I am not sure how familiar people are with a Hangiri - the Japanese bowl for mixing and seasoning rice. It looks like this:

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It looks like a barrel and it has some copper rings for keeping the sides under pressure/together. I have a lot of wood that I can use for something like this and it looks like a challenge, but I was wondering how does one keep the wood together for something like this? Most of the adhesives have VOCs in them and although some adhesives are FDA food-grade, I am pretty sure that the old Japanese were not using any of these. Besides, even if there is a Food Grade adhesive, I find it weird and disgusting to keep wet rice to cool down in an adhesive-based wood composite.

So my question is... assuming that there is no FDA food-grade adhesive/glue how else can one keep the pieces of wood together in such a bowl? Or maybe, a better question... Is it possible to have the wood stuck together for such a bowl without using any adhesive or with any wood-based glue (e.g. with wood aroma or sap aromas)?

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    Non-natural adhesives used for almost every cutting board made on earth Paul!
    – Volfram K
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 8:07
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    Once the glue is dry, there's not much left to get into your food.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 18:10
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    Even so, traditionally these would not have been glued -- just like barrels. You actually want the staves to move a little.
    – user5572
    Commented Jun 21, 2022 at 13:46
  • @VolframK It is deeply concerning. Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 21:21

2 Answers 2


Is it possible to have the wood stuck together for such a bowl without using any adhesive

If you do it right, yes. This is the foundation of much traditional bucket and barrel making all over the world, the idea being that by shaping the staves with the required angled edges and then squeezing them together from the outside with binding of some sort1 the staves are forced to remain together.

However, while it's theoretically possible to make a hangiri without any adhesive some glue is used in their construction.

There are actually numerous videos on YouTube showing similar storage containers being made by Japanese crafstmen. For hangiri specifically the best of the ones I've watched is this on the Woodworking Enthusiasts channel. In addition to what many similar videos show, various aspects of the build and finish-shaping processes, it also gives some key details of wood selection which others seem to skip over (unless this is in the Japanese commentary). Watch your knuckles planing the edges of the staves like this! :-)

Since all the toxicity related stuff is really secondary to what you're asking about I'll cover it separately.

Most of the adhesives have VOCs in them

Everyone's level of worry about toxicity is their own, but it should be based on a realistic assessment of the risk. This should be especially the case for those living in the US, where sheet goods are used so heavily in both commercial and residential construction.

So, for a product like this, first remember the ancient adage, "the dose determines the poison". This isn't just a snappy saying2.

And here, if you did use a modern glue, how much is actually present when you're done? Well a good invisibly thin glue line is a thousandth of an inch at most..... I'll leave you to do the math on what the contact area actually is2 o_O

I find it weird and disgusting to keep wet rice to cool down in an adhesive-based wood composite.

Do you similarly find it weird or disgusting to cut food on an "adhesive-based wood composite" or are all your cutting boards single boards? Or solid plastic or resin? It's worth pointing out that all boards made from solid plastic or resin, or faced with melamine (which seems to cover 99% of boards that aren't wood from what I've seen) each contain their own set of VOCs.

any wood-based glue (e.g. with wood aroma or sap aromas)?

FYI such an adhesive would contain its own VOCs! They may be natural, but that doesn't at all make them harmless. Perhaps the most famous wood-derived extract is turpentine, which despite being natural is more toxic than most mineral spirits.

1 It doesn't have to be copper strips as in the originals if you find it difficult to source or too costly, you could use wooden strips in a similar manner to the way that Shaker boxes are constructed. Stainless steel wire seems like it would also be a viable alternative without any worries about corrosion.

2 A good example of the principle is that apple seeds actually contain a deadly toxin — you think that's almond you're tasting? ;-) — but despite this it's still perfectly safe to eat the core of an apple.

3 A useful, and quite direct, comparison is we (most people) don't generally worry about food, hot or cold, in contact with the glue joints in the vast majority of wooden cutting boards, whether commercially produced or homemade, made for the past 50+ years.....

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    Shhhh.... don't you dare fight scare media with common sense!
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 18:13
  • @FreeMan, :-D I soooo wanted to shoehorn in a mention of the closely related issue of food safety in finishes (not least because Stumpy Nubs just posted a related video just the other day, with some nailed it points) but it really began to read like a diatribe so I had to edit it out (in addition to numerous other tweaks). I'm glad I might have struck the right balance here, I certainly didn't want that part to go unacknowledged.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 18:30
  • @Graphus thank you for the nice answer. It is highly appreciated. Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 18:36
  • @Graphus and an answer. Yes, I find it disguising to have it in the cutting board. Not only that, but if you leave food stay for a longer time, the food tastes different. When making sushi, each component contributes to the taste. Not everyone feels it, but I do. That’s why there is a $400 hangiri and a $30. It’s not only the wood. One can laugh about this, and that’s fine. I don’t expect or want anyone else to share this. It’s funny that I even got a -1 to my question. Someone actually had to click on minus :-)) Crazy. But anyways, your answer is very nice and informative. Helped a lot Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 18:40
  • "Not only that, but if you leave food stay for a longer time, the food tastes different" Not meaning to cast any aspersions but I doubt any human can detect the minuscule contribution (even assuming there is one) from the glue. The major contribution is, of course, from the wood itself! Even what are commonly called 'neutral' woods have some taste, as one can discover quite easily by putting pieces of wood in the mouth (which I've done, and which every board maker should also try). Hot foods can most definitely pick up flavour from wood, the blander the food the more noticeable it will be.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 19:01

The nice part of that arrangement is that you don't need glue to keep the bowl in shape and water tight.

It's the copper rings under tension that keep the wooden slats tight together.

The same technique is used in the west for barrel. Shaped wooden staves kept together under tension using metal hoops.

The shape gets maintained because of the compound wedge shape of the staves.

I suggest the use of a jig to keep everything in place during assembly.

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    Don't need glue, in theory at least! But the bowls in question are indeed glued.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 17:12
  • Thank you for your answer Commented Jun 20, 2022 at 18:41

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