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Boxwood Blues

Armed with the word for boxwood in Japanese, tsugezai, I started doing some research on the Internet to see if there was a convenient place to buy some panels to draw on. Shogi tiles are made of boxwood, as are traditional wooden combs, so I figured it might not be too hard to locate. But nothing on the web pointed to a lumber yard selling boxwood planks.

So I went off to Tokyu Hands, the popular and vast DIY/art supply/trendy homeware store. They seem to have everything you could ever want, until you want something specific. I poked around the exotic woods section for a while before asking someone about tsugezai. He led me over to a small heap of mug-sized logs. Tsugezai, but not in the format I needed. Still, it gave me a chance to see and feel it.

Boxwood is very dense. It is fine grained, heavy and almost waxy along its cut edge. What could substitute for that? I decided to buy a variety of small wood planks marketed as "postcards" until I can get my hands on some proper boxwood.

Walnut is dark wood with a fine grain. It feels quite smooth and I when I press a thumbnail hard across it, it makes only a slight indentation in the wood.

Oregon pine has a large uneven grain, almost lumpy. It dents easily when I run a thumbnail across it. Not suitable for drawing, I think.

Japanese cherry, sakura, is commonly used for carving woodblock prints. It is finely grained, heavier than any of the other woods I have and does not impress easily with a thumbnail. I think this one will work best, so I bought a larger piece of it as well.

Elm, called nire in Japanese, alternates narrow bands of hard and soft woods. Even milled, it's a bit rough to the touch and rather soft.

Japanese horse chestnut, tochi, is very pale with a fine grain the has a watered silk-like pattern. It does not pass the thumbnail test - too soft to draw on.

I will continue to look for boxwood, but in the meantime, will begin to prepare the sakura and walnut boards by watering and polishing them with cuttlebone powder.


  • 01. Drawing
  • 02. Colors
  • 03. Fresco
  • 04. Oil Painting
  • 05. Adhesives
  • 06. Panels
  • 07. Gilding
  • 08. Mordants
  • 09. Varnishing
  • 10. Illuminating
  • 11. Cloth
  • 12. Glass
  • 13. Mosaic
  • 14. Miscellaneous
  • 15. Casting
  • Contemporary notes
  • Renaissance notes