Traditional Kintsugi – Fixing my neighbours’ tableware

I follow few video sites, and wimp is probably my number one in it. One day I ran into this video about the practice of traditional kintsugi, where broken pottery is fixed and the flaw is made the most valuable part of the piece through application of gold. It instantly sparked my interest and I decided to give it a go.

I had decided to take on the challenge, but the problem was I didn’t have any broken ceramics. Thanks to a BBQ session in our yard, my neighbour broke their plates and I instantly scavenged them and ran to etsy to order materials from Dave Pike, a truly marvelous kintsugi master. Once the materials arrived, I started working.

After numerous trials and error, and at least as many emails from Dave (Thank You!) I managed to piece some plates together. I will expand more on the practice and even showcase some of the pieces I’ve done on a later time, but here’s the general take on how the process works.

Method overview

In traditional kintsugi, flour and water are mixed to create a small dough or paste. Equal amounts of basic lacquer is mixed with the dough until completely smooth and mixed. This paste is then used to coat the cut surfaces of the piece instead of modern adhesives.

After sufficient coverage of the seams, the piece is assembled and held together using rubber bands, tape or gravity. The lacquer polymerizes water to harden, so the instead of drying, the glue needs water to cure. Place the piece carfully in a box with a rh of 80% or more for two to seven days.

traditional kintsugi
First step is to mix the lacquer with wheat based dough. This “glue” is then applied to the pieces and using rubberbands held together

Once the lacquer has cured, the excess can be scraped off. Final cleaning of the seams should be done using a fine grit sanding paper. This is slow and tedious work.

Cleaned seams after initial curing
After two to seven days of curing, the seams are cleaned using a spatula and sand paper

A finer, red lacquer (black is preferred, but I don’t have it) is applied with a brush in as thin lines as possible on top of the existing seams. After thorough curing, the seams are smoothed with sanding paper.

Top red laquer applied
After few polishing steps, the seam is covered with a red lacquer and sanded after curing

A third layer of lacquer is applied very thinly and metal powder is dusted to adhere to the still wet lacquer. I’ve used brass and silver in my pieces. The pictures in this one has silver in it.

Silver powder applied to a top lacquer
Silver powder is applied on a second layer of red lacquer and allowed to cure

After the final curing, the piece is cleaned using water and the seams polished using wata (kind of silk cotton).

Finished product
The final result is cleaned and polished

I found a great book that describes the history and the practice in much more detail. I think I’ll have to write a review of the book once I’ve read it completely through.

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