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 Post subject: Help identifying the wood of a goban
Post #1 Posted: Sun Oct 10, 2021 9:16 pm 
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Hi, I bought this through a proxy seller in Japan.

Its color make me feel like it is Katsura. But I can confirm that it has a light scent. Not sure if Katsura has any scent or not. I can only attach three photos in this post. But I can post more later if needed.


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背面.jpg
背面.jpg [ 344.73 KiB | Viewed 392 times ]
天面.jpg
天面.jpg [ 414.23 KiB | Viewed 392 times ]
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IMG_1301.jpg [ 447.42 KiB | Viewed 392 times ]

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 Post subject: Re: Help identifying the wood of a goban
Post #2 Posted: Mon Oct 11, 2021 9:54 pm 
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Thank you for sharing these pictures, I think that japanese material is, by far, the best around.

I have a kaya table goban and a new kaya traditional floor goban, but I am not an expert.

According to the legs and the ki-ura cut, it seems to me that the wood is in fact katsura (previous contributions on this forum are in this direction).

As you may know, ki-ura in the second best cut in japanese classification.
http://www.kurokigoishi.co.jp/english/products/board/

I wish you can enjoy many pleasant Go-times with your new goban! :tmbup:

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 Post subject: Re: Help identifying the wood of a goban
Post #3 Posted: Tue Oct 12, 2021 5:31 am 
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It is very hard to identify wood precisely, most people are not experts, so it really comes down to the history of the piece as in what is it likely to be made of.

As far as I know katsura was the most common material for Go boards in Japan for decades but it has lost favor long time ago, maybe because of decreased harvest or due to competition with cheaper materials. The most common materials today seem to be kaya and spruce, which look fairly similar to each other but different from katsura. Go boards have also been made from agathis in Japan and this wood can be similar to katsura.

Since there aren't many typical materials for Japanese boards and the board really looks like it could be katsura, one could just conclude it is because it would probably be more unusual to make a floor board out of an unusual wood than any other type of a board. If the board looks old and used (which I am not sure it does, except for the feet which are either varnished or a different kind of wood) it can be circumstantial evidence that it was made when katsura was more prevalent. As for odor, agathis is not supposed to have an odor but I'd not be surprised if katsura wood had some odor since the tree is said to have a pleasant odor.

If you are interested in a more objective determination, then you could look for a specialized online community or a wood identification lab (and send a sample). Please re-post any finding here if you do!

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 Post subject: Re: Help identifying the wood of a goban
Post #4 Posted: Tue Oct 12, 2021 8:58 am 
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Of the many popular species used in Japan to make shogi and go boards, Katsura tends to be a much darker brown than, say, old (real) kaya and hiba. Best I can do for you is to offer anecdotal speculation: I have a table board that I bought used. I was told by the person I bought it from that it is Katsura. But he was told it was Katsura by the person he bought it from. I have the original packaging but there are no identifying markings. It looks just like your board in terms of color and grain patterns. So, might be Katsura.

Side note: They don't make trees like these any more! My Katsura go board was originally purchased from Ishi Press back in the mid-1970s so it is at least 45 years old. I can therefore infer the source tree was planted at least 100 years ago, maybe 200 years, harvested 50-60 years ago, and was possibly very gently seasoned for 10-20 years.

Take care of your board and you will be able to pass it on to your grandchildren. Keep it out of direct sunlight and away from heating vents.

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 Post subject: Re: Help identifying the wood of a goban
Post #5 Posted: Tue Oct 12, 2021 7:56 pm 
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The grain is gorgeous and at first quick glance it looked to be Kaya, but on closer inspection it's Katsura.

A couple of things caught my eye.

1. Color = Katsura coloration. Kaya can have a color like this, but only after spending years in a home with a heavy smoker.

2. Double coloration in the wood on the bottom; right side of picture. Also the pattern in the wood that I've only ever seen on Katsura (kind of like tiny little holes). Kaya is generally uniform in color without any drastic changes...doesn't mean they don't exist, just not common based on what I've seen.

3. The reflection of the light. After seeing many Katsura boards, the way the light bounces off the shiny spots in the wood looks to be Katsura...No idea how to explain this other than having seen many. This reflection in Katsura (to me) tends to have an orange-brown coloration.

4. Legs - The legs are not as intricately carved as what you'll generally see on Kaya boards of this size. I can't remember the names for the carvings off the top of my head (but there are three varieties), but Kaya boards of 4 Sun or larger will generally have wider, more intricately carved legs reminiscent of a lotus blossom. This is where the artisan shows off their skill.

The easiest tell, really, is to smell the wood. Kaya has a sweet, nutty cinnamon aroma, it's quite unique and you'll know it without question when you smell it. On older boards the smell may disappear after about a century, but the test can still be done in one of two ways. Cover the board with a pauwlownia box for a few days and once removed there would be a slight smell in the air (or in the cover itself, especially if you put cloth between the box and board). The other method, which requires some care, is to remove one of the legs from the peg (of the legs don't easily budge don't do this). Smell inside the hole and if Kaya the scent will be unmistakable. When you put the leg back in make sure it goes back exactly the same direction you took it out, if not then you may damage the board (There's often a number or symbol carved or written on both the peg and leg, line them up together).

Katsura just smells like dry wood, but Kaya will exude a clear cinnamon scent.

Anyway, hope this helps. My assessment is that this board is Katsura.


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 Post subject: Re: Help identifying the wood of a goban
Post #6 Posted: Wed Oct 13, 2021 8:59 pm 
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Hi forks, thanks a lot for sharing all the advice and detailed thought process of the assessment :bow: . It is very helpful for me to identify Kaya in the future. I will definitely take care of this Goban carefully.

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 Post subject: Re: Help identifying the wood of a goban
Post #7 Posted: Thu Oct 14, 2021 9:51 am 
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Because kaya (Torreya Nucifera) has historically been associated with the top quality go board material, in order to sell boards made of spruce vendors call the wood "shin kaya", literally "new kaya". Shin kaya has no connection with real kaya. Spruce boards are functional boards and look nice but in no way are they collectible investment items. Many sellers of old, dirty used boards made from spruce often advertise them as kaya. If you are buying a used board from overseas, the overwhelming probability is it will not be genuine kaya, regardless of what the seller says. If you want a genuine thick kaya board with legs it would almost be worth paying to go to Japan and visit one of the several reputable shops where a skilled gobanya works to buy it.

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