with poison ivy, oak or sumac. I'm also allergic to Balsam Fir so have to handle our Christmas tree with rubber gloves! ^_^

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  • 9 months later...

This month's issue of Woodworker Magazine has a detailed guide to the application of a fuki-urushi, or wiped lacquer, finish. I saw the issue at the newsstand and bought it, only to discover the complete text online today! :):)

 

 

http://www.woodwork-mag.com/art2/art2p1.html

 

I don't know how long it'll be up, but if anyone is interested, please have a look

 

-Doug

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Guest ford hallam

Hi Doug,

 

thanks for that heads up, I've just read the on-line article, it would appear to be a nicely detailed and precice description. I reckon I'll try using that type finish on a sword stand I've got planned. Luckily I'm far too insensitive :) to be troubled by urushi rash.

 

My teacher in Japan, Izumi Koshiro used to be quite allergic to the mere presence of raw lacquer and as he was unavoidably required to visit various collegues who were lacquer artists he resorted to a rather drastic cure. He drank a thimble full of the stuff!, it worked!.... once the swelling to his hands and face had subsded 3 months later. :)

 

that reminds me of "suicide by varnish";a horrible end.....but a lovely finish :D

 

regards, Ford

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