Netsuke From Holland

Materials

Boxwood.

I use mainly boxwood because it takes really fine detail. It's a very hard and dense wood. The color is light to dark yellow. It is from a very slow growing shrub or tree. I buy this wood from a specialist wood supplier. When choosing a piece of wood for a netsuke I have to be certain there are no hidden defects in the wood. I take X-rays of the wood to locate cracks or knots.


Mammoth ivory.

This looks very much like elephant ivory. It's difficult to find a piece without cracks and a nice light color. It can be carved just like ivory. It is very expensive and hard to get.

Stag antler.

Stag antler is in fact bone. It has marrow on the inside which is not suitable for carving. The part where the antler is attached to the head is more or less solid and can be used for carving. Antler is hard and tough. It is a very difficult material to carve. I use cutting tools as well as scraping tools.

Tools

Tools for carving wood.

When I started carving I used whittling knifes and small woodcarving tools. As I went along I adapted the tools for carving small objects. The standard woodcarving gouges you can buy are to long. So I cut off about 6 cm off the tools and fitted these pieces in a self made wooden handles. That way I can use the tool holding it in my right hand carving an object in my left hand.
As I went along I needed tools that couldn't be bought so I had to make them myself.
I made a lot of tools from dental instruments and other things of hard steel.
For wood I use about 65 knifes, chisels and drills.


Tools for carving other materials.

After a few years of carving wood I also tried carving mammoth ivory, antler, horn and boar tusks. I couldn't do this with my woodcarving tools so I made tools suitable for carving harder materials. It's more scraping than carving actually. I made the tools of small files, dental instruments, and other pieces of hard steel. The handles were made of different woods. I have about 50 of them now. Some shapes I made as "left" and "right" tools.

Finishing

Coloring boxwood.

The natural color of boxwood is very light. I always color my boxwood netsuke. This is an elaborate process involving nitric acid and boiling hot dyes. Followed by polishing. After a week or more of handling the netsuke the color is at his best and settled. I always carry the last netsuke I made in my pocket so I can rub it with my fingers frequently.
Since the beginning of 2013 I stopped using boiling dyes because of the risk of cracks. I now use cold dyes.

oni

© 2011 Netsuke from Holland