Koru Gates

1024 1024 Thuja Wood Art - Reclaimed Cedar Furniture Wood Art Vancouver Victoria Gulf Islands British Columbia

These gates were a super fun project for a client in Vancouver.  As always, these gates are made from salvaged red cedar driftwood, hand split, with mortise and tenon joinery and hardwood pegs for extra strength and style.  The client was interested in something with a bit more stylistic design and asked me if I could incorporate elements of Koru, nature based Māori designs. The koru, which is often used in Māori art as a symbol of creation, is based on the shape of an unfurling fern frond. Its circular shape conveys the idea of perpetual movement, and its inward coil suggests a return to the point of origin.

First I made the double gate frames to the specified sizes needed to replace a set of older gates in the space.  Using the Koru ideas as a guide, I designed the centre fill of the gates to match symetrically, while trying to not allow any spaces big enough for the clients dogs to get through the gates!   Once I had the design I liked, I made cardboard cutouts to use as templates for the pieces.  With all the pieces cut and fit to the gates, I was ready to burn them!  Shou sugi ban is an ancient Japanese form of wood preservation, in which the cedar is burnt until it blisters and cracks, then with a wire or stiff bristle brush, the loose charcoal is rubbed off.  Once all the burnt pieces were finished I installed them into the gates.  The natural colour differences bring out the wonderful contrast between the reddish tones of the frame and dark browns of the burnt cedar.  I often oil the wood to bring out even more colour, but these gates’ frames will be left to slowly go silver over time (as the driftwood is when I find it) and the contrast between the burnt design will remain but with silver instead of reddish frames…

I highly recommend trying Shou sugi ban at some time on a woodworking project, it’s a very unique effect that is beautiful and functional at the same time.


Colin Hamilton

All stories by: Colin Hamilton
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