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Traditional Chinese Woodworking

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Blog series by chscholz updated 864 days ago 8 parts 40956 reads 57 comments total

Part 1: Liu Shifu

1870 days ago by chscholz | 11 comments »

Forgive me, I don’t hang out here all that often. I finally had the opportunity to visit a master woodworker who still uses traditional methods and tools. So I thought I share a few snapshots with y’all. In fact traditional Chinese woodworking has been quite illusive. A few times a almost had the opportunity to visit a traditional shop it turned out that the woodworker retired and gave all his tools away. Finally, three weeks ago and with the help of good friends we were able t...

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Part 2: Preparing stock

1853 days ago by chscholz | 7 comments »

It’s all about efficiency.For us hobbyists it is interesting to see how full-time hand tool users perform the dreaded task of stock preparation. Well, it’s all about efficenty. It is important to note that Liu Shifu currently does not have an apprentice who would possibly be helping preparing stock. Yes, he would like to see someone take over his shop, continue his life’s work so to speak, but this is not an option at this point. In some way it is lucky that we met Liu Shif...

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Part 3: The Mystery of Sung Hua Stones

1811 days ago by chscholz | 3 comments »

Last week I had the distinct pleasure to visit the Gu Gong in Taipei (aka. the National Palace Museum or short NPM).In fact the NPM is one of the great museums and owns many fine examples of Chinese cultural heritage. Major sections of the museum include paintings, calligraphy, rare books, porcelains/ceramics, jades and curios Many of the items on exhibit are extremely rare. For example in the ceramics section one can admire 21 items of Ju Ware, i.e. fine porcelain with a characteristic gr...

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Part 4: Chinese Hammers: the Common Unknown Tool

1635 days ago by chscholz | 12 comments »

Anybody who has studied Chinese woodworking will not doubt have come across prints like this one where a ancient Chinese woodworker is depicted pounding on a piece of furniture with what appears to be the blunt edge of an axe. For example the Lu Ban Jing, a woodworkers manual written around in the 15th century, shows a woodworker assembling a table by pounding on one of its legs with the blunt side of an axe. During much of China’s long and colorful history, China has been more or le...

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Part 5: Liu Shifu's Toolbox

1620 days ago by chscholz | 3 comments »

Chinese ToolboxesSay you are a Chinese woodworker and, during your seven years of apprenticeship you have made a full set of tools. Because much of your work will be on site, you will have to find yourself a toolbox to carry your tools around. Introduction to Chinese ToolboxesOn first sight toolboxes are simply boxes to hold and transport tools. Upon further inspection one quickly realizes that toolboxes are fairly complicated tools that must meet many often conflicting requirements. On on...

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Part 6: Sharpening

1589 days ago by chscholz | 2 comments »

Introduction to Sharpening of Chinese tools One 15th century contractor complained that his craftsmen spent about half of their time sharpening their tools. Considering the fact that Chinese woodworkers had a preference for gnarly old wood, the harder the better, this does not come as a surprise. History of Chinese Sharpening Tools Little has been written about Chinese tools, but almost nothing has been written about Chinese sharpening stones. In his book China at Work, Hommel mention...

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Part 7: Glue-less edge joints

1286 days ago by chscholz | 12 comments »

When mentioning that Chinese woodworking does not use glue I always get the question how to edge-joint without glue. On a recent trip to Southern China I had the opportunity to see a very nice example on what it looks like. The Perl River Delta (roughly the triangle spanned by Hong Kong, Guangzhou and Macau) is quite pleasant in Winter but extremely hot and humid in Summer. Since electricity is quite expensive people there tend to use the AC orders of magnitude less than in the US. This pu...

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Part 8: The Huntington Gardens

864 days ago by chscholz | 7 comments »

Last weekend I had the the distinct pleasure to visit the Huntington Gardens in LA, CA. Unfortunately the Japanese garden was closed for maintenance. Wandering through the gardens we stumbled into the brand new Chinese garden. Chinese garden design is a thousands of years old, highly sophisticated art form that I don’t understand as good as nothing about. I am sure almost everybody knows the shape of the Chinese roofline work.or Chinese lattice work. The Huntington Gardens also...

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