The backdrop to the invention, Gifu Tono district
Such a woodworking of the Tono district faces challenges from a very severe environment, and competition from imports of cheap lumber. Moreover, the trees grown here require careful forestry management in order to mature into high-quality timber.
With such a sense of impending crisis, Mr Uchigi, who runs the Uchigi woodworking plant corporation there, had been made trial-and-error efforts to produce woodwork products making the most of the local wood.
From trial and error to accidental invention
Force of nature? The strength of live wood, and its weakness.
Another key practical advantage of unprocessed wood is its ability to moderate humidity. Such woods are often described as alive even after being cut and processed; absorbing water from the air on humid days, and releasing it when conditions are drier, the wood is said to ‘breath,’ and keeps humidity stable. By regulating humidity, natural wood both helps keep the room comfortable, and also helps prevent the build-up of static electricity that occurs in winter.
Despite these qualities, planks of solid wood often warp or crack in the drying process, described by Japanese woodworkers as "tree rampage". This affectionate expression belies a serious drawback of to the production of what is a highly sought after material.
Overcoming Tree Rampage
Mr Uchiki consulted a local university professor, and he told him that by cutting in wave-pattern, the fibers of the wood were cut and warping prevented. Repeating the process several times to ensure the methods’ reliability, Mr Uchiki finally sought a patent.
Talking about his discovery, Mr. Kiuchi said as follows;
"In the global markets, even if we make something, it will be imitated immediately with imported timber." We must pursue something we can only be made in Japan in the future. I would like to use the technique that can be done only here in Gifu as a woodworking locality."
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