Tsuiki copperware is created by hammering and shaping a single sheet of copper into a finished item, and a great variety of tools are required for this process: in all, Gyokusendo still uses around 300 iron shaping rods and approximately 200 kinds of hammers. Each blow of the craftsman’s hammer compresses the copper sheet and gradually shapes it into the object desired, with many years of experience being required to master this difficult skill. As it is hammered, the copper becomes harder, and it is therefore necessary to soften it again at regular intervals in the furnace, in order to maintain its workability. This hammering and heating can be repeated as many as 20 times during the creation of a simple kettle.
After its shaping is complete, the product acquires its final hue using traditional coloring methods handed down through several generations, often involving the use of natural Japanese privet wax to create contrasting colors and textures. Finally, tin is usually also plated onto the interior of the item, for ease of daily use. The beauty of the finished Gyokusendo copperware item then stands in quiet testimony to the craftsman’s mastery of the various skills required for its creation.
Some hammers are shared between artisans, but most of them are for individual use.
After many years of training, artisans find some hammers more precise because of their shape, handle length or width,
Raising (the edge of a copper sheet)
Rising is raising a copper sheet which is cut in the size of a vessel with a wooden mallet.
After making large wrinkles on the edge of the sheet, it’s ready for reducing its diameter of the raised part with a hammer.
Since copper gets hard as it is hammered, it’s soaked in water after heating in the furnace. “Strike while the iron is hot.” may be a common phrase, but when it comes to copper, it still keeps its softness even after cooling.