Across the Festivale grounds from our shop are a pair of Bengali shipwrights. They brought with them to Japan a twelve-foot dinghy. The first day I was here it was intact, and the next time I came by it had been disassembled. They are now slowly putting it back together as a demonstration. Its a remarkable boat and they are amazing craftsmen and I hope to devote a blog post to them later.
They have been very interested in our work and the day we nailed the two boards together for the bottom we invited them over. They enjoyed nailing and afterwards the lead carpenter said if I gave him a hardwood block he would make me a traditional Bengali hand plane.
Then yesterday an older Japanese man stood watching us. I could tell by his weather beaten features that he was working class, and I suspected he might have been a carpenter. Sure enough, when I asked him he said he had built houses. I would guess he is in his eighties. I invited him into our shop space and he walked over to my tools, picked up one of my planes, took the blade out and sat down at our sharpening stones and began to sharpen. I have always really enjoyed this kind of informality in Japan, where the dominant culture is so obsessed with politeness and formalities, but here is a guy who, like the Bengalis, happily pitches in immediately.
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