Mending broken pieces

p1030518This year I have been practicing my kintsugi, or mending ceramics with gold and lacquer. I had a lot of broken pieces for practice. I bought a kit here, and it came with written instructions with lots of photos.

For a little over $100 I was able to repair 2 bowls that were literally in pieces, one bowl broken in half, several chipped rims on bowls, a chakin tsutsu in about 12 pieces (two were missing or dust when it shattered), two futaoki, two teacups, a mizusashi lid, a chaire and a meimeizara. That’s more than 12 pieces that I would have thrown out.  I think the investment was well worth it.

The hardest part of doing this work is reconstructing pieces that are literally in pieces.  The lacquer mixed with flour is initially soft and it is challenging to hold the pieces together until it hardens.  Using tape, rubber bands and props to keep it from collapsing, fitting the pieces as close as you can without making a mess was difficult.  These pieces are hard to clean up nicely, too.

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p1030519 p1030520p1030508When there are voids or missing pieces, you need to fill in the hole with a mixture of powdered clay and lacquer.  Then sand it smooth and add layers of lacquer to fill in the texture of the mixture to make it smooth. Sand carefully, smooth, paint another layer of lacquer.  It takes a couple of days between coats, so you need patience.


If you are doing a bowl, you need to do both the inside and the outside.  I recommend doing the inside first and then the outside. After filling the voids and cracks, I put a final thin line of lacquer over the crack and carefully dusted the wet lacquer with gold powder (in my case economy brass powder ground to a fineness for kintsugi).  Even if the piece is just cracked, you can repair it and prevent it from further cracking or breaking.

p1030998 p1030502 p1030503At first I was afraid that the lacquer would have a bad taste in the bowls, or that the hot water would crack the lacquer and leak.  But after two weeks of thorough drying, a careful wash, I am happy to say that none of the bowls leak when making tea in them, and there was never any bad taste.

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You can sometimes clean up your mistakes with lacquer thinner, but I used it sparingly.  Please use gloves because lacquer is allergic (like poison oak) if it gets on your skin.  Use a respirator because the fumes are terrible and do it in a well ventilated space.

I got these done in time to use for October when we bring out our broken and mended dogu.

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    • Sinton Stranger on September 10, 2016 at 5:57 am

    Thank you! I love your blog. I had the chance so many years ago to study in Kyoto and wasn’t able to go. I applaud you! Still haven’t gotten back to Japan. I miss tea. Lately haven’t been able to study. But it’s in my heart every day and I make tea tables. Mostly for myself. I like to make tea ceremonies for my students. Have a great year!

    • admin on September 9, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you for your comment. Of course I didn’t photograph my initial tries and many mistakes. I have a bowl that I did not do a good job in the initial fitting of the pieces so that the bowl is so lopsided it won’t stand up, with holes too big to patch. But like anything else, mistakes and failure help you learn. The more you do it, the better it gets. 🙂

    • Sinton Stranger on September 8, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    Amazing! I bought the materials to d this but have been a bit afraid t make the attempt. Need time. Nut I do have some things to practice on. NAND a lovely broken bowl I’d love to fix. You did a beautiful job! Thanks for posting. M I probably should get a book!

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