Jump to content

Ukibori


Guest katfen

Recommended Posts

Hi Kathleen,

 

Here's what I know about ukibori in wood. Ukibori in ivory or bone is another matter entirely. I've used it a little in my work, but haven't been especially impressed with it, considering the risks. An ancient Japanese carver called Tomiharu is the past master of this technique, of the Iwami school of carving. He inscribed tiny raised Japanese letters for poetry and his signature on his pieces. I’ve seen a few of these in person, and they are spectacularly tiny. He must have had incredible hand strength and dexterity. I’ve included a scan of one of his netsuke from Collectors’ Netsuke by Raymond Bushell, ISBN 0-8348-0056-x. See the sample picture Ukibori1.jpg

 

So here’s how to make warts and bumps in wood -- The old Japanese netsuke carving masters developed an interesting technique for raising small bumps and lines on wood and ivory carvings, called ukibori. No one living today has yet been able to completely recreate all the seemingly impossible things the old carvers were able to do with this technique, but the basics are understood. The best of the old masters were able to create tiny raised bumps as texture, and even raised writing. They are so perfect and tiny, to see some of these in person is quite a humbling experience. Some contemporary carvers are using the ukibori technique, but none yet have produced anything like the old masters. Although the basics are quite simple, good ukibori is definitely an advanced technique that will require practice.

 

The technique for wood goes like this: using a hard punch with a very smooth rounded end, the wood is depressed a small amount beneath the surface. This often requires a firm tap with a mallet. The surface is then carved down level with the bottom of the depression formed by the punch (I like to place a pencil dot in the bottoms of several depressions to keep track of the depth), and the area where the depressions were is wetted with boiling water (use a small brush). Wetting the surface should be done soon after punching. The longer you wait, the less chance you have of succeeding. Don’t punch the depressions in the evening and then try to raise the bumps the next day. Since the wood in the depression was compressed, it was not cut away when the surface was lowered. The crushed wood fibers will swell up when wet, creating a bump above the surrounding surface. The secret to successfully using this technique is knowing how much you can depress the wood fibers without breaking or cutting them, and using dry wood. Green or wet wood won’t swell up after being compressed. In addition, you need punches the size of the bumps you’ll be making, and of the right shape. The dangers of the technique are that in tapping the punch on your nearly completed netsuke, you run the risk of splitting it or breaking off vulnerable parts. If you experiment with these techniques, don’t forget that you can make any shape of bump you like by altering the shape of the punches. A round, hemispherical punch will make a circular bump, and an oblong one will make an oblong bump. Straight and curved lines can be made by repeatedly joining oblong punch depressions. I haven’t seen ukibori punches available commercially, so these are tools you’ll have to make for yourself. Fortunately, they’re easily made. Simply take a piece of steel (a nail will do), shape the tip to the size and shape of the bump you want, then smooth and polish it. Leaving sharp areas on the tip will cut the fibers, rather than depress them, spoiling the effect, and maybe your carving. Definitely practice on some scrap material carved to the same basic shape as your netsuke. This will give you a feel for how deep to make the depressions, and how likely it is the punch will slip and skate off the surface (breaking off some valuable portion of your carving, of course). Generally, you can only depress the surface several millimeters without cutting and crumbling the wood. In addition, the swelling of the wood fibers is variable at best. It works well for naturally varying features, like the warts of a toad, or the texture of a snail’s body, scales of a dragon, etc., but trying to use ukibori for very regular or man made features may be asking for trouble. Also remember that the ukibori bumps and warts are made from damaged wood. They are not nearly as durable as the undamaged wood surface, and may be polished away, or worn off during handling. Even though subject to early wear, don’t be afraid to use ukibori in your work. Wear and the dirt and grime we call patina have added immensely to the appearance of antique netsuke; yours will be a good-looking antique someday as well. See the sample picture Ukibori2.jpg -- Left side -- punched depressions, Right side -- raised bumps after wetting)

 

Hope these help… Good luck and good carving!

post-11-1110256050_thumb.jpg

post-11-1110256068_thumb.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Kathleen,

 

I did write a little about ukibori in the New Work or Show And Tell section, but to find it I used the Search function for the site.

 

Ukibori is a great technique to use with woods that have the ability to withstand compression and its release with hot water. I'll copy and paste the info here from the post about Cornel Schneider's snake carving that has a great deal of ukibori:

---

A tool is fashioned to the shape or shapes required, pressed into the boxwood (of this carving) to compress the wood fibers, the surface is shaved and sanded down to the level of the compressed wood.

 

"At the moment, I work down the ukibori skin..........a delicate story as You know. I always take the lenght of 4 cm, repress the scales again, because they always come a little bit up and cut of the wood until the ground. Well, the last 2/10 mm, I grind down with paper. This is my work for the next days."

 

When the carving, pressing, pressing, pressing, pressing, pressing and the sanding of the surface is complete, hot water is applied to the compressed wood to raise the grain. Presto, snake skin! (Many, many days were committed to the pressing of the scales, so it is not really - presto!)

---

Boxwood is a good wood for ukibori. I have not tried it on other sorts of wood. I suggest testing a lot on sample pieces of wood until you are confident with the technique.

 

This is the gist of the technique. I sand the surface to its final grit before the grain is raised. There may be need of sanding further, but done most delicately.

 

Have fun!

 

Janel

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...