Tools for UKIYO-E




Kogatana (Knife)


Kogatana is the most important tool. It is a tool to carve the woodblock for the first time. The skill of technique for this cut edge appears directly in the woodblock print. The 2 types of blade width 0.6 cm and 0.45 cm are common. For the angle of blade edge, there are the sharp angle and the blunt angle. The sharp angle is made up for the thinning of the blade edge by the thickness, so it is suitable for the fine part or the point (For example, landscape). The blade edge of blunt angle is widish, so it is suitable for the straight line or curving line (For example, portrait).

Maru Nomi (Chisel for round part)


There are 2 types of blade depth, big : 1.2 cm and small : 0.6 cm. Maru Nomi, it is a tool to remove the unwanted part being 2 cm from the cut edge by Kogatana. Maru Nomi is used by gripping the handle with left hand turning around the back of hand, by holding the wooden hammer with right hand and by beating the head of handle with it. In order to remove around the edge accurately, it is removed with 1.2 cm of Maru Nomi along the lines of blade edge carved by Kogatana, and the tight part is removed with 0.6 cm of small Maru Nomi.


Soai Nomi (Chisel with round chamfered blade edge)


There are 2 types of blade depth, big : 2.5cm and small : 1.2cm (popular name : Kesho Nomi). Soai Nomi 2.5cm in depth, it is a tool to carve the outside part removed by Maru Nomi deeply and widely. It is used for the wide area not to remain the traces of Baren when rubbing and for the deep area not to attach the paintings on the unwanted part.


Aisuki (Chisel to remove the part between lines and faces)


Aisuki, it is a finishing tool to remove the line 0.2 cm around the cut edge that remains after carving the wide area. There are 4 types of blade width, 0.6 cm, 0.4 cm, 0.3 cm, and 0.15 cm. The blade edge is made round by chamfer the both ears. The carver removes all area that can be removed with the blade width 0.6 cm of Aisuki. When he/she remove the fine area that cannot be removed, he/she changes the tool in series according to the area.


Wooden Hammer (Kizuchi)


There are 2 types of Kizuchi for Maru Nomi and Soai Nomi. Because Kizuchi for Maru Nomi is requested to help the free movement along the blade edge of Kogatana, so medium size is used. Because Kizuchi for Soai Nomi is requested the sufficient strong power to remove the wide area deeply, so large size Kizuchi or heavy hammer is used.


Hangi (Woodblock)


Since Edo period through to the present day, Cherry wood (Mountain Cherry like Yama Zakura or Hon Zakura) has been used. The nature of Cherry wood that the difference between hardness and softness is small is suited for the carver to carve the fine lines or the small points. And, with the advantage that Cherry wood is not easily damaged on the carving line parts, the uneven color print density is disappeared because the holes on the wood surface are delicate. Because it also withstands repeated water exposure, if it is rubbed by Hake or Brush, the reduction of Hangi is small. In addition, the supply is easy because it is close to us regardless of fields and mountains. The thickness of wood is enough to use for the several ranges of the intended purposes of Hangi. The craftsmen cut down the trees that have been living for several decades and start to make Hangi after drying them for a few years.
The Carver measures the size of a ordered painting, calculates the finished dimension of Hangi, examines the number of colors needed to finish Hangi, and decides the number of Hangi. Depending on an order by the carver, the craftsman of wood plates cuts the dried wood plates in accordance with the specified size. The wood plates are classified in accordance with their each purposes, the hard wood plates for main printing (wood block for black ink), the soft wood plates for Tsubushi (painting with one color in a large area like a sky, etc...) and the normal wood plates for Color wood block. After that, the required number of wood plates are delivered to the carver. The all wood plates for woodblock are finished by cutting smooth as if the both sides are just mirror surface. So it is a essential technique for the craftsman of wood plates that he can complete the sharpening smoothly with a plane of single blade for any grain, with the grain / into the grain.


Omo-han (Main wood block)


Based on the planning by the publisher, the painter makes a clean copy of the frame for woodblock printing on the thin paper, Mino-shi (one of Japanese paper) with black ink line (this work is called Hanshita). Hanshita is put on Hangi ao as to paste a face of picture and Hangi together. First of all, the carver only carves the black ink lines, after that, he carves the woodblocks for color printing of each color (Color wood block) according to instructions by painter, and the printer complete the printing using these Hangi. Omo-han represents not only the lines of general drawing on the original picture. The lines of them, one by one, are carved so as to emphasize more the expression than the lines drawn by brush. Because the completion depends on these carved lines on Omo-han largely, the carving on Omo-han is said to be the most important work.
The production of Iro-han (color woodblock) after that needs “Kyogo Zuri” printed by this Omo-han. In addition, Hanshita that a painter draws directly is said to be a original picture of woodblock printing, but Hanshita disappears after finishing the carving of Omo-han.


Kyogo Zuri (Copy printed from Omo-han)


After finishing Omo-han, it starts to produce Iro-han (color woodblock). In the case of Ukiyo-e woodblock printing, the production of Iro-han is based on the black ink lines on Omo-han, so Kyogo zuri is necessary as Hanshita for Iro-han. Kyogo zuri, it is that the carver makes by printing Omo-han for himself. The carver reproduces the black ink lines on Omo-han (including 2 points of Kento) precisely, and prints the required number as Hanshita for Iro-han (normally about 20 sheets). The painter indicates the color-coding by red on these Kyogo Zuri with the coloring of a completion picture in mind, and returned them to the carver. The color-coding is designed so as to obtain a maximum effect with a minimum number of colors, so it is one of the important works for the painter. After the repeat printing of Iro-han carved with color-coding of each color, the intended coloring by the painter is reproduced.


Kento (Mark for the repeat printing)


Compared with the black ink lines printed by Omo-han (woodblock for black ink), so as to repeat printing the colors precisely using Iro-han (woodblock for color), there is not a bit of difference between Omo-han and Iro-han, a essential technique or device given on Hangi is “Kento”. Based on the principle that the colors can be repeated printing when 3 fixed points on Hangi and the right angle / the horizontality on the paper correspond, “Kento” of Ukiyo-e woodblock printing is designed their positions and a way of marking, moreover a way of the actual work is a simple and efficient.
For “Kento”, there are “Kagi Mae Kento”shaped L,“Kagi no Ji Gata”and “Hikitsuke Kento shaped -, only one line. Putting Hangi rectangularly, “Kagi Mae Kento” is marked on the lower right part and “Hikitsuke Kento” is marked on the lower left part, two third of overall length of Hangi. Of course all“Kento”s on Iro-han are carved on the same position, and by these “Kento”s and the right angle / the horizontality on the paper finished precisely, the multicolored printing became possible.
It took several decades to complete “Kento”, but this simple and precise way is used until now without changing.


Iro-han (Color woodblock)


Iro-han, it is a woodblock for color printing in order to paint by the repeat printing of colors on the multicolored woodblock printing. Iro-han are carved each color on separate woodblocks. The painter indicates the using color by red on each part of Kyogo Zuri. These Kyogo Zuri are returned to the carver, they are put on Hangi ao as to paste a face of picture and Hangi together, and the Iro-han are carved. The sorting of Hangi for Iro-han is one of the works of the carver. From among Hangi delivered from the craftsman for wood plates, the carver classify in accordance with their each purposes, the most soft and good grain Hangi is for Iro-han painted in large area like a sky in the landscape picture, the hard and bad grain Hangi is for Iro-han painted in small area or deep colored area. Sometimes the different colors are carved separately on one Hangi for saving Hangi. For Ukiyo-e woodblock printing, several Iro-han are necessary in accordance with the color’s light and shade nevertheless one same color. There are techniques of printing like “Kakeawase” to appear the another color by painting the different colors on the same area, “Bokashi Zuri” to repeat printing several times on the large area by the same Iro-han, and etc... The number of Iro-han is often different from the actual number of times for printing.