I need to re-do the takenokawa on this one.

well-used baren

Really, it’s time to take care of this.

I was able to watch a very useful video by Terry McKenna that shows all the steps, and I have the needed supplies, so there’s no excuse! I will present notes on my experience and some pictures, but this won’t be a “how-to” because I didn’t capture enough details. If you need more complete information, please watch Terry’s video.

Awhile back I had ordered some replacement “bamboo skins” from McClain’s in Portland. I have three; I just pulled the first one out and went with it. I kind of expect to ruin the first one, so why be picky?

The back side of the new takenokawa, next to the baren that will be re-covered.
The front surface

Lots more spots on this one, compared to the old cover! Also, it looks gigantic.

First order of business: Disassemble the old cover.

This was a useful exercise, because I could tell how the string was positioned to start, and how it was tied off. If you do this at home, DON’T CUT THE STRING! You will need it to tie off the new cover.

I’ve seen videos and pictures of other baren disassembled, and the inner coil was removable. I wanted to remove the coil in mine and place a paper disk or two underneath it, to make it less flat and slightly dome-shaped. But this one appears to be glued in. I pried a little, but didn’t want to do damage so did not force it.

Next task is wetting the new skin, and rubbing it to make it more pliable.

Traditionally, one would use a smooth black rock to rub the skin while supporting it on a plank of yamazakura wood. I thought a tablespoon would work pretty well! I rubbed at 90 degrees over most of the surface, on back and front, and periodically wiped parts of the skin with a wet paper towel when they were drying out.

After cutting part of the widest end away, and tearing off the curled edges on the sides (about 1/4″ or so) , I started wrapping the skin.

At this point, both hands were pretty occupied, so I don’t have any shots until I had it wrapped and tied!

Looks pretty rough. I’ll do some trimming…

Here’s the business end:

It’s good and flat, and reasonably tight. Here’s a comparison to the old cover:

So, success? The proof will be in the printing. The new cover is obviously made from much thicker material than the old cover was made from. The coil on this baren is “fine”, and intended to be able to reveal fine details, but the cover is so thick that it might prevent the thin ridges on the inner coil from making themselves known to the print. I will have to try printing with it and see how things go. If it works well, the thickness might be a good thing – it will probably last longer than the old one!

I have two takenokawa left; one of them seems to be a little more delicate in consistency, but not by much. If I have trouble with the new cover, I can try using the thinner skin, but I might need to find a different supplier.

“Light Show” reprint


As my tease from the last post might have suggested, I’m reprinting the fireflies. I’ve got my colors lined up:

… and I’ve done some repairs on the blocks. One of the hazards of Shina Plywood is that the top ply is pretty thin, and has a tendency to slough off, especially if you try to make a thin line across the grain.

Luckily, the thickness of this top ply is about the same as some micro-lumber I happened to have lying around. I was able to glue it down with waterproof glue for an almost seamless repair. In the left image, you see a repair I printed with — but while printing, another piece came off!!! *sigh*. On the right, a repair I hadn’t trimmed yet. It needs to be trimmed down to match the line, and also there are some areas where I need deepen the trough so I don’t get unwanted pigment spots.

In other stories of printing woes, the beginning of the end:

The takenogawa (“skin of bamboo”) doesn’t last forever. This one is on a murasaki baren I purchased in July last year. I’ve been good about rotating the cover, and using camelia oil, but it’s developing holes. It’s hanging in for the time being, but eventually I will have to bite the bullet and learn how to re-cover it.

I will leave you with another pleasantly embossed image, and evidence of further progress!