bookmark_borderBento Refinishing

Eleven years ago, I made this hexagonal bento box in a class taught by Pittsburgh’s Tadao Arimoto. At the time, I did not know much about making bento lunches, so the box mostly sat on a shelf as a display piece. It waited patiently for me to expand my studies of Japanese culture to include food, and for me to start shopping at the Tokyo Japanese grocery enough to develop a menu for lunch. Back in 2019, I started making bento lunches to eat at work, and I discovered that the box was not sealed! I got salad dressing all over the tablecloth, and had to use plastic bento boxes for my lunch.

A year or two ago, I sanded the inside and outside of the box to smooth out the uneven epoxy surface. The box sat in this state for a couple of years, still waiting for me to make time for it. This summer, I finally cleared off the workbench for a couple of days so that I could mix up some epoxy and refinish the box.

These are the pieces of the box. One lid, one base, and two rhomboid containers that fit inside the base.
Here are the smaller containers inside the base, ready for filling.
Add the lid to close the box. It falls slowly because the tolerances are tight.

It’s completely sealed now. I could probably take soup in it. The lid edges are almost the full height of the box, so it might not even spill very much if tipped. Even though I don’t go into the office at all these days, I made lunch at home and served it to myself in this box because I believe you should always let things fulfill their purpose.

Hana Goshoku onigiri; pickles and salad; togarashi tofu, roasted mushrooms, and kamaboko; lotus root and roasted eggplant.

bookmark_borderShop Talk

Mr. Arimoto has a large job to deliver a few dozen rustic-looking tables and booths for a new restaurant somewhere out in the suburbs.

I have been helping out in the shop, mostly scraping, sanding, and finishing. Since I have lots of experience doing this kind of thing for fun, it’s good solid work. My days have been spent leaning over one table top at a time, chatting with Mr. Arimoto when noise allows. This does not leave much brain left at the end of the day for composing thoughtful blog posts.

On the other hand, it gives me lots of chances to look at interesting pieces of lumber he has around the shop. Look at this piece of walnut that actually has some walnut inclusions.

Walnut slab with walnut inclusions
Just look at it.

bookmark_borderArimoto Bannister

I spent some time yesterday and today helping Mr. Arimoto install a bannister and railing that he’d made for a client.

Lowest end of the bannister

Tadao cut and shaped the pieces from walnut, and finished them with Osmo Polyx oil finish. We spent about ten hours total getting everything cut to fit, installed, and touched up.

He didn’t make the metal balustrade, so we had to adjust everything to fit somebody’s else’s work. It was a good exercise in the difference between theory and practice, or between design and execution.

bookmark_borderHelping Mr. Arimoto

Longtime fans of my work will remember that I have taken some woodworking classes with Tadao Arimoto, a Japanese-born woodworker who has a studio in the Northside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Every once in a while I will stop by his workshop to visit and get caught up, and sometimes when I am not working he will ask me to help out if he needs a couple of extra hands for something.

This past Monday, I helped him take apart a sushi bar that he built “years ago” for Sushi Kim down in the Strip district. I’ve eaten at Sushi Kim a few times in the past 30 years that I have been living here, and it’s a real shame to see it closing. Mr. Kim is going to open a smaller takeout place in North Oakland (314 North Craig Street), and he has sold the building to the Heinz History Center that is across the alleyway from the restaurant.

Anyway, these pieces were way too big for one person to move, and everything was held together by about a billion screws. Mr. Arimoto actually had two of us helping him, loading out all the trash, and moving the pieces of the sushi bar to his workshop where they will be reworked for the new place.

Sushi bar parts in a truck, with Mr. Arimoto
Mr. Arimoto’s truck, loaded with a Sushi Bar

The bar itself, consisting of about 8 yards of 2-inch thick ash, is on the bottom of the pile there. It took us all day to get the bar pried out of place and moved to the workshop. This thing was solid enough to be used for 30 years, and then still strong enough that we could stand on it while taking some parts down from over the bar. It was a fun day, but I will admit that I sometimes have an odd sense of fun.