Urushi


(Isaac Tait) #1

Hello 10 colors tenkara community, I came across this video a few days ago and thought I’d share a little of what I have learned about this ancient art form.

Over the past 7 months or so I have been studying the art of Edo Wazao under the tutelage of Masayuki Yamano-sensei. About two weeks ago I traveled to his shop to work on my five piece tenkara rod we are building together. During the visit we discussed urushi. My rod is getting to the point in its construction where we should apply the urushi lacquer. However, since I have a 3 month old son (named Tadashi) and urushi causes horrible reactions we decided to use a synthetic lacquer instead. Apparently some people are so sensitive to urushi that if they are in the same room as the lacquer they have a skin reaction similar to poison ivy. Families in Japan that specialize in urushi expose their infant children to it in very small doses over a period of many years, so that when they are full grown they are immune to it and can safely carry on the family business.

While urushi does require some special handling if a bamboo rod is finished using it you can temper and re-straighten the rod for hundreds of years. If you use synthetic lacquer the rod will burn where the female ends are wrapped in thread (for reinforcement prior to drilling) when you temper and re-straighten. Also, the finish will only last three to four decades.

While I’m a little bummed to not be able to build a rod that will last hundreds of years I’d rather not have Tadashi contract a full body poison ivy rash from me (not to mention all the people I’d sit next to on the train on the way home…).
Last month I harvested some live bamboo and did the initial tempering to remove the sap. In 8-10 years once the bamboo has cured and hardened I plan to return with Tadashi and commission a rod from Masayuki Yamano-sensei for Tadashi using the bamboo that I harvested way back in 2017! Since Yamano-sensei will be building it this one will be finished with urushi. While I’m there I’ll probably have Yamano-sensei temper and restraighten my rod. I’m sure it will need it by then :smile:


(Anthony Naples) #2

Cool - must be awesome to be able to study something like that with a master. I envy you :grimacing: what an amazing experience it must be

Though I get poison ivy just by looking at it so I suspect that my urushi habit is a non-starter :slight_smile:

In a weird coincidence I just watched this video yesterday …


(Mike Shelton) #3

WOW!!! This is amazing!


(Paul Gaskell) #4

Great topic and one me and JP hope to gather lots of footage on and learn a lot more about in the very near future.

I enjoyed fooling about and making a couple of take zao (bamboo rods) maybe two or three years ago (including one finished with synthetic lacquer). I think I’m going to fish with my most rough and ready one lots this spring… Not pretty but a ton of fun.


(Isaac Tait) #5

I landed a 45cm Rainbow Trout with a Herabuna rod last Fall - it was a lot of fun! Jean Santos, from France sent me a horse hair line made from a le Cheval de Camargue. I can’t wait to try the line out with the bamboo rod I’m building.

I am looking forward to watching the finished product from the footage you’ll be collecting this Spring.


(David Walker) #6

Maybe this is a bit off the topic of Urushi. But here are four recent entries from the Beginner blog, about making his own bamboo tenkara rod.

If you run the first web page through a digital translation it will provide a bit of an overview.
Wherein he writes that it - is a challenge, and that he had not learned how to make a rod, only previous experience making a Tanago rod, so maybe his attempt is not a good model. And the translation will allow you to see, and easily identify, links to the other steps and to his Tanago rod project.

In step 3 he writes about キシャギ (Kishagi) - which seems to mean removing the skin of the bamboo where it will be wrapped with thread. Then Thread Winding (糸巻き) followed by 糸締め, that translates as Thread Tightening (maybe an accurate translation or maybe not). What ever the correct English translation - it appears to be accomplished by painting the thread, 塗料を塗ります (Toryō o nurimasu) Applying the paint. I’m guessing in higher handcraft that may be where Urushi would be applied.

テンカラ和竿の製作記 (Tenkara wasao no seisaku-ki) Tenkara Wasao rod’s production notes:

April 7th
http://tenkara-beginner.net/archives/625http://tenkara-beginner.net/archives/625

April 10th
http://tenkara-beginner.net/archives/647

April 13th
http://tenkara-beginner.net/archives/653

April 16th
http://tenkara-beginner.net/archives/659

Last completed step thus far. Center reinforcement.
Ending with this comment: よしよし、順調順調。Alright, it is going well.