When green wood is air dried, the first step is to seal the ends. What is the traditional Japanese method of sealing the ends?

  • Can you clarify why you might need the Japanese method as opposed to other methods? Did the other methods not work for you? Aug 12 '16 at 22:35
  • @guitarthrower I am curious what they did before modern sealers became available. Aug 12 '16 at 22:57
  • The Japanese gave certainly had paints and lacquers which could have been used for this purpose for thousands of years. Not to mention wax. Modern materials and tools may be better and/or cheaper and/or easier to work with, but you can do most or all of the same tasks with much simpler technology.
    – keshlam
    Oct 10 '16 at 23:41
  • Camelia oil comes to mind... not only useful for sealing wood, but also for adding gloss to Geisha hair. Allegedly, they've done that for some thousand years.
    – Damon
    Oct 11 '16 at 11:07
  • If you want an official answer I'd hit a library. Reference librarians love showing folks how to research questions like this.
    – keshlam
    Oct 11 '16 at 14:22

Just like in the west, paint or any other locally available material can be used to seal out moisture. Sealing end grain with a torch is another way moisture was sealed, but I don't know if it was only done with finished pieces.

In my opinion, (as someone who lives in a cool, moist climate), sealing the ends isn't really necessary when air drying, provided you have the wood appropriately stacked and in a shady spot. Air drying wood in Japanese carpentry is essentially the same as its done in the west.

In most traditional Japanese structures, paints, vanishes, or other finishes are seldom used, except for some decorative purposes in temples, or occasionally to prevent moisture penetration on, for example, deam ends. Coal tar or creosote may be applied to the base of posts or other footings to resist water damage. One method of finishing sometimes used is scorching with a torch of logs or posts. This seals off the cells of a porous grain and also darkens and highlights the grain pattern.

Source: Japanese Woodworking: A Handbook of Japanese Tool Use & Woodworking Techniques by Hideo Sato (Translation: Koichi Paul Nii)

  • 1
    No sealing isn't absolutely necessary but it massively reduces losses due to cracking, maximising yield, which is why the trouble and expense is taken to do so (commercial operations wouldn't bother otherwise as they're all about the bottom line). Traditional practices aren't always something we can go by because their standards for acceptable losses were orders of magnitude different to ours.... go back far enough and they'd rive wood to get boards and that can waste more of the tree than eventually gets used o_O
    – Graphus
    Nov 25 '16 at 16:18

As far as I know, they did nothing. They air dried which is slow and deliberate. No end seal just proper stacking.

  • Welcome to Woodworking.SE! Are there any sources you can reference?
    – rob
    Oct 11 '16 at 0:52
  • Here's a book that popped up in a Google search. Says drying was slow and deliberate. Logs with bark on and paper covering end. books.google.com/…
    – Dr.C.
    Oct 12 '16 at 20:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.