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Kintsugi (wikipedia.org)
50 points by _zhqs on Sept 6, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 26 comments



I'm about to go to bed but I have been practicing kintsugi for years if anyone wants to ask specific questions.

I learned it by using interlibrary loan to get a bunch of different partial resources and a university librarian to help me translate them. I'm sure youtube or something is an option these days.

The materials are available online. It is a very, very difficult skill. It involves a lot of experience and intuition with the mixing of many materials involved, plus a lot of spacial intelligence to fit the things back together correctly. And finally just tolerance for frustration because it often doesn't work, wasting hours of work and setting you back weeks.

If you like the aesthetics just use epoxy or something and gold dust. I can't really recommend it for the end result alone. Not worth the effort and frustration.


I wish I have seen your post few days ago.

I just finished mending something dear for my mum.

I practiced few techniques on a cheap mug. In order to try out how the end result would look like.

From the photos and scarce info I got something to get me going.

I really don't like how the 'craft' method looks like - cheap western approximation of Kintsugi.

I wanted to get the look of smooth gold surface merging two pieces seamlessly. But also I want the gold line to be visible.

I couldn't really find info on what materials to use to acheive the original Kintsugi look, so I bought few things and started experimenting.

When practicing I noticed that when crack is clean there is barely space for golden seam. Also its hard to align pieces perfectly smooth. So the first thing I did was to file down the cracked edge with diamond file, at angle to preserve lower layers that will make contact and help align the pieces. This makes the crack gap appear larger, it makes it look easier and better looking in my opinion.

I ended up clear quick epoxy, to bind the pieces together. I used small amounts of it. When it was set but not dry i used a scalpel to cut out excess and make a groove in the crack. Then clean up the surface and let it set overnight.

Next I used slow setting clear epoxy mixed 1:1 ish with golden pigment (It was pure titanium oxide). I tried multiple pigments and the pale yellow seems closest to the really gold look. I filled in the gaps carefully making sure its barely above surface of the crack.

After hour or so when the epoxy mixture was gooey I used flat piece of wood with wet paper tissue to even out the surface. I pushed the 'spillovers' into the grove (for cleanup) and move the excess along the surface of the crack.

When that was all done, I clean off the surface next to crack and applied real gold leaf (its not too expensive, mine costed me €3 in total). Gold leaf is pain and I wasted some in the beginning.

The end result looks nice though not as good as the original pictures.

Can you comment on my technique and maybe give some info on traditional materials? Maybe recommended readings?


Aligning the pieces is definitely the hardest part. You can get them to fit perfectly together without a binder but once you add glue or resin or anything they can move and it's just very difficult.

My advice is just to focus on getting them together correctly at that point and make sure the angles and curves are right. It's extremely difficult and there will be glue or resin everywhere but you can clean it up later.

A part of the traditional technique you might be able to use is how to apply the gold. They use a fine gold powder, but it isn't mixed into the resin. Once the crack is fitted and set it is painted over with resin again and then gold dust is sifted onto the resin before it cures. This ends up looking a lot smoother and better than leaf or gold mixed with the resin. There are some techniques where dust is embedded into it then sanded down but I don't recommend them for starting out.

Honestly it sounds like you're doing fine. That sort of experience is consistent with how I learned, it took about a dozen attempts before I got anything worth showing anyone. Like I said, it's a difficult, frustrating skill.


Thanks for sharing insight. Do you use a varnish over the crack to protect the golden surface? If so what kind of product would you recommend?

I might have few accidental breakages in the future :)

I find it quite relaxing and it could be my next hobby.


I don't use a varnish, I find the resin cures hard enough to not need it for normal use. If you're using something softer like epoxy you'll probably want something but I don't have any experience there.


If you don't mind me asking what kind of resin are you using?


I use urushi and sometimes cashew lacquer. These may not truly be "resin" if that word has a specific technical meaning. Some of my original sources used resin as a translation for the urushi material so I do too.


Thanks, for the info. I appreciate your time.


Just so you know: the "lacquer" used for kintsugi is actually urushi - the sap of a tree related to poison oak and poison ivy. Before you think about trying this, understand that your choice is to gown up completely and avoid all contact or just go with the rash and gain immunity over time.

That said, urushi in all its forms is one of the most amazing art forms - there are literally thousands of decorative techniques and uses.


I've done kintsugi for years and it's not that extreme. The rash is definitely very similar to poison ivy but not as lingering in my experience.

I'm not sure about immunity either though. Don't allergic reactions get worse with repeated exposure? I've always been careful about it for that reason.


My friend who learned urushi in Japan said they just all started without any protection. I found that repeated small accidents just built up my own immunity. And it turns out that spraying an exposed area with hot water, as hot as you can stand, provides about 12 hours relief from itching.


I had known the word "urushiol", but had not the faintest idea it had a Japanese root. TIL. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxicodendron_vernicifluum


Thank you for the warning. I'm planning to get into the hobby with a box of preserved broken objects and that was not something I'm ready for. Has anyone found an alternative lacquer or used biohazard-like PPE and procedures to avoid contact completely?


Personally, I don't think there is anything like it. Since it is an adhesive you can do things like glue broken pottery. Or you can cover it with tiny pieces of egg shell (rankaku). You paint on goo, cure it in warm&humid environment and it becomes food safe, water safe and alcohol safe. The curing changes the formula so it is no longer toxic at all.

I know some people who are very diligent about contact and manage to work without getting a rash. If you want to go that route you have to be very diligent. Apron, gloves, long sleeves, you don't need a mask. The problem for many people comes when their phone rings and they reach into their pocket (true story) or their nose itches. I am not that neat so I just went with it.


Thank you! That sounds very manageable. One trick I learned working with non-volatile hazardous material is apiarist suits. They're cheap on Amazon and the screen is enough to remind me that I'm working with stuff that shouldn't touch my face without being suffocating in the California heat. Though I usually put on a pair of latex gloves instead of the apiarist gloves for better mobility and use a water proof phone for less awkward cleaning.

Are there any English language sites/communities dedicated to kintsugi that I should check out?


I have not been able to find a community. In larger cities you may be able to find a teacher. I found individuals who helped me and a person in Boston. Japanese swords use urushi so you may find some resources among those groups who build those.


You don't need to suit up like it's ebola or whatever. Just wear gloves and be careful about the dust.

You can use cashew lacquer. It has its own pros and cons but isn't as nasty on the skin and overall easier to work with anyway.


This is really cool. I’ve seen and heard about it but didn’t know what it was called.

Seems like it would be fun with (food-safe) epoxy and dye. One problem is that it seems like most glass-ware is tempered so when it does break it shatters in a million pieces.


There is a good documentary series that shows different trades from East Asia. And there is an episode about kintsugi: https://youtu.be/CUxAfpHc7Jo

The two seasons are worth a watch if you like this kind of documentaries:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-qn-eiR753dIGQwqS2xs...

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL-qn-eiR753ccooonsx0U...


This nerdwriter1 video in kintsugi is also really nice.

https://youtu.be/lT55_u8URU0


Also the title of a Death Cab for Cutie album.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi_(album)


Also co-opted by Henkel as Loctite Kintsuglue™ [1] ; which itself is a knockoff of the crowdfunded Sugru™ [2]

[1] https://www.henkel.com/press-and-media/press-releases-and-ki...

[2] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17292710


I just watched all of Man in The High Castle; they show this in some later episodes. Neat concept--I wonder if there are specific formulas to make repairs to mugs &c food-safe?


I guess it's fine to hold things like dry fruit but if you pour boiling water on it, I think the risk is if that could that leach something into the water?

Certified food safe epoxies exist but are expensive, e.g. ArtResin is one.


I guess kintsugi becomes a dying art form once a new bowl can be stamped out at 1/50 the cost and speed of an old master trying to repair the worn out thing with gold.


Its a philosophy of repairing broken things and in doing so making them a better more interesting more unique and above all personal.

But some people will be satisfied living in plastic houses eating of plastic plates.




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