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The Ming and Qing Dynasty Hardwood Furniture Manufacture Procedures

It takes several steps to manufacture of a piece of furniture and every handicraft skill matters in each procedure, especially in the furniture processing in Ming and Qing dynasties.

Here is a specific explanation of hardwood furniture manufacture procedures in Ming and Qing dynasties: 

ž Lumber cutting   

ž Cutting is the procedure of making the raw round wood into plank, brick and/or other shape of wood. The traditional cutting procedure is still following the hand cutting way. The utilization of the wood shows great handcraft skills. When it comes to the high-end wood material, in order to avoid the nature flaw we must use lumber as long as possible. And cut one or two section follow the grain of the wood.

 

ž Drying

ž Drying the wood is a very important process of making the furniture. It will significantly increase the hardness and stability of the wood. And reduce the possibility of wood crack. Therefore extend the lifecycle of the furniture.

 

ž Choosing raw material

ž Seventy percent skill and thirty percent material. Choosing the right raw material is the key to make a master piece of furniture. A good material will make good mortise and tenon joint and to make strong furniture. The furniture will have better look if the wood has similar color and grain. Therefore be more valuable.

 

ž Component

ž Follow the blue print to draw lines in the raw wood and start to make components which are necessary for the furniture. Some parts are still hand made by using “Sou Saw” (a traditional Chinese saw to make furniture) when it comes to pieces like curve parts.

 

ž Drill Tenon

ž There is no metal nails used to connect the parts together not even with the isinglass (a kind of fish glue). The Drill Tenon can make perfect connection in very dimension with absolute no gap aperture.

 

ž Hand-made Isinglass

ž Traditionally we use fish bladder and/or hog skin fat as glue(when process the isinglass, first dry the fish bladder and then use warm water to soften. Afterwards use it to connect the parts.

 

ž Assembly

ž Assemble spare parts together. Before assemble make sure the wood has similar color and grain, correct diagonal, as well as closed mortise hole. In case of loosen too tide between the parts, adjustment of mortise holes is necessary.

 

ž Engraving

ž According to manufacture requirement, engrave patterns in the furniture. Place decorative pattern stickers on the raw wood and do a rough curve based on the pattern. After the sketch is done, a fine carving is carried on. There are many ways when it comes to engraving. For example, openwork, piercing, high relief, bas-relief, shallow carving, Mao Carving (detailed line the silver pattern carved on the piece of the gold or silver) and more. Further openwork has one side work and two sides work while shallow carving has Yin carving and Yang carving (similar to Gravure and Relief printing technology).

 

ž Polishing

ž People often say “One time work of chiseling. Two time work of engraving. And seven time work of polish.” Polishing takes seventy percent of the whole workload. After engraving and clean, the piece is sent to polishing shop to refining. The traditional way is to use Ramose Scouring Rush Herb. Nowadays people often use sand paper and polish four times. Polishing is a very vital procedure since it decides the quality of the furniture. If polishing is nicely done, it will compensate handicap of the furniture if there is any. Otherwise it will damage the furniture somehow.

 

ž Waxing

ž Waxing is a decorative technology to process the surface of the wood. It will not only show the great nature beauty of the wood grain but also generating a protection layer in the wood surface. This layer is to prevent corrosion from nature environment. With time changes, due to air oxidation, hand touch, cloth wiping and other factors, a nature, clear, as moistening as jade surface will all over the furniture. And it is called “Baojiang” in Chinese.

 

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