Tansu Hardware Display

Tansu Hardware Display

Instagram followers have seen some snapshots of this project over the past six or so months, and I would like to finally announce its completion. This art piece is a display of antique Japanese tansu hardware -- locks, details, and various pieces that decorated storage chests dating back to the Edo period. These pieces were procured by the client and delivered to me so that I could design and layout the display around them. The boards that hold the display are salvaged from Japanese shipping crates, also procured by the client. The frame is cedar which I applied the yakisugi technique (also commonly known as shousugiban). This consists of charring the outer layer of the wood then brushing the char off to reveal a highly textural, bronzy finish. The traditional finish tends to leave the char in place, but on something that is moved around with the seasons like a framed artwork, removing it is key to keeping your hands clean of soot. 

It took quite some time to settle on the final arrangement of hardware; each piece has its own character, and determining the best composition meant photographing various layouts and discussing with the client what made the most sense aesthetically. After deciding, I carefully measured the locking hardware on each piece which would need openings and reliefs cut into the boards in order to sit flush. Before attaching the hardware permanently, I roughly trimmed the board and loose frame to size, then brought it to the client to evaluate if it fit properly within the alcove they wanted it in. While the board was true to the dimensions originally given to me, those dimensions were on the large side. The board fit snug within the space, but it was difficult to manage insertion and removal. As such, I trimmed the board down by about an inch on each side to allow fingers to reach back and easily remove the frame. As this dimensional alteration took place after cutting in the hardware openings, I could not reposition the pieces -- hence the closeness of the top row to the frame. This also meant leaving off a few pieces of hardware that were meant for the corners since they would become too close to the lettering or other hardware to look good. 

The hardware was attached using small pin nails which I hand "antiqued." This consisted of painting the heads black and then lightly sanding them to dull the finish so they matched the patina of the hardware. I used old-stock pins for the frame to secure the corner joints. These slightly rusty brown nails matched the bronzey yakisugi frame very well. To account for seasonal movement in the wood, I used nails to attach the frame to itself and the boards, leaving about 1/8" of gap in the groove that the boards rest in within the frame.

I would like to thank the client for this incredibly unique commission, as well as my father for helping with the antiquing and materials prep.



1 comment

  • Jason

    Super cool and NICE job. I can’t wait to show off your update. I have really enjoyed your past project also. Thanks

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