“And thus you will dance to your death here, on this hilltop, at the end of the day. An din your last dance you will tell of your struggle, of the battles you have won and of those you have lost; you will tell of your joys and bewilderments upon encountering personal power. Your dance will tell about the secrets and about the marvels you have stored. And your death will sit here and watch you.”
Carlos Castaneda

Journey to Ixtlan

Japanese Toolmakers

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As I stand at the entrance to the space of Japanese Kumiko woodworking, I find myself also getting acquainted with the tools associated with the culture. And one of the fundamental functions in wood-working is cutting … which ultimately involves blades in many forms.

A unique feature of many japanese tools is laminated metal … a thin piece of hard-cutting metal is welded together with a thicker piece of softer iron which makes up the mass of the blade. You can see this in chisels, planes, knives and even hammers. This seems to be inherited from Samurai sword making … a peaceful manifestation of a transformed combat technology. The resulting blades are so sharp that (when used properly) Japanese planes (called Kanna)  leave such a smooth mirror finish that no sanding is required (and it seems that sandpaper is non-existent in traditional Japanese woodworking.

As I watched this documentary about Japanese blacksmiths I imagined a world where this kind of making was the norm and not the exception. A world where many small artisans replace massive industrial scale production. Watching these blacksmiths I felt that such a lifestyle seems to encompass and profoundly address human needs … work that provides a livelihood while creating quality, purposeful objects … and in a meditative setting (where meditation is inherent and not conceptual and disassociated) … an integrated life.

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