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Cast Metal Techniques in Japanese Furniture Making (Monozukuri Series - Case Study 1)

Design Furniture Interior Japan

The Bridge Across Table from our Luxury Collection is an all-around stunning piece, but with one look it is automatically clear what its standout feature is. That feature is the table’s solid bronze legs, which are connected to each other by an elliptical shaped “bridge” of sorts. The legs draw attention not only for the vibrant, warm tone of the bronze, but for their attractive and elegant design as well. Through their dedication to monozukuri (the art-of-making), the craftsmen were able to create a unique piece that presents a light and refined design while employing the sturdiness and beauty of metal.


First of all, a better explanation of monozukuri and its significance is in order. Directly translated, monozukuri means “making things,” but as one might expect, the nuances of the word go much deeper. The term is used broadly to describe the Japanese style and methods of manufacturing, which means it can be used to refer to both handcrafted pieces made by individuals and the products of large multinational corporations such as Toyota. An important aspect is that monozukuri implies a kind of continuity and heritage. There is an understanding that the product is the result of designs and processes that have come before. Another important aspect is that monozukuri places emphasis on the products themselves, rather than on the person crafting the object, or their skills. This is why it is difficult to define monozukuri simply as “craftsmanship.” Even though there is some resemblance in the meanings and applications of the words, craftsmanship tends to emphasize the crafter whereas monozukuri emphasizes the qualities inherent in the product.

Design decisions

An example of the maker’s dedication to monozukuri can be witnessed in this table’s thoughtful design. Using such large amounts of bronze could easily give a table an overly heavy, weighted down appearance. To counteract that, the design of the Bridge Across Table’s legs was made purposefully simple, and the tabletop cantilevered from the centered base to provide a sense of lightness. The simple configuration not only lends the table a modern appearance, it also allows a variety of chairs to easily fit with the table in both an aesthetic sense and a physical one. The desired simple and refined appearance was achieved by casting the foot, the vertical section of the leg, and joints all in one mold using sand casting. This integrated design makes the outside of the leg appear seamless and streamlined, and more importantly, the loading capacity and sturdiness of the slim legs is improved by the dense, homogenous piece of bronze. Although it is a more difficult process to make large pieces of bronze with single mold casting rather than with welding, the beauty and quality of the solid legs was reason enough for the craftsmen to undertake the endeavor, motivated by their dedication to the final product.

An example of one of the table’s legs, which are cast all in one mold, pictured here in aluminum. Both the bronze and aluminum options are cast using the same mold. (Credit: Time & Style)

Technical Considerations

The choice and treatment of the materials is another way that this piece’s makers exemplify monozukuri. But why choose to work in bronze when metals such as aluminum and stainless steel tend to be more popular when it comes to furniture? One reason is that bronze has a higher relative density (8.9) compared to aluminum (2.7) and steel (7.8). Its density allows it to support more weight with smaller amounts. The Bridge Across table, for example, can support a solid wood tabletop with a span of 3200 mm (approximately 10’5”) using the exact same legs as the 2000 mm (approximately 6’6”) tabletop, a feat that would be difficult to accomplish with aluminum or wooden legs. Another benefit of bronze is its beautiful color, which has more depth than aluminum, and is more subtle than brass. As it ages and undergoes oxidation, bronze gains a bluish green patina, similar to what one might find on an old coin or statue. Since every piece will age slightly differently, it adds to the individuality of the table and should be viewed as a positive trait. In Japan, this aesthetic philosophy of embracing and finding beauty in imperfections is called Wabi-sabi and is largely based on Buddhist beliefs, but this is also a view shared by collectors and antique dealers the world over, who believe that such visible proof of a piece’s history is part of its value.

A Table that Bridges Across Time

Taking all these aspects into account, it is clear that the Bridge Across Table is a piece with multiple layers of value- from the visual appeal of its striking appearance, to its unique use of materials and techniques during construction. Perhaps the most important layer, though, is the table’s relationship with time. This piece is built upon a history and heritage of craftsmanship, and with the intention that it will age beautifully, gaining its own history and furthering Japan’s tradition of cast metal work with new aesthetic possibilities. In this way, the table not only bridges space, but time. Our goal at OOKKUU is to offer designs and products with a deeper meaning and value, and that is what we believe this piece has. We invite you to enjoy the layers of value of monozukuri in your own space with this piece, the Bridge Across Table.

Other items featuring cast metal legs by the same maker: Takaoka Dining Table and Intersect Cafe Table.

By Danielle Johnson, OOKKUU

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