Kyosaku Photos Area

All images are Copyright 2004, Joe Montani: apply to Webmaster for information about reproduction rights. You may download these images for one-time personal use, but please do not reproduce them without express permission. Questions? Contact:

Kyosaku sticks of Australian Lacewood -- made by Joe Montani in Tucson, Arizona, USA

Australian Lacewood is: "Cardwellia sublimis" in the Linnaeus designation; known also in Australia as "Northern Silky Oak" (although the tree is not an oak, i.e.,not of Quercus family).

Above we see three sticks made of Australian Lacewood; these sticks are kyosaku in Japanese, or shiang ban in Chinese, and are sticks used by the Monitor, or Tanto in the Ch'an or Zen meditation hall to stimulate with two sharp blows the shoulder or spinal accupressure points of a student who requests this be done, while meditating (usually on a long meditation retreat, or sesshin). The center stick, owned by Zen Desert Sangha (Tucson) is the first Lacewood kyosaku I made, in about 1998: it is made of wood that is exactly "plain-sawn", i.e., having a grain direction running in the width-dimension of the stick. This brings out a special property of the Lacewood, having pith-bodies, or lighter-colored, soft, Phloem, between layers of Xylem of the hardwood, in the form of growth-rings in the timber. Those who know metal-working technic will understand what I mean when I say that the plain-sawn Lacewood gives the appearance of metal which has been "Blanchard ground". The sticks at left and at right are sawn at different angles to the grain, and are neither plain-sawn nor quarter-sawn: this gives the wood a different but still pleasing aspect, showing the pith-bodies foreshortened to differing degrees at the sticks' surface, and the sticks all "handle" about equally, and very well, for their intended purpose. The sticks at left and right also have lathe-turned handles, while the center stick has a handle carved and symmetrized by use of the plane, and the draw-knife (Photo by J. Montani, Feb 6, 2004).

Here are five Lacewood kyosaku; lying down are the same three sticks as in the above photo; and, standing, two others, the one at left plain-sawn and with carved octagonal handle, and at right, with grain at 45-degrees and with smooth carved handle. All the sticks taper along their length from handle to tip like a sword, and are planed incrementally and interactively while hitting an overstuffed, hard, Kapok-fiber filled meditation cushion, until the stick has the right "feel" and sound. A small amount of "flex" is necessary in a kyosaku.

Here are the three sticks as at center above, shown from a vantage point near their handle-ends, lit by full Tucson desert sun in Winter. You can see the grain-direction clearly for each stick. By the way, the circular rings burned into the lathe-turned handles of the sticks at left and at right are more than "decorative": they provide a bit of non-slip adhesion to the user's hand when the stick is in use. I burn the rings into the turned handle, while the stick is still running at high speed on the lathe, by bringing down onto the finished round handle a taughtly-held steel wire stretched between two pliers held with my two hands, until the wire, after a few seconds, burns its way into the wood to about the depth of the diameter of the wire; makes a wonderful smoky smell when fabricating!, a nice dark "detail", and fine score-marks to serve as tactile grips on the 1.00-inch (25.4 mm) diameter turned handle (the very end of the stick at right also has an octagonal terminus, an echo of the Buddhist "Noble Eightfold Path", and of some favorite violin bows and cello bows of mine). My sticks have NO finish, aside from a light coating of buffed Carnauba wax after final sanding.