Downspike
Kendama Entertainment Network

A community for the balanced lifestyle.

What is meant by "hand-turned" when it comes to kendama?

Discussion in 'The Lumber Yard' started by goenKendama, Jun 2, 2019.

  1. goenKendama

    goenKendama Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Location:
    Metro Manila, Philippines
    I've seen a number of comments across the net talking about one kendama or another being "hand-turned" and there seems to be a lot of variation as to what people believe that means. I'm not a woodturner myself, other than the times I worked with my grandfather in his shop, so I reached out so some folks who are.

    There may be additional considerations or points of view but it seems the main ingredient to hand-turning is a human physically holding the cutting tools. See the examples below for reference.

    What do you guys think?


    An example of hand-turning:



    An example of machine made, using jigs, with hand finishing:



    Examples of CNC manufacturing:

     
    Jun 2, 2019
    Flipp615 and xplodit like this.
  2. xplodit

    xplodit Slayer

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2017
    Location:
    Memphis
    From the consumer standpoint you can’t beat the quality to price ratio of CNC machined damas, and I assume that the producer also benefits from this modern production technology as well. The consistent perfection of a laser CNC machine rivals the expertise of master craftsmen but at a much faster rate. However every hand-turned dama is undeniably a unique piece of art. The wood turner who has spent hours refining their craft has put a piece of themselves into everything they produce. Something about that just makes hand-turned damas special, but it will cost you. I only own a couple hand-turned ones, both from Terra, and I rarely play them, not due to their price but to their beauty. I can’t say that I have ever owned a machined one that I feel the same way about. I still love everything made or designed out of Chattanooga/RWB though like GT, KUSA Craft, and Sol.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2019
    Jun 3, 2019
    htimSxelA likes this.
  3. Dre_11

    Dre_11 Honed Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2019
    Location:
    West Covina, CA
    I saw a handturned GT-KA from rwb, what does hand turned mean in that case?
     
    Jun 3, 2019
  4. xplodit

    xplodit Slayer

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2017
    Location:
    Memphis
    To my understanding most RWBs and GT limited releases are made in Chattanooga on a machine, however it’s top end laser guided wood lathe/CNC badassery that uses computer aided design with incredibly precise tolerances. I haven't knowingly seen a hand turned GT or RWB, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the technicians at RWB also have a computer-less old school wood lathe and the know-how to operate it well.
     
    Jun 3, 2019
  5. xplodit

    xplodit Slayer

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2017
    Location:
    Memphis
    Hand-turned: Human made
    Machined: Robot made
     
    Jun 3, 2019
  6. goenKendama

    goenKendama Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Location:
    Metro Manila, Philippines
    There is that second method I listed in the OP, machine made/hand finished. Humans still physically move things around, the jigs for example, but there is that device between them and the wood. Jigs aid in repeatability and speed and also can also allow someone with less skill to create parts reliably. Since "competition" kendama need to be consistently the same size and shape that second method would seem to be the best compromise.

    Hand-turning takes considerable skill and time, CNC is a large upfront investment (plus skilled operator & continued service) so that puts the second method kind of in the sweet spot, expense-wise, from a manufacturer's perspective. The manufacturer has to make back what is spent on skill/time or CNC machine investment. On the customer's side the second method should also produce good quality kendama at a reasonable price.

    Think of the second method like the guy who copies your key for you. You hand him your key then they stick it into a part of the machine that allows the operator to follow the shape and it's connected to the cutter. He slides the device along the peaks and valleys and the cutter replicates them in a mirror-like arrangement. A minute later you have your new key. There's not a lot of training needed to use that machine but there's still a human moving the parts around and it can reliably create copies.

     
    Jun 3, 2019
    htimSxelA and xplodit like this.
  7. xplodit

    xplodit Slayer

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2017
    Location:
    Memphis
    Oh I see the conundrum here. I still think jigs can be used on a Kendama that’s labeled hand-turned. In my mind hand-finished could still equate a factory mass-produced dama that someone took some fine grit sandpaper to at the end of the production line. I’m not a wood turner either, but I could imagine that even with a jig there is a fair amount of skill needed. It would be impressive to see someone capable of consistently making kendamas “freehand,” but I would trust someone using a jig more so than without. Investing in a CNC machine seems steep for an individual company, but I assume that there are machine owners that “lease” out their shop to companies that already have specs. I wish I knew more about how RWB works, but it seems that’s part of their business model, with the added ability for companies to come up with a design on site. I want to say RWB is owned by a relative or friend of KUSA’s owner, but I bet there are other machine operators in the world that you can send specs, a purchase order, and a check to for way less than buying a machine. I guess the life of your company would determine whether or not a CNC machine would be feasible, huge variable.
     
    Jun 3, 2019
  8. goenKendama

    goenKendama Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Location:
    Metro Manila, Philippines
    That's kind of why I wanted to make this thread. :D

    It's quite likely the guy from the first video could make kendama using the second method but not necessarily the other way around i.e. the jig operator making a hand-turned kendama. If we include using jigs in production to mean hand-turned then all kendama that aren't produced on a CNC are "hand-turned." This definition would also include all "mass market" kendama produced in China for example.

    In knife making something similar to the second method is sometimes called machine-custom. It blends the idea of a handmade custom knife with factory-made or CNC manufacturing for a high quality product at a lower price. The resulting knife isn't 100% a handmade custom but it's also not a factory knife.
     
    Jun 3, 2019
    xplodit likes this.
  9. xplodit

    xplodit Slayer

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2017
    Location:
    Memphis
    There’s so much more to wood turning than I knew. If mass-produced China Damas are manufactured “by hand” with jigs, then I don’t know how to clearly differentiate between the processes that make a high end dama better. I know that my KUSA Crafts have way fewer imperfections than my standard Shifts. Maybe Kendama production is more about the “ends justifying the means.” If the final product is flawless, then how important is the production technique? I’d love to learn more on this myself.
     
    Jun 3, 2019
    goenKendama likes this.
  10. goenKendama

    goenKendama Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Location:
    Metro Manila, Philippines
    My understanding is that a lot of kendama manufactures use the second method. The results probably vary more due to quality control than the method itself. Back to the knife analogy I've seen knives from the same geographic location, by different companies, using similar methods of production and one is a great knife but the other is barely serviceable.

    In the kendama world using "hand-turned" is probably akin to using "custom made" or "hand made" in the knife world; it has a certain cool factor. It usually means someone with the skill and talent put a piece of themselves into their product. Blemishes and imperfections are often seen as part of the "humanity" and art of the piece but fewer of those imperfections demonstrates a higher degree of skill and attention to detail.
     
    Jun 3, 2019
    xplodit likes this.
  11. xplodit

    xplodit Slayer

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2017
    Location:
    Memphis
    That makes sense. I guess it’s hard to categorize the quality of kendamas with a blanket term like “hand-turned” when there are so many variables to consider.
     
    Jun 3, 2019
    goenKendama likes this.
  12. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Great thread!

    There is definitely a lot of grey-area as to what 'hand-turned' means. A great example is tama-making, @xplodit like you mentioned, even if you use a jig, there is still a fair bit of skill involved. I actually own a circle-cutting jig (I bought it from RWB :p), and I've used it to make a couple tamas, but the most recent tama I turned (bocote tama!) was totally free-hand (just holding a tool, no jigs). I think once you have the skill to do it free-hand, the jig almost becomes too much of a hassle, but if you haven't turned a tama free-hand before... well... good luck. The first attempts I made were not very round lol.

    Also to note: while some methods can allow for better QC more easily, there is no guarantee of quality with any method. If you don't know how to calibrate and maintain a CNC machine, its not going to give you good results.


    I guess there could be a spectrum:
    Free-hand turning
    Turning using hand-operated jigs
    Copy-cat jig turning (like a key copier)
    Knife-mould turning (use a blade that has the profile of the final product)
    CNC turning
    CNC mill-turning (the machine JAC uses, its super cool!)

    Note that some productions use a combo of methods, for example a CNC lathe usually isn't used to scoop out cups, that might be done separately, on a wood lathe, or maybe a drill press / mill.


    IMO, if you're saying 'handturned', you should be doing it free-hand. For tamas, I think there is a bit of leeway to say handturned if you're using a circle-cutting jig, since it is still extremely hands-on, but free-hand is still king.
     
    Jun 12, 2019
    goenKendama and xplodit like this.
  13. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver
    Another interesting point: not all materials are well-suited to all methods. For example, loading a complex laminated blank onto the old RWB CNC lathe could be sketchy, but working with it slowly by hand is fine.

    The mode of cutting is also of interest: a CNC machine works in 'scraper mode', whereas when handturning you can get much more precise, and use gouges or skews to make more aggressive cuts with MUCH better finishing. If you loaded one piece of ebony onto a CNC, and another onto a wood lathe to be handturned, the one coming off the wood lathe will probably look nicer, as long as the woodworker is skilled and can make nice cuts.
    You can sand them both up afterwards, but sanding can alter the profile, so this can introduce a new source of error as well.
     
    Jun 12, 2019
    xplodit likes this.
  14. htimSxelA

    htimSxelA Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 29, 2016
    Location:
    Vancouver
    RWB did not handturn any kendamas, they had a couple wood lathes in their shop, but they were set up for scooping out cups or sanding. They were a CNC operation (which isn't to say they weren't hands-on, but as this thread points out, there are differences!)
     
    Jun 12, 2019
    xplodit likes this.
  15. goenKendama

    goenKendama Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2016
    Location:
    Metro Manila, Philippines
    Thanks for dropping in and giving us input from an actual kendama handturner. :D
     
    Jun 12, 2019
    xplodit likes this.