MEISTER INTERVIEW "MokuNeji" / Ishikawa Prefecture

Product "MokuNeji" series combining beauty and functionality

The product "MokuNeji" series successfully combines the high performance of industrial products with the soft and warm texture of wood.

As its name suggests, it combines wood with different materials such as metal and glass to bring out the properties of each material.

"Taniteru Kougei" which makes wooden parts, is located in the production area of Yamanaka lacquer ware.

The production area of Yamanaka is also called "Yamanaka of Kiji" (*Kiji…Wooden, sashimono, and other utensils that are still plain wood before lacquering. coarsely ground wood of a workmanship such as a potter's wheel or wood carving.) In the field of puller wheels grinding, which produces round things such as bowls, Yamanaka boasts the top class in Japan in both the number and technique of craftsmen, and is unsurpassed by other production areas due to its advanced grinding techniques such as thin grinding and decorative grinding.

This time, we talked to parents and children running a studio, Shouchi Taniguchi "Taniteru Kougei", Ryoto (eldest son), Tenpei (second son), and designer Yoshima Furushou.



Accurate ground potter's wheels from The production area of Yamanaka

 The most distinctive feature of Yanaka lacquerware is its "vertical grinding" method, in which wood is removed from a wood slice. It is more difficult to process than "sideways grinding" which is often used in other production areas, and there are not many lumber that can be extracted from a single material. However, cutting wood in this way makes it possible to produce strong and less distorted wood, which is why advanced technologies such as "thin grinding" and "decorative grinding" have been developed.

Shouchi Says "Vertical grinding is difficult to finish the cross section beautifully. Because it is processed against the direction of the fibers of the wood, it cannot be scraped well with a paper file. You can't finish it neatly without using a sharp knife or high technique. It is Yamanaka's technology to finish it neatly."



Changing lifestyles and the age of selling things by ourselves

 Yamanaka's vertical grinding technology is capable of grinding and adjusting pulleys in units smaller than 1 mm. This is a technology that can only be done by vertical grinding, and it is surely a technology that can be proud worldwide. However, people's lifestyles have changed, and the sales of lacquerware have remained sluggish. It was only six or seven years ago.

Ryoto says, "There was a time when people tried to sell things themselves in order to deal with this situation. So I was trying to make something unique because I thought if I make something interesting, I could sell it. At one point, we were only exhibiting at events, but we were not able to make sales talks even if we went to sell by ourselves, and we were not able to make things during that time. That's why I gave up because I thought it would be difficult to sell by ourselves. Even so, I was feeling restless all the time, and at that time, I participated in a workshop hosted by Ishikawa Prefecture, and I met Mr. Furushou there."

"In Kijiya, craftsmen who are good at making Saucers only make Saucers, and craftsmen who are good at making Owan only make Owan, and so on, the shapes and skills they are good at are different depending on the craftsmen. We can do everything, but it is too vague to do anything as much as we can, and I thought we could not win against professional craftsmen in any field. And when I thought about what I could do to beat them, I thought it was a screw.
We had the experience of using a lathe to cut screws, and there were several other craftsmen who did screwing at the time, but the technology was still not stable. At that time, someone who was modeling precision machinery came to our workshop and taught us how to cut screws. So I guided a new machine (numerically controlled machine tool called NC) to master the screw." Ryoto said.



The MokuNeji Series was inspired by PET bottles

 "It started when they asked me to design something because they can cut screws. I made a product called TOYOGRIP first. When I saw child playing with a pet bottle waving, I thought it would be nice if I could play with a handle since I don't have one. Is it possible to make a handle for trial? So I asked them to make a handle to match the size of the screw in the plastic bottle. Then the finished handle was very precise. Then the finished handle was very precise. So I thought this would be good. If we can cut screws with such a high level of technology, we will expand the range of products to become a brand." Furushou said.

 Then designer Hiroshi Yamasaki joined the team to come up with the idea of combining different materials, and the collaboration with SUS gallery was realized.


 "It was really hard to make a product. At first I thought it was all right, but the problem gradually increased later. Problems such as deformation and expansion of trees, which were not found when producing small amount of wood, came out because the production volume increased. There were a lot of problems for about six months after the announcement. By solving each of these problems one by one, it was already beyond the scope of woodworking. I started talking about 0.1 mm accuracy. I bought a vernier caliper with high precision, and measured and corrected them one by one. Normally, an error of about 3 mm is acceptable for wooden products. Even so, the error is not visible, so if you ask the craftsman to correct it by 1mm, he will not like it. There were a number of barriers that I would normally have given up on, but I thought it was really amazing that they did so well without giving up on those difficulties." Furushou said.

 "I think we were able to do that because we were not alone.
I don't want to say "Impossible." when someone asks me, "Is it possible?". We were able to proceed with the production by exchanging opinions such as "I think we can do it this way."" Tenpei said.

 It is very impressive that their father, Mr. Shouchi, said this about their efforts.

 "Their efforts are really amazing. I think the screw technology has improved a lot over the past year or two. It was an unthinkable development. Our generation of craftsmen cannot keep up with the younger generation. I was impressed." Shouchi said.


Design of tools that focus on the use 

 "Looking at various screws, for example, the cap of the sauce. I thought it would be great if it was made of wood. I always think about that when I make this. I don't think there is any other place that makes Sanjo-nagi from wood. Sanjo screws are tightened three times faster than regular screws, so you need less distance to turn when tightening the screw." Ryoto said.


The attaching and detaching part of the COFFEE MILL is a screw of the shape of a Sanjo screw.

 Since a normal screw draws a spiral with only one screw, it cannot be closed without turning it many times, but a sanjo screw draws a spiral with three screws, so it can be closed three times as fast as usual.

 It's one of the shapes that designers and Taniguchi came up with to make it easier for users to use. In addition, the inner structure, which is not visible from the outside, is also designed to be considerate of the user.

I want to be the kind of person people think "I want to be a successor to a craftsman."

Traditional handicrafts have spread, and at first glance the production area seems to be in a state of excitement, but the issue of successors continues. In the whole production area of Yamanaka, there are only a few craftsmen who makes wood grind, and there are only about 30 today. In Ishikawa Prefecture, there is a facility called Hikimono Rokuro Technical Research Laboratories to train craftsmen, but at present, it is said that almost no graduates of this facility become craftsmen. They can take the time to create a single piece, but no one wants to be a professional mass producer.


 "I think it is our job not to let tradition go away and to do our best to prevent it.
I think it is a problem that the whole production area should work hard positively.
It's hard, but it's fun. I enjoy doing it thinking about how to make a lot of products in a difficult time and how to make them quickly. It's fun to do it thinking you can't do this anywhere else. " Tenpei said.

 "I want to be a person who other people think I want to succeed a craftsman. I would like to do my best to make them feel that way, even if they are motivated to I want to try the profession of a craftsman. I was once asked to be a disciple by someone before. Actually, I want a member who can work with me, not a disciple.
Now is the time to share information and make things. I think traditional crafts should change like that." Ryoto said.

 Their father, Mr Shouchi, nodded greatly in agreement.

 "I really think that's it. If they don't have a desire to do that, they can't achieve it.
It would be great if someone knew we were doing this and thought so." Shouchi said.


 From the left are Tenpei, Ryoto, Shouchi and Furushou.


 MokuNeji's products are all fun to use. The COFFEE MILL has an exciting impression that makes you want to take your coffee slowly and the Bottle with you when you go out. It's probably because they really enjoy what they make, and never show off their technology, their products are made with the user in mind first.




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