Hashi, & Rest

Hashi, with rest

About

One of my other passions is cooking, and if it's not otherwise implicit, I'm rather influenced by Japanese culture, along with several other Eastern cultures.

Stylistically, I cook Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Indian, more or less (though I was raised and trained in French / Western styles). Suffice to say that for the most part my spice containers and tools trend East vs. West. I love cooking with chopsticks (箸 / "hashi" in Japanese), but usually, the normal length gets your fingers a little too close to splattering oil and so forth.

You can buy long chopsticks, but I'm a woodworker... so fuck that. I also have a bunch of various bits of really nice exotic woods I inherited when my great friend (and fellow woodworker) Mike moved out to California.

So I grabbed a piece, and started sawing and then carving, and when I was finished I had this really nice (I think) set of long hashi along with a rest. The rest is inscribed with my adopted personal mark (the kanji kei or uyama, meaning "respect, honor").

Details

This was a harder project than I thought it'd be.
Purple Heart is gorgeous but tough to work. It's got long, stringy grain, like bamboo on some kind of performance enhancing drug, and that makes it quite challenging to shape without tearout. On top of that, it's both dense and very hard, (and, again, stringy) which means it dulls the hell out of tools.

On the one hand, I regretted using this wood for this project, but on the other, I learned a lot and now I'm really curious to figure out how best to use this gorgeous wood.

After using my fine-tooth Japanese dovetail saw to cut the major shapes, it was all carved using knives (primarily my go-to single-bevel Japanese carving knife) and chisels.

This is the first project where I did the kanji inscription without a tracing to work from. I wrote the kanji by hand in pencil, and then did the carving freehand. The grain made it hard to be as precise as I wanted, but I think it turned out pretty well, all told.

The inscription is filled in with red enamel paint (just your common, everyday, Testors modelers paint). I have some very fine brushes for just this sort of work, and they served well. I did have to go back later with a sewing needle to scrape the red out of some of the grain, where the paint bled. Once again, Purple Heart making itself difficult.

hashi close up

Because these are to be used while cooking, they're finished with food-safe mineral oil… the same stuff I use to condition my cutting boards. I could probably redo the rest with a penetrating oil like teak or tung, but I probably won't. The mineral oil isn't drying, but it certainly does bring out the color and grain of the purpleheart, which kind of made all the trouble worth it.

P.S. The base of the rest is both heavy and magnetic. To the bottom, I superglued some rare-earth magnets I'd salvaged from old hard disks (I always do this to old hard disks), and then molded some Sugru (the best invention of the last decade) around them to make it softer and grippy. It works even better than expected, which is always a treat.