Yataiki’s Calligraphy and a song from Kyushu


I’ve been remiss in not posting sooner as to my goings on up here at Mark Grable’s place. What can I say? Lots of interesting stuff to do, sake, and a poor cell connection (though I have internet access). Its been fascinating for me to hear a bit more about the time that Yataiki spent in Iowa teaching, how he made his aesthetic decisions, the many skills he engaged in other than saw making, including the above calligraphy.


Working on a wood floor is so very nice! With my tool box right behind me everything is generally within easy reach.


Here’s a little entryway vestibule that Mark built not that long ago, looks good on a house in Vermont.


There are some black locust trees recently felled on the opposing side of the pond from the house, leaving a stump large enough to make an usu for mochitsuki. Lots of work for me carving with a chainsaw, sucking fumes which does tend to reck that peaceful feeling of working in the woods.


Once the stump was cut free from the ground I was able to lay the usu on its side on top of a wheel barrow and carve the bowl with the tip of the chainsaw, rotating the bowl as I worked to keep the cutting action to the bottom of the chain which cut properly down the grain.


Of course, pounding delicious sweet rice into mocha requires a wooden mallet, called a kine, which I also have begun to shape out of black locust. Seriously dense stuff! I’m kinda having a love affair with this locust at the moment.


Mark’s hizumi anvils for saw work. The steel anvil on the right is from Japan, makes a very beautiful sound when struck by a hammer, seriously hard, sent by Yataiki. Evidently it belonged to a blacksmith friend of his who passed on.


Quite a gentle radius of curvature.


Curved evenly on both axis.


I needed a hatchet to split up some kindling and Mark had an un-hafted one lying around, so more black locust and a fun morning spent shaping a handle with my Gransfors Bruks 1900 series broad axe, which is small enough to use one handed as a side hatchet. Its green wood so I coated the whole thing with hot paraffin wax to prevent splitting and slow the drying.


In Mark’s shop there is stuff like this lying around.


And when you look up you see koyabari.

In addition Steve commented on an earlier post of mine about an inscription on one of my maebiki oga in Japanese, one of the most excellent and greatly appreciated blog comments of all time I should think, and entirely worth sharing.

“The song lyrics inscribed on your saw are of a folk song from Miyazaki Prefecture, in Kyushu Japan. This song would be sung by the workers using this saw. My wife is translating and researching the meaning of the lyrics for me. Old Japanese can be debated like old english as to the true meaning.
The lyrics are are a reflectlion of the the life of sawyer working in the mountain side. There is a story within the song of an older sister marrying to a sawyer, and being drawn apart from her younger sister. It seems as though there is a comparison being made to the seperating of the trees from the mountain side, as the workers remove trees belonging to the same family.
My wife (Japanese ) has trouble to understand the song, as the lyrics are from a bygone era.”

This is link to a performance of the song:
“Hyuga Kibiki Uta” (songs name)

6 thoughts on “Yataiki’s Calligraphy and a song from Kyushu”

  1. Most excellent, and an especially enthusiastic thanks for the anvil details! The photos of Mark’s shop are wonderful as well. Like him, I’ll never have a cement workshop floor again. Yataiki’s calligraphy is stunning.

    I was up in the hills north of Hilo a few weeks ago,at an old plantation house talking story and buying some greenhouse material. In between a couple of rusted out “parts cars” was a large Usu, just like the one that you are making, except carved from lava stone. The gentleman who’s family owned the house said that it worked well, but he had reservations about the lead that was used to fill a few small hollows and voids in the stone bowl surface, haha.

    The house originally had no running water in the main building, but instead had a smaller outbuilding that served as kitchen and bath. There is still an old ofuro (wooden bathtub) in the corner, not fancy at all, just a rather small box to bathe in. It’s fascinating to examine so much history firsthand, and imagine how the Japanese farm workers lived during the last century working for the big sugar companies in Hawaii.

    Thank you again!

  2. Looks like you’ve found a second home! That’s very good!

    I was confused for a bit about how a curved surface could flatten a distorted surface…but there is that old principle, “Like treats like”, the curves heal the curves.

    I think I might make a big old mallet as a joke gift for my band director. Who knows when we’ll need a massive mallet in the percussion section.

    Thank you, Gabe, for sneaking these pictures to us!

    1. The bevel gauge is getting to see the world these days, I hope it gets to hop an ocean at some point. I really should be posting more pictures and stuff but being in a new place has really thrown my routine off and I’m only slowly getting back into the swing of things. Plus you ask Mark a question and he might tell you about it for an hour or two. Now we just need to get started on some joinery.

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