Sunday, August 24, 2014

Woodworking in Burma, handtools

It's not always easy to scratch your handtool itch while on holliday, but I got lucky a few times. In the first place the wood carvers. This is probably mostly touristic entertainment, but they were quite serious about it. Just a pitty they cover most of it in glittering varnish, gold or black paint.

During one of our trips around Inle lake we encountered a guy making a bunch of simple chairs and tables. Morticing by hand, despite the router in the background. And he also used one of these typical Asian handplanes. This one has a double iron, bedded somewhat steeper then the 45 degrees we usually have overhere. It looks very homemade like. Another regular tool in Asia is the framesaw.

The highlight of handtool working certainly was this small boatyard, also in Inle lake. First time ever I saw pit sawing in real life! Another nice picture is the planing bench, very simple, but effectively enough, I guess.

Ripsawing by hand. Of course, what else?

And finally a picture of handplaning with one of these Asian planes. Good to see how they use these in real life. They probably use them in every possible way imaginable, but this handposition is unique to these kinds of planes.

That's all about the woodworking I've seen in Burma. It is a unique country. Because of its isolation during the last decades, you get a glimpse of the old ways of Asia. But Burma is changing really fast now, so if you want to see it yourself, don't wait too long. One last picture, the famous and unique rowing technique of the fisherman in Inle lake.

Woodworking in Burma, furniture.

Nice furniture was really scarce in Burma. Most houses, temples and monasteries were quite empty inside, and the hotel rooms only had typical cheap and ugly hotel room furniture like you find everywhere. We didn't visit any musea, maybe there are some interesting ones in Yangon?

Anyway, here are some nice ones from the monasteries. these cabinets probably have some religous purpose, but I couldn't find out what purpose. Quality of the pictures isn't great, because these buildings are very dark, and I am not a great photographer anyway. Click on the pictures to see larger images.

And I liked this simple bench. Simple as it is, it looks like a nice project for a garden bench.

Woodworking in Burma, the monasteries

Burma is a very religous country, Budism is the main religion and you see the monks everywhere in large numbers. And they live in monasteries, so there is no shortage of these either. There are a couple of old ones preserved, made of teak wood. All of these with huge timbers, supporting the structure and lots of decorative carving.

The Bagay Kaung in Inwa, close to Mandalay and a former capitol of the country. It is made in 1834 and still in use as a monastery.

In the town of Mandalay there are two very nice ones. The Shwe In Bin Kyaung which had a serene quietness when we arrived. Rich Chinese jade merchants build this one in 1895.

The famous Shwenandaw Kyaung which is the most richly carved monastery with lots of (fading) gilding inside. It was first the royal appartment from King Mindon who died in 1878, but later moved out of the palace walls and converted to a monastery, luckily because the palace was completely ruined in WW2.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Woodworking in Burma

We just returned from a three week trip to Burma, or Myanmar as it is called now. Because it is the rainy season, we only visited the central part around Mandalay, not the coast, nor Yangon, which are usually drowned in water around this time. Three weeks is plenty to visit Mandalay, Bagan, the Inle lake and the mountain area towards Hsipaw, so we took it easy and spend a lot of time in all these places. Burma is fantastic. It is a beauifull country, lots of great things to see, and the people are very nice, always friendly, always smiling. At the same time, it is a very poor country and that can be confrontational at times. Especially Mandalay is starting to see more and more slumps and filth and all that. Burma is also changing really fast, and I'm not sure where the change is leading to. I really hope a lot of the people will profit from this change while at the same time remaining in balance with their heritage.

I discovered some nice woodworking things during the trip which I would like to share over the next few blogs. Wood is still a major building material, together with bamboo, especially in the country side. You'll encounter plenty of wooden buildings like these stilt houses in Inle Lake.

Usually they are build in a quite crude manner, but sometimes you see some embellishment, like this one.

They use a lot of teak wood, which is abundant in this country. A famous one is the U Bein bridge, leading to a small village. It is 1.2 km long.

The wood is decaying, despite it being teak, and I think a restoration is being proposed.