Hideto uses urushi for varnishing rods. As far as I know, there are only a few other makers in Japan who use urushi for the vanishing. Some use urushi, but only for the second layer beneath the vanishing surface to accomplish higher water resistance (such as Kakuhiro Rod). Urushi is a natural liquid that was extracted from the urushi tree. The English word “lacquer” originally meant urushi. Urushi is one of the oldest Japanese liquids applied onto wooden products that needed a waterproof surface such as soup bowls. The oldest urushi product in the world was found in Japan, and the recent study suggests it was around 8,600 B.C. when it was made.
As I mentioned earlier, urushi is a very difficult liquid to handle. Many people are severely allergic to urushi.
There are several ways to apply urushi onto the rod. Hideto wipes the rod with a cloth that was soaked in urushi. That method is called polishing urushi.
Hideto explained, “You can buy a bottle of urushi for $20, but you have to buy a $100 bottle if you want to make a beautiful bamboo rod. Like wines, you will pay more if you need an excellent one. I only use urushi made in Japan. Urushi is not a plant indigenous to Japan, so you can get Chinese urushi. But the climate of continental China is totally different from one of our islands’ climate. Our islands are wetter than China. I believe now the air in this room has 62% humidity. This does not happen in China except on the coastline.”
*This article was extracted from “Mostly Bamboo” by courtesy of the author.