Kyoto Wooden Pail

By Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Tub for bath, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

With its characteristically plain design but refined finish, the Kyoto wooden pail (Kyō-oke) is a common sight in traditional Kyoto life. Only wood with beautiful grain such as cedar, cypress and Japanese umbrella pine produced is used to make wooden containers with various shapes and sizes. With continued use over long years, the cedar wood will take on a deeper colour, while the bamboo hoop turns into a shiny amber colour, the silver an oxidized appearance and the copper a bronze colour.

Kondo Kyoto Wooden Pail Workshop (2018-12) by Photo: Shinya MaezakiKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Kyoto wooden pail: past and present

Before WWII there existed over 200 pail-making establishments in Kyoto alone. However, the number has dwindled to only several today. The wooden pails that were once used in the daily life are being replaced by plastic buckets, thus increasing their artisanal appeal.

Kondo Kyoto Wooden Pail Workshop (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Cut the wood, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Production process

Here is the process of how the Kyoto wooden pail, in this case a washing bucket for a Japanese traditional bath, is made. First, wood is split using a sickle.

Rough cutting, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Rough Cutting
The split wood is roughly cut using inner and outer draw knives.

Shave the blocks of wood, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

The sides are shaved to the desired finish using a shōjikidai, an upside-down planing block with the shaving blade facing up after the surface is sanded down with a plane.

 

Shaping the upper end, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Shaping the upper end

The upper end of the wood is planed to produce an inward slant.

Measuring a width of wooden parts, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Determining the slant

The degree of slant required for the side wood pieces to narrow from top to bottom is calculated.

Side angle adjustment, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Side angle adjustment

Using a shōjikigata (a piece of wood for checking the specific curve/angle required), the sides are planed down to ensure light does not pass between the wood blocks. The planing requires skilled hands as the result can vary according to which part of the blade the wood is passed over.

 

Selecting side blocks, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Selecting side blocks

Blocks with the same kind of wood grain are selected in order to present the beauty of the grain, as well as to prevent any distortion or contraction.

The circumference, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

The circumference

A circumference bamboo strip is used to gather blocks that will make up the circumference of the bucket to be made.

Temporarily assembling, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Temporary assembling 

The selected blocks are temporarily lined along temporary ring in such order that the grain of one block matches the next.

Put the temporary ring, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Applying glue

The temporary ring is removed before the blocks are given an application of glue and re-assembled using more temporary rings. A special tool to tighten the rings around the blocks is used by hitting it with a hammer.

Shave the upper block ends, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Refining the upper end of the blocks

A plane for shaving the block ends is used to even out the upper block ends.

Uniform height, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Uniform height

A line-marking gauge is used to draw a line marking the height of the pail along the lower block ends.

Sawing off lower block ends, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Shaving lower block ends

Excess parts of the lower block ends are sawn off along the marked line and shaved down using a plane. 

Shave the outer surface, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Shaving the sides

The temporary rings are removed to allow the shaving of the sides. Three different types of planes are used to shave the top, middle and bottom part of the bucket according to the curve required.

Draw a line, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Thickness of the wall

The thickness of the bucket is marked using the line-marking gauge.

Shave the rim of a washing bucket, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Beveling

A soridai-kanna, a wooden plane with a convex base curved in the cutting direction is used to bevel the rim of the bucket and make the marked line easy to see.

Shaving of the inner side, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Shaving of the inner side

A round plane is used to shave the inner side.

Determining the position of the hoops, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Determining the position of the hoops

The line-marking gauge is used to mark the positions where the hoops will go.

Determining the position of the bottom board, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Determining the position of the bottom board

A cutting gauge is used to mark the line around the bucket where the bottom board will sit.

Dovetail groove, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Dovetail groove

A dovetail groove is a deep groove with an upward slant to prevent the bottom board falling through. A spear-shaped plane is used to carve out this groove bit by bit.

Making the hoops, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Making the hoops

Copper wire is cut to the length that fits along the groove, with the ends smoothed out. The wire is then wound around a cylinder to shape the wire into a circle.

Welding the hoops, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Silver-solder is used to join the ends of the circle-shaped copper wire.

Make the hoop stronger, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

The annealed part during soldering is hammered out and filed evenly.

Inserting the hoops, Kyoto Wooden pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Inserting the hoops

The finished hoops are inserted into the grooves. The bottom hoop is left loosely attached to allow for the insertion of the bottom board later.

Making the bottom board, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Making the bottom board

The bottom board is planed to even out the surface.

Draw a circle, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

A compass is used to draw a circle on the bottom board.

Cutting the bottom board, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

The bottom board is cut to the drawn circle using a band-sawing machine. The side of the bottom board is cut to the angle of the groove at this point. The bottom board is not cut into a perfect circle; it is cut into an slight oval shape to allow for the contraction of the wood depending on the direction of the wood grain. 

Shave the side of a bottom board, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

The side of the bottom board is shaved using a spokeshave. 

Kigoroshibo, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

A metal rod called kigoroshibō is used to press the edge of the bottom board down to slightly reduce the size.

Fitting the bottom board, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Fitting the bottom board

The artisan feels with his hand and listens to the sound as he fits the bottom board inside the bucket, making adequate adjustments with the spokeshave and the kigoroshibō until the bottom board fits well into the groove.

Inserting the below hoop, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Once perfectly fitted into the groove, the remaining untightened hoop is tightened where marked.

Final adjustment, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Final finish

The washing bucket is placed on a flat surface board to check for any irregularities, which are then fixed accordingly.

Final finish, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

The top and bottom rims are rounded off with a plane.

Sickles, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Photo: Shinya MaezakiKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Sickles

These are used for cutting the side blocks.

Inner and outer draw knives, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Photo: Shinya MaezakiKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Inner and outer draw knives

The inner draw knife is used to shave the inner part of the side blocks and the outer draw knife is used to shave the outer part. The artisan wears a stomach band and pushed against the block of wood used to clamp the side wood block in place. 

Shoujikidai, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Photo: Shinya MaezakiKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Shōjikidai

This is an upside-down planing block with the upward-facing shaving blade set in the centre. The long shape allows for stable planing in one breath even for large wood boards.

Shoujikigata, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Photo: Shinya MaezakiKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Shōjikigata

Pattern pieces for ensuring that the side blocks join smoothly. Various types are used according to the size of the pail to be made. These pieces are originally created by the artisan to accurate measurements.

Planes, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Photo: Shinya MaezakiKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Planes

Various sizes are available and used according to the type and use of the pail to be made.

Line-marking gauges, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Photo: Shinya MaezakiKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Line-marking gauges

There is the line-marking gauge and the cutting gauge. The former cuts into the wood, while the latter is used to mark a line on the wood. The blade of the line-marking gauge is rounded to prevent cutting into the wood.

Washing bucket, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Washing bucket

This type of washing bucket is made with a size that can be easily held with hot water inside in one hand by ladies. The wood tapers towards the top to avoid a bulky look but still maintain the endurance to use.

Single-handle bucket, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Single-handle bucket

This type of bucket is made with the refined, thin wood typical of Kyoto wooden pail. It comes with a strong, thick handle. Particular attention is also given to the beautiful surface finish.

Sake cup, dKyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Sake cup

This product made from thinned wood allows you to enjoy both the sake and the scent of the wood when sipping the sake. The Yoshino cedar wood used gives out a scent that particularly goes well with sake.

Okamochi (food container with handle), Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Okamochi

This is used for carrying food and enhancing the presentation of the food.

Speaker, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Taichi KondoKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Speaker

The sound produced from the speaker at the top bounces off the reflective plate and spreads out. The bass sound reverberating inside the body of the speaker is emitted from the lower part.

Workshop surrounded by tools, Kyoto Wooden Pail (2018-12) by Photo: Shinya MaezakiKyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Kondo Kyoto Wooden Pail Workshp at Murasakino, Kyoto

This is the Kondo Kyoto Wooden Pail Workshop at Murasakino, Kyoto. Planes can be seen filling up the wall space.

Credits: Story

Supported by:
Taichi Kondo (Kondo Kyoto Wooden Pail Workshop)

Text by:
・Oiri Nao
・Tanaka Natsuki
・Toyoda Momo


Video provided by:
・ Kengo Takayama (A-PROJECTS)

Photography by:
・Dr. Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University

English Translation by:
・Eddy Y.L Chang

Project Director:
・Dr. Maezaki Shinya, Associate Professor, Kyoto Women's University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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