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WALNUT WOOD CARVING

MATERIALS AND PROCESS

RAW MATERIAL:The material used in walnut woodcarving is obtained from walnut tree (Juglans regia) locally known as Dhoon Kul. The wood used can be from root, stem or branch. The colour, grain and sheen of walnut wood is unique. The wood derived from root is almost black with the grain more pronounced than the wood from the trunk which lighter in colour. Branches have the lightest colour almost blond with no noticeable grain. The value of the wood differs with the wood from the root being most expensive. The smooth, sating surface of the walnut wood makes it easy to handle. Walnut wood does not easily wrap or shrink or splinter and is light in proportion to its strength. The tree, which is found only in Kashmir region (i.e. in India), is of four varieties; categorized on the basis of the fruit the tree bears namely:

• Khanak or wild walnut whose tree is diminutive in size
• Wantu or Vont Dun , the fruit has a hard shell Dunu
• Kakazi which is considered to bear the best fruit with the lightest shell

Wantu, Dun and Khakazi are cultivated while as khanak is found in the wild.

The best quality walnut wood is obtained from Shupiyan and Anantnag (Islamabad) areas of the valley. The felling of the tree is subject to government approval and is generally procured in the form of logs (ghan) with requisite registration documents from authorized dealers. Sale of walnut wood outside the state of Jammu & Kashmir in raw form (i.e. as logs or planks) is banned.

The log so purchased by the karkhanwala or the artisan (naqash) is sent to the saw mill, known locally as bandsaws for conversion into planks of required thickness. The process is locally known as laker chiren or simply as chirun.

The thickness of the planks is determined by the nature of the article that is to be manufactured from it and varies from 2 soot (1/4 “) to 24”. The average thicknesses of the planks used in some popular and widely manufactured walnut wood articles are:

• 2 soot – for Jewellery boxes, also for making inner box lining.

• 4soot to 8 soot—for large boxes.

• 1” to 1 ½ “—for panels.

• 8” -- for bowls to be carved from a single piece.

• 24” -- for items like decorative lamp stands.

The wooden planks so obtained are then seasoned.

SEASONING: The first stage in this process is to keep the planks in an erect position so that the sap in the plank descends. This stage takes place out in the sun for 15-20 days in summer and 6 months in case of winter. The wooden planks so obtained are then are piled along the edges one upon the other alternately almost in the manner of header and stretcher. The process is never carried out in the sun but always takes place in shade. The gap in between the different layers of the planks allows the passage of air, which helps, in the seasoning process. The seasoning process normally takes place at the karkhana or the residence of the artisan (naqash). As a thumb rule wood is never allowed to dry completely but is generally seasoned in a manner that ensures that the plank retains uptill 50% of its moisture. Wood that is dried completely and is thus devoid of any moisture is liable to splinter or crack during the process of carving. The alternate layering of the wooden planks for seasoning also ensures that the wood does not warp.

 

MANUFACTURE OF OBJECT:

 

The seasoned wood is then sent to the carpenter who makes the required object from it, which may be a box, a piece of furniture like table, chair etc. The traditional tools that the carpenter uses in the manufacturing of various items are saw (leter); planer (randha); measuring tape (phet gaz); L-angle for obtaining parallel, perpendicular lines (khari hat), wooden scale (khat chhal), tur etc.

The planks are first planed, made into uniform thickness of regular size. The carpenter also fits the object with the required hardware accessories like hinges, screws etc. Traditionally the joinery detailing of many walnut wood items was of an inferior quality and the hardware was also not properly fixed. These days’ machines like drills etc and better joints are used in the process.

From the carpenter who is generally referred to as furniture tchan (furniture carpenter), the object is then passed onto the wood carver or the naqash.

 

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