This week, I sorted through my plates and applied the first coat of lacquer. Most people sand the woodwork before applying any finish. I did this for a number of years but have taken a different approach since last year. When attending a woodworking exhibition at the local art museum, I happened to be just in time for a gallery talk. When the man got to his piece, he commented that to him, a key point to a good finish is how much lacquer he can get the wood to absorb in the first coat. These words have always stuck with me. Whether it is right or wrong, I have tried to put these words into practice. Because the grain is still open, the wood absorbs much more lacquer than it I had sanded it first. While I use more of the precious lacquer this way, I find it gives a much darker finish, as well as protects the wood better. This way, even once the glossy coat is worn away, there is so much lacquer in the wood itself, I have found it still maintains a great luster.
Applying the lacquer is as simple as wipe on, wipe off. There is very little that can go wrong at this stage.
After they are all done, they go on the rack where I will forget about them for about a week. They should dry in a couple of days, but I feel letting them dry a little longer makes the sanding a little easier.
Next week, I will sort through them all, and decide how they will be finished. I plan on keeping the best looking ones for filling the grain with gold or silver leaf, and the others will become more traditional lacquerware, most likely black or red.
Just as I was finished with these plates, I got a call from an acquaintance who lives in town. His neighborhood is rebuilding their mikoshi ahead of the local festival later this month. As part of it, he asked if I could turn a few decorative parts. It was definitely a challenge turning anything this large. I am a little out of practice turning between centers, at about 6 inches in diameter, they were larger than anything I have done recently. Unfortunately, they did not turn out quite as well as I was hoping, but I an glad to have the chance to give back to the local community. So many people have been so accepting here, it feels good to express my thanks.