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At one time, nearly all of the 270 households in the village of Shawo would have been engaged in woodcraft, but today just six elderly men know the old techniques. Luckily, a younger generation is taking steps to ensure that the craft does not die out.

Traditional woodcraft in the Chinese village of Shawo, Hebei Province, uses foot- and hand-powered lathes to carve utensils, dishes, toys and more from pieces of wood. For example, in the video below, posted by the International Wood Culture Society on their YouTube page, “set turning” is used to carve four nestled bowls out of a single 30-cm block of willow.

The craftsman in this video is 84-year-old Cheng Jinqing and he is assisted by his young apprentice Li Xuemin, one of the younger people in the village working to keep the traditional techniques alive.

First, the artisan chooses his wood, then shapes it into a cylinder with a small axe, a process known as “shaping blank.”

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He carves a small base into the blank so that it can be mounted onto the lathe.

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Once mounted into the lathe, the artisan uses pedal power to turn the blank while he shaves off strips of wood to get the shape he desires.

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Use the set-turning technique, the artisan is able to carve several bowls nestled together, so to speak. This saves about one third of the wood compared to carving them individually.

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And the final products are beautiful and delicate, showing off the grain of the wood and a timeless design.

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It really is quite lovely to watch the craftsman at work, and it’s good to know that these techniques will not be lost any time soon.

Source and images: International Wood Culture Society
H/T: Kotaro Burogu