How do you make a chashaku (tea scoop)?
Chashaku are difficult to make. However, after selecting fairly thick bamboo, then wrap that well so the vice will not mar any surfaces. I hold the bamboo and cut the portions, slightly longer than I need/want. Then placing that piece into a vice (I use a vice that is mounted to a work table), I use a chisel and tap down to make the piece slight fatter than what I need/want.
Then I begin to carve off the unneeded layers of pith from what will be the back of the chashaku, until I get a very rough blank.
Then I carve more pith off more at the point where I will bend the chashaku. How much you need to carve off is a matter of trial and error. After several hundreds of errors, you get the gist of about how much you need to carve off.
Then you soak the bamboo in water for a day or so. Just to be on the good side I usually go for two. Most likely it doesn’t take that long, but….
Then I turn on my heat source. Some folks use a candle, others use a Bunsen burner. I use my gas range. I wrap both ends of the chashaku well with rags I don’t care about, which are well soaked in water. Then holding both ends that are covered in wet rags with pliers, I bend the chashaku with the backside facing the heat. The bending should happen fairly quickly, within 5 minutes or so. If it doesn’t happen, the pith in that section is too thick.
As soon as the chashaku is bent, it needs to be placed on a frame. I made mine with dowels stuck into a board (from kamaboko). Then I rubber band the chashaku in place. Otherwise you will be holding the chashaku in that shape for hours until it sets. If you don’t like that shape, start from the beginning with another piece of bamboo.
After the tip is bent to your satisfaction and the tip is totally dry maybe 4-5 days, then you can begin carving the shape. You can use any kind of sharp knife that suits your hand and way you like to carve. I use several because carving the left side is different than carving the right. You can do a lot of carving just with sand paper also.
A Dremel is a nice and fast way to work, but be careful ’cause it can go too fast sometimes.
Good luck. It takes a lot of time, patience and there will be a LOT of broken chashaku before you get good ones.
There are many kinds of bamboo, so appropriate bamboo may not even be growing anywhere close to you. I attended a chashaku carving workshop in Shinjuku many years ago. Among other things we learned about the life cycle of the bamboo plant. Regardless, yes we did bend bamboo using candles. They actually do stay bent much more readily than the previous poster implied. The bigger problem is to have them bent symmetrically. Regardless. Japanese dogu stores sell a variety of bamboo blanks for carving chashaku. As I recall, you can buy ones which have not been bent yet, but why bother unless you are a purist? You can buy prebent chashaku blanks. You can then carve them with a Japanese carving knife. (A knife was included as part of the workshop fee, and I still have mine.) You can finish the things with a bit of sandpaper attached to a block of wood possibly padded a bit. I make my own chashaku about 30 years ago now. So, this is about the best of my recollection.
I have used a microwave (1 minute on high) after soaking the thinned blank – it heats the water in the bamboo to steam and thus uniformly. I also use a jig to set and hold the bend. Then it’s power tools for the initial shaping and hand sanding for the final. One always gets a bit of splintering at the back of the bend, but that is why the blank is a bit thick to begin with, say 3 mm max, which will end up ~1.5 mm after shaping. One can place the node either in the middle (so), near the handle end (gyo), or have no node at all (shin), depending on your desire and the context in which you want to use the spoon. The length also depends on the caddy with which it is to be paired. The “delicateness” of the spoon depends on desire, your hands and again, its match to the proportion of the caddy. – elmar
They are not too hard to make. The traditional way to bend them is with dry heat as mentioned above. You can also use steam. I have used both. I use a Japanese knife because it is sharper and harder with a thicker blade. Be very careful when bending it as you do not want to break any of the fibers that might catch on a fukusa. The bamboo will tell you when it wants to bend. Carving the bamboo with the grain is almost too easy. Across the grain it is very difficult. Be patient and careful not to cut yourself. I would advise against using abrasives as they damage the fibers. Try to remove the oil from the bamboo, if necessary, as the tea powder will stick to it.
- Removing the oil is an important point. One can use dry heat and continually wipe off the bamboo as the oil beads to the cuticle surface of the blank, or alternatively, simply boil the blank in water for some time, or do a bit of both.
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I also enjoy making chashaku out of local wood (I live in Europe). A softer kind of wood is easier to work with. I found privet gives nice results especially when it has not yet completely dried out. Beech for example was too hard. I always choose a branch that already has the right curve or that has a side branch at the right angle. Then I use a knife and a rough file to cut out the general shape of the chashaku. The file makes deep scratches in the wood so don’t use it for too long. Next I use very course sand paper to continue shaping it and to remove the deep scratches from the file. Gradually I go to finer and finer sand paper. It is a lot of work to make a chashaku in this way, a lot more work than bamboo in fact, but the result is very nice in my opinion.
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