On visits to Japan I came to admire the wooden lanterns of Japan which have a history of many hundreds of years.
These can be seen more often around or on the approaches to shrines, lighting up the paths to the shrine. Consequently they are associated with shrines.
However they can also be seen in many other places.
For shrine use, the lanterns are usually painted red with the ends of the squared pieces painted white, and the roof black. Around a shrine, there may also be larger, similarly painted, but more elaborate versions with copper clad roofs.
Elsewhere though, the wooden lanterns of Japan are usually unpainted, and these have their own charm. And away from shrines, the wooden lanterns have more variety in shape and format.
When I decided to make these, most important to me was that I did not produce a pseudo Japanese Westerner's take.
For me, what I produced had to be capable of being perceived as Japanese by a Japanese person.
After extensive research for over a year, I gained some awareness of the subtle nuances of shape, angles and their relationship to each other which contribute to a style so unique and difficult to replicate.
During the design stages, Japanese friends and professionals have been consulted to ensure that the lanterns conform to that which is essentially Japanese.
It's common knowledge that timber never stops moving; in damp weather it gains moisture and expands, then shrinks again when it dries. Characteristically, in outdoor conditions oak always gains lots of fine cracks in its surface as it ages.
It also changes colour to a silver grey, which many regard as one of its attractive features.
Larger sections of oak can develop quite large cracks (shakes) which aren't necessarily detrimental to the overall strength of the piece, but better off without. Recognising a contributing factor in this, I produce the lantern posts in a way which can help reduce the extent of this in the long term.
Even with good quality 100% waterproof adhesive, eventually joints will fail; it may take many years, but cannot be avoided. (Joints however can be repaired and carry-on again, it's not the end.) I have designed the lantern and its jointing to be as less susceptible to failure as possible and maintain integrity.
Oak is acknowledged as being a good long-term exterior timber, and (even if treated initially) often never receiving regular or any further care, but serviceable for 20 years plus.
I treat all the timber with a preservative which also contains a wax additive (to reduce water absorption). It's dip treated (not brushed) and always soaks for more than the manufacturer's recommended time.
This gives them a good "head start" and if you should continue with regular treatment (every few years), the lifespan is really quite indeterminate.