Whittling – Part 2

So to conclude my previous post I should tell you a bit about the whittling workshop at the J.B. Blunk estate.

It was with Japanese master whittler Yo Takimoto. Yo-san lives in the US and Japan. He was born in Wakayama and graduated from USC with a degree in Architecture. He subsequently worked for 22 years as a city planner in Tokyo. 16 years ago a friend gave him a ‘kiridashi’ a small Japanese style carving knife, to help him with stress relief from his hectic job and to remind him of his postwar childhood in Kumano; ‘where I played in the forests and swam in the river’. This set a new direction for Yo-san’s life and for many years now he has been running workshops in Japan and the US for children and adults where he shares the experience of what he calls ‘kikezuri’. This is not your regular back porch whittlin’ but a subtle exploration of the connection between your inner processes, your hand, the tool and the small piece of wood you have chosen to work with. Yo-san brings a smorgasbord of different delicious woods from the US and Japan to his workshops and then each participant chooses  a piece which ‘speaks to them’. Then with just a kiridashi, and later some dried horsetail stalks and a tightly bound palm leaf brush for a final polish, each person sits quietly for three hours and slowly brings a shape out of the wood. I chose a knotty little piece of Madrone with its sensuous blood red bark still in place. Yo-san later said that it was his favorite American wood to work with and that old growth, tight-knit redwood from J.B.’s collection was a close runner up.

J.B. Blunk’s home was a perfect setting for this exploration. Sitting under the shade of a live oak in good company letting the conversation flow as each of us was intensely but gently working away. I could imagine J.B. going through the same careful dance – with a chainsaw in his case!!

Yo Takimoto - master whittler. I love the fundamental contradiction in this title.

What's on the menu?

Whittlin', perhaps thinking about the fresh oysters to come.

The final outcome - a worry stick. I've taken to carrying it in my jacket pocket to keep me grounded.

The workshop was a real treat. After 25 years of working with wood I do admit to getting complacent sometimes. Yo-san helped me rediscover the pleasure of tracing grain, letting a form grow, and the feel of a good sharp tool at work. Very satisfying!


  1. Oh the beautiful, simple pleasures we are increasingly programmed to ignore!
    There is no belittling whittling!


  2. What a dreamy day! I’m now reconsidering my offcuts/kindling pile, replete with tasty bits of black acacia, madrone, claro walnut and eucalyptus. Now I just need some dedicated time out of time! Thanks Donald-


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s