Kintsugi 金継ぎ: The Golden Art of Repair
What is Kintsugi 金継ぎ?
Kintsugi, literally "Gold Joining," is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery through the use of lacquers and gold dust. The idea is to highlight the history of the object's journey through use, breakage, and repair.
Continue reading below to find the Kintsugi Kit Instructions for a step-by-step guide on how to kintsugi.
How to make Muro / Urushi Buro (Lacquer Bath)
Muro is a container for drying lacquer. The lacquer will naturally absorb moisture from the atmosphere and dry it. That being said, temperature is an important factor; if it is hot and humid, the lacquer will dry quickly and could leave the adhesive too brittle to achieve good results.
Therefore, it is important to allow the lacquer to dry slowly while maintaining an appropriate temperature and humidity— between 75°F to 82°F, and 70% to 80% humidity.
First, prepare a cardboard box that is large enough to hold your kintsugi; lay the plastic wrap inside the box. Cover the entire bottom, ensuring there are no gaps.
Next, wet your two towels; wring them out so that the towels are dampened, not soaking/dripping wet. Outline the inside of the cardboard box with these towels. Moisten the sides of the box with a spray bottle.
How to make Mugi Urushi (Urushi Glue)
Mugi Urushi = kiurushi + flour + water
Put a small amount of flour on the pallet. Add water to the flour in increments using a dropper and knead well until the flour-water mixture becomes the texture of well-chewed gum.
Now, begin adding the kiurushi to the mixture. Mix flour paste and kiurushi; knead well.
If the mixture feels too dry, don’t worry. As you add more kiurushi, the texture will become more and more like a moist glue. (Do not add more water to adjust the solution.)
Urushi gradually changes color as it comes in contact with the air, so it’s a good idea to cover it with a plastic spatula while working.
If you make too much Mugi Urushi, that’s ok! It will last 2-3 days if you wrap it in plastic wrap.
How to make Sabi Urushi
Sabi Urushi = tonoko powder + kiurushi + water
Put a small amount of tonoko powder on the pallet. Make a circular embankment and add water to the center in increments using a dropper. Knead well until the tonoko-water mixture becomes the consistency of wasabi.
Then, take this kneaded mix and combine it with kiurushi. Create a 10:6 ratio of tonoko-water: kiurushi.
Once no lumps or graininess remains, the Sabi Urushi is ready to use. Like the Mugi Urushi, it gradually changes color as it comes in contact with the air, so it’s a good idea to re-knead it with a plastic spatula around every 3 minutes.
Let’s try Kintsugi!
Here, we introduce you to the traditional method of repair using this lacquer process.
1. Ware, the ‘crack’
This begins the preprocessing stage.
Smooth all cracked cross-sections down with a rough file, then apply Kiurushi to all cross-sections and let it sit overnight.
2. Before putting on gloves, remove all masking tape. Once this is done and your gloves are on, we will apply the adhesive Mugi Urushi.
Using a bamboo spatula, apply the Mugi Urushi adhesive evenly to one side of the cracked sections. Just one side is necessary.
3. If your piece is broken into three or more pieces, first begin with the smaller pieces. This is because if you start with the larger pieces, the smaller ones will be difficult to fit.
Apply tight pressure from both sides until the pieces stick together firmly. Fix with masking tape.
4. Reapply a layer of Mugi Urushi to the cross-sections of the now glued together mass.
Attach the larger piece(s) now, apply a firm pressure to ensure the pieces are all secure. If the larger piece(s) are applied too weak, they will be easy to remove even after the Kintsugi is completed.
5. Apply masking tape. Be sure to evenly space pieces of masking tape, rather than applying it all in single long strips without gaps.
6. Let your bowl lie in the Urushi Buro to cure the lacquer. Wet the inside of your bowl and put it in with a wet towel (see How to Make Urushi Buro).
Put a lid on the Urushi Buro and let it rest for 1 week.
7. After a week has passed, use an Exacto knife to cut away any Mugi Urushi that is protruding or has overflowed in excess.
8. If there are still any grooves or chip, fill them with Sabi Urushi for a smooth, beautiful finish.
9. Even if they are not visible to the eye, there are also small grooves and chips so it is best to fill all of the seams with Sabi Urushi.
Do this, then let it rest overnight.
10. From the next day onward, prepare the surface for the lacquer with 600 grit sandpaper and water. Roll the sandpaper into a thin, pencil-like cylinder.
11. This will be the first coating. Put e urushi onto the palette and apply it to the seams with a fine brush. In the case of the cracks, be sure to apply a thin layer so that the gold powder will set beautifully later on.
12. Once again, let it sit overnight in the Urushi Buro to cure the lacquer.
13. Repeat this process three times.
Sanding -> 2nd coat of lacquer -> Sit in the Urushi Buro for a night -> Sanding -> 3rd coat of lacquer -> Sit in the Urushi Buro for a night
14. Using grit 1500 sandpaper, make the surface of your bowl slightly matte.
Do not sharpen the surface too much or else all of the cracked lines will blend, erasing the lines.
Applying the gold powder:
15. First you will do the base coating. Put a small amount of e urushi on the pallet and apply a very thin layer— imagine 1/10 as thin as plastic wrap.
Once this is done, let it dry in the Urushi Buro for about 15 to 30 minutes.
16. Next, prepare shincyu powder (brass powder).
For this step, it is best to use a clear palette on a dark surface as the powder will be easier to see.
17. Apply the shincyu powder onto a kintsugi brush. To apply, tap the brush lightly with a cotton swab or your finger to dust the powder onto the surface evenly and with care.
Do this until the lacquer is no longer visible; once this occurs, you are done.
Once again, dry overnight in the Urushi Buro.
18. The next day, the powder will have finished hardening.
Finally, mix kiurushi and terpentine oil in a 1:1 ratio and use this mixture to gently trace over the kintsugi cracks with a cotton swab.
With a light pressure, remove any excess lacquer with a tissue. Wipe it down completely until there is no more excess lacquer sticking to the tissue.
Dry overnight (or longer if necessary) in the Urushi Buro.