Tosho needle juniper (Juniperus rigida) (Part 1)

Tosho (part 1)

I was given this Tosho needle juniper (Juniperus rigida) to work on. As you can see this tree is in pretty good shape and is in need of little refinement. The main part of my work will be done to the dead wood.

(front)                                                                                      (right side)



(back)                                                                                   (top view)

I thought the dead wood as a whole had some great potential. There was some good movement and a lot of depth to work with in most areas. However the right side was area of concern for a couple of reasons. There once was a huge branch there that was cut leaving a flat area with little natural character. The wood had started decaying and had a cork like texture to it, which would have to be removed down to solid wood. At the top there is also a large bulky chunk of wood that will need to be removed.

The work begins with the angle grinder as I remove the bulk of the decaying wood and make my initial cuts throughout the remainder of the dead wood. Before starting I come up with a plan and will often use a marker to draw on the spots I want to carve. There is no turning back once the wood is removed so a well thought out plan really helps. This piece was not that complicated and I really tried to accentuate the movement that already existed. When carving the right side, I first removed the chunk on the top and then carved out all the “corky” material. I then started to add some interest with depth and movement.


(front)                                                                    (right side)


Once the rough carving was done, it was time to refine and smooth things out. There is a limited amount of dead wood work done here at Daijuen so as you can see the carving tools are not exactly state of the art. There is no Dremel tool or craving bits of any kind, so the majority of the work is done with hand carving tools and sand paper. The main goal of this work is to make the initial grinder cuts look natural. Using the grinder cuts as a template, more subtle and flowing movement is created with the hand tools. All the sharp, hard angles and curves are smoothed out and softened with the sand paper. I try and imagine how natural tears and breaks in the wood would happen, paying attention to the movement of the woods grain. If it’s obvious you have cut across the grain it will seem unnatural.



Now that the dead wood is finished I can clean up the live bark of the tree and remove any needles that are growing above the pads. I am also cleaning any growth on the under sides of the branches. In a mature tree any growth under the dense pads would be shaded out and die. Seeing the branch under the pad is a sign of a mature tree and gives a nice clean look. It’s important when cutting the long growth off to get the tip of your scissors into the stem and snip it. If you cut straight across the stem you can cut other needles that will later brown and be unsightly.



After this light pruning the dead wood was treated with lime sulfer and the job was complete….. for now.

(front)                                                                            (right side)



(top view)                                                                        (close up of the front)

I didn’t plan it but the front view kind of looks like a skull, and I dig it! The top view of the right side kind of looks like a mountain range, didn’t plan that either. The main goal was to create depth, movement and interest. I hope that I achieved that. Mr Suzuki seamed please with my work.

I really enjoy doing dead wood work because it gives me another avenue to be creative. I hope you enjoyed reading about it. Thanks for following along as my time here rolls on in Japan.

If you have any questions or want to share any of your dead wood work,or stories please feel free to do so. I would love to hear about it.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Tosho needle juniper (Juniperus rigida) (Part 1)

  1. Jim says:

    I like your ‘work’ and your enthusiasm.

  2. Greg Kozak says:

    Fantastic. But do you realize that the Gators are Rated #2?

  3. vonsgardens says:

    Chris, good to see that you are doing very well at Daiju-en. Keep on posting!

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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