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Repairing Damaged Japanese Boxes


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#1 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 03:59 AM

Saving a life.

 

Precious objects usually arrive wrapped and boxed in the Japanese way, but often the outer boxes are damaged. These boxes in themselves can be a joy to behold, and they beg to be tidied up a little.

 

This thread is for the future preservation of such boxes, ie to stop irreversible damage and give them a normal working life extension.

 

What have you done? Please feel free to add your own tips towards the general knowledge base.

 

Commonsense Disclaimer.

The aim of this thread is 'easy general repairs'. Be aware as always that a bodge job can do more damage than good. For broken locks, ripped or missing metalwork, elaborate raden/zogan lacquer repairs etc., it is best to consult a specialist. Be prepared to pay serious money for a serious repair.


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#2 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 04:32 AM

For an example, as recently mentioned on another thread, my wife had thrown out a large scroll(?) box, and I had kind of agreed that it was not immediately salvageable. Over half of the wooden pins used instead of nails had broken, dropped out or otherwise perished, so the top, bottom and sides were pulling away, leading to general collapse. One of the metalwork ring fittings had gone from one side.

 

Given this box's condition, I felt no worries about using it for experimentation, so the pressure was off.

 

The main job was the pins/pegs. I removed one or two of the old ones to give me an idea of what we needed. As you can see in the photo below, there are many types of skewer or toothpick available in wood or bamboo. Bamboo skewer in Japanese is Take+kushi, = Takegushi 竹串. The kushi kanji is a perfect Shish Kebab. Sadly most of the bamboo skewers used in Japan are made in China, so it depends on how much of a purist you are. Search and ye shall find!

 

In some cases the old pin heads were stuck fast in the holes, so they needed drilling out, or redrilling alongside. There was a pattern to the pin placings, but I felt there were too few originally, so I halved the spaces and doubled the numbers. (About 80% of the pins were successful, but some failed for various reasons.)

 

I used a drill bit slightly smaller in diameter than the pin I was going to insert. Dipping the tips in hardware store wood glue 木工ボンド(Mokko Bond), forgive me this time, Henk-Jan, I hammered them in with a small hammer.

 

Later after they had dried, I sliced off any rough tops with a box-cutter (rough to the finger) and smoothed them off with a sander, actually a dirty nail-board/buffer. Now they have faded into the background and feel smooth to the touch.


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#3 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 04:40 AM

As you can see my tools for this job were very basic, indeed quite unprofessional. Apologies.

The dirty nail buffer on the left reduces the colour contrast with the new pins, nicely mixing in the genuinely old dust.

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#4 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 04:48 AM

Here you can see a new pin rubbed to blend in. Of course I could have dyed them first, which would have been another way to go.

Each job has its own solution!

Before and After.

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#5 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 04:54 AM

One of my pastimes is wandering round antiques fairs and spotting 'bits'. In April I had found two useful-looking box rings with sakura-flower bases, and they were sitting waiting for some as-yet unknown role. While repairing this box, they came back to mind, and fitted perfectly, in fact even better than the single old one originally in place. Job done!

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#6 b.hennick

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Posted 27 June 2017 - 05:00 AM

There is a product called pallet tape. Think industrial Saran wrap. It sticks to itself, not the thing it is wrapped around. You can pull it quite tight and later remove it easily. I have used it for many repairs to hold things in place. 

2" and 5" inch widths are standard sizes as is the industrial 12-14" big roll.

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Regards,
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#7 Shogun8

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 01:24 PM

Very interesting topic and a job well done, Piers!

 

I too, have always been fascinated by Japanese boxes. Coincidentally, I just found what I think is a Muromachi jidai karabitsu, somewhat similar to the one in the Met's collection!

 

John


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John - Always learning.


#8 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 01:47 PM

Phew John, your reply just renewed my faith in humanity! That box sounds great. Perhaps you could put it in the other thread, with the box in the Met for comparison? :clap:

 

Not sure how many types of hitsu/ohitsu there were. I have heard of Yoroi-bitsu, ( x 2 set = Ikkabitsu), Meshibitsu, Nagamochi, etc., and now Karabitsu.


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#9 Shogun8

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 02:07 PM

Piers,

 

Karabitsu are those bitsu raised on legs (typically six legs but mine has only four) that you would find with ancient yoroi. Reputedly taken from a Chinese design, these are very rare - I've been looking for one for quite a long time and the ones that do come up are usually Meiji and very decorative. Muromachi period examples with the more ascetic designs are exceedingly rare. Here's the one from the Met. Mine's not as elaborate, but is larger. I'll post pics when I receive it, which unfortunately won't be for a few weeks because I have to retrieve it in NY.

 

n6P8El.jpg


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John - Always learning.


#10 Brian

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 04:31 PM

Very worthwhile thread, watching it carefully for useful info. Feel free to carry on...lots of us taking the info on board.


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#11 kusunokimasahige

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 11:13 PM

Thank you for opening the topic Piers ! Have not started on the box for my lacquerware trays yet but will post photos here when I do.


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#12 estcrh

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Posted 28 June 2017 - 11:41 PM

Piers, I have several boxes in need of repair, here is an example.

 

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#13 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 29 June 2017 - 05:25 AM

Whoah! You sure have...


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#14 DaveT

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 09:24 AM

I repair hitsu and tansu.

Ill post some pics next time i do one.
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#15 Guido Schiller

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 11:59 AM

Not exactly a box, but a small chest I restored recently (unfortunately no "before" pics, but but the wood was discolored and dented, the iron fittings rusted):

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#16 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 12:10 PM

Nice chest for the other thread even. The locking strip is a good feature. Any hidden drawers? :glee:

 

How small/large is it?


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#17 Guido Schiller

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 12:30 PM

Any hidden drawers? :glee:

 

How small/large is it?

 

Yes, I found 20 koban in hidden compartments. :Drool: Just kidding, no such luck unfortunately. :(

 

It measures 60 x 62 x 32 cm, and now is home to my tsuba collection.


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#18 Bugyotsuji

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Posted 05 July 2017 - 12:50 PM

Haha, for a moment I was hit by a flash of jealousy! (Your tsuba are probably worth more than 20 koban though). Nice home for them.  


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