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Thread: Usu Maddness!!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Tokyo Japan
    Posts
    15,807

    Usu Maddness!!

    Usu, what is an Usu you ask?

    It is the bottom part of the tools used to make Mochi, what is Mochi? That is the pounded rice them love here in Japan.


    This is a typical Mochitsuki

    Here in my neighbourhood we do this the first Sunday in October, a couple of years ago I got involved, they found out that I've been doing this event a my friends house down in Zushi for many years and I know that I'm doing, so they wanted the help, also it turns out at just under fifty years of age (at the time) I was a good fifteen years younger than almost any of the other guys participating. Well it was not long after the first event when saw the hammers or Kine (Key-Neh) that they were using were in bad shape, they get busted up after constant use, so I put the heads on my lathe and fixed them right up, made them nice and clean again and they were pleased. One of the kine was in really bad shape and I ended up shortening it a lot and making it much smaller in diameter too, I shortened the handle and declared it a kids size kine. This did not go over so well, they were not really interested in having the kids participate. I thought about this a bit and I decided that this was really a bad idea. Most of the guys doing this event will be gone in another 10 to 15 years, and there are hardly any younger people participating, so last year I just grabbed some kids and let them have a go with the kids size kine, the kids LOVED it, so did the young parents. The big wigs got all sorts of excuses that is was not safe, we did not have time for the kids to do this etc. We have only one Usu, or base do do this in here is what it looks like....



    Well they are not cheap, anywhere from $800 to $1200 depending on size.

    I thought that if I make a smaller kids sized one and make some kid sized tools then they will have to let the kids do this event.

    After all, if we are not doing this for the kids then why are we doing it? We lose money on it every year, and like I said, there are no younger people asked to participate. I asked some guys that I know who have kids if they would be interested and they were VERY interested, they told me that they used to do this at the school, but now they don't and that as kids they used to have a chance to do it other places too, but now it is becoming rare, so this event that the neighbourhood association puts on it kind of a last chance.

    For the younger kids I will make different tools, they are like this....



    I'll make some that size and a bit smaller too. I figure that if I just give them the tools and the Usu they will have to let the kids participate, if they don't I'll stop helping.

    I feel really strongly about this, I think it is really short sighted of the town association to not involve the younger people in the neighbourhood.

    OK I have one large chunk of Keyaki, the much hated Japanese Elm, in stock....







    That is my Estwing hammer for scale





    I dug out the new electric chainsaw and cut off the bottom chunk


    And a slice from the bottom to make is as square as possible


    I mounted it on my faceplate




    With some more carving I got it on my lathe



    Getting it to this point took some work, let me tell you.



    I thought that I would try to core out a depression in the top, nope that is my carbide tipped coring tool with a chip in it, yep this stuff is HARD






    1/2" bowl gouge, might be hard to see but the nose or tip of the tool is missing a chunk, this stuff is HARD.

    OK break out the EWT carbide cutters...........



    Sigh.... shattered like glass, and I was taking extremely light cuts.

    OK I finally got it down a good six inches, mainly using a pull cut from the center to the outside.







    Of course I found a void, so I chiseled it out and I will fill that with epoxy.



    I'll have to fill it at least twice, as the void is so large I cannot place the Usu in such a way that the epoxy will fill the whole thing in one go.

    I'll also be drilling out the pith in the Usu and filling that with another piece of Keyaki so it won't split over time.

    I looked into how these are made and I found out that they used to be shaped when the wood was fairly green by hand with a specially shaped adze, but I did find this picture.....



    This fellow is sanding the inside of a Usu, but notice the HUGE lathe in the background? That is no wood turning lathe that is a metal work lathe.

    I always said this stuff was tough!

    Wish me luck!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    ABQ NM
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    30,014
    Definitely some hard wood. Have you considered dynamite?
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

    workingwoods.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Location
    The Gorge Area, Oregon
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    4,698
    I heard somewhere that that stuff is hard?

    Looks like kind of a fun project despite the challenges. I remember getting some mochi when we live in Hawaii, it is interesting stuff all right. I don't know but I'm guessing the stuff we got was made with some sort of commercial process. I know there were a couple of folks on Kauai that occasionally still made a batch (a buddies family had a get together to do it once when we lived there, but i've never seen it done or actually had the handmade stuff). It would definitely be a real shame to see the tradition not get carried on.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Tokyo Japan
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    15,807
    Thanks everyone!

    I got some more work done on the Usu, I filled two voids with epoxy, and did more sanding, this is almost done!







    The void on the bottom/side was huge after I picked out all the loose bark etc, I put nearly 100 grams of epoxy in there, that is a LOT.

    I need to get some more and fill in all the holes, I guess that much epoxy going off at one time created a lot of heat bubbles, live and learn!

    Cheers!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Posts
    12,251
    Kudos to you Stu for making this unit and standing up for the kids. I agree on the view that the association is short sighted in not considering how the traddition would pass on if the kids and younger families are not involved.
    I am amazed at what you manage to get turned on your lathe, and unreal to see how hard that wood is.

    This stamping of rice is very much the same as what still goes on all over rural Africa today except the ingredient is usually white maize or dried kasava root.
    You can see how similar the tools are.
    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=gYFAxqWLuD8


    Sent from my SGH-I337M using Tapatalk
    cheers

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Tokyo Japan
    Posts
    15,807
    Thanks Rob.

    The rice we are pounding is steamed first and makes more of a paste.


    These are the type of mochi balls we make.


    Here are some more, these have the sweet bean paste inside them.

    Cheers!
    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Posts
    13,439
    Looking good, nice job on getting involved too.
    Darren

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Billings Missouri near Springfield Mo
    Posts
    4,552
    Good on You Stu for getting involved and working with the kids. I dont understand why the elders dont get it.
    A Turn N Time
    Components for John Smith Organs and the Hobby Organ Builder

    Frog Pond Guitars


    Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Woodstock, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    719
    Has anyone used auto body filler. I did repairs to the garage man door that had rot along the bottom and up the sides a bit. No idea how the filler stood up, sold the house 11 yrs ago.
    hobby woodworking since 1972

  10. #10
    Very cool! I am also surprised that the community doesn't see the value in getting the younger generations involved. It is crazy how hard that would is. I had never heard of this; I had to go look up mochi just to see what it was all about. Kudos to you for sticking to your guns.

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