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Size matters - continued

Posted by Dave Bull at 5:24 AM, July 22, 2010

This thread about paper sizing is continued from here

While the carving is going on, I'm trying to move forward on getting the paper sizing organized. I dug back into my photo albums from years ago, and found some snapshots taken on a visit to Misawa-san, the man who has done most of our sizing for the past couple of decades.

Here is a series giving an overview of the process. The size is prepared and poured into a metal 'bucket', which has an electric heating element to keep it at the suitable temperature. After dipping his brush, he wipes on the bar to remove excess:

Then makes the stroke across the paper surface:



He moves quickly at first, but then as the brush unloads, makes the end of the stroke more slowly, trying to ensure that the size is evenly distributed.

I watched him work through the stack that morning, then he took a break for lunch. The moisture evened out over the next couple of hours, and the next step was hanging it up to dry. He worked with his wife, and they used a couple of small paper protectors on each sheet:

Then held it together, lifted it up, and clipped it to the strings running across the ceiling:

The windows of the room were opened 'just enough' to allow the paper to dry at the proper rate ... not too slowly, not too quickly.

Looking closely at that photo, I see that the sheets seem to be hanging in pairs, although what stops them from sticking together, I can't imagine.

And here are his brushes ...

At this point - looking at that photo of the brushes - I have to mention that I made a quick trip to Tokyo the other day, stopping off at the brush shop. I need to order a replacement mizubake (water brush) for my daily use, and of course, I need something for doing this sizing.

When I asked him about getting a nice wide brush like the ones you see in this photo he just laughed. He hasn't made anything like that for decades, and when I mentioned that 'Well, this is your chance!' he just shrugged. No. 'Can't get the wood,' he mumbled.

I offered to find some wood for it, but he wouldn't be pushed. He is something over 80 - I wrote about him here nearly 20 years ago - and I suppose I can understand his point of view. Who needs this kind of 'trouble' at that age ...

So I bought the widest one he had, which is just a bit short of one 'shaku' (they don't talk centimetres, etc. over there). This is too narrow to do a sheet of paper in a single pass, so I'm going to have to cut the sheets in smaller pieces for my experiments. (There is absolutely no way that you can make multiple passes on wide paper with a narrow brush and expect it to work. You'll either get gaps, or strips with heavy size, either way a disaster).

Next step, getting the 'bucket' made ...

This thread about sizing continues here.


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