Making a Bento Box

A friend of mine likes Japanese food and I've been looking at Bento boxes as gift ideas for him. It seems that it costs approx £20 to buy one bento box and that is likely to be plastic.
I'm assuming that traditionally they would have been made out of wood and covered in something like lacquer.
So I'm wondering how tricky it would be to make a Bento box and finish to look reasonably authentic.
Making a multi-compartmentalised wooden box would be reasonably easy it's the finishing I'm worried about.
I'm assuming it will be finished using lacquer so questions are:
What is lacquer? Are there varieties or types or brand names to watch out for? How do you apply it? Is it safe for serving food off of? What's the longevity of the finish like? Is this the most suitable thing for the application I describe?
Although this is a gift idea it's not for Christmas so I'm not going to try and get this done in the next couple of weeks!
Any help gratefully appreciated.
Oh - and I reckon reading this group has saved me several thousand pounds over the last couple of years so merry Christmas to everyone. -- Steve F
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A friend of mine likes Japanese food and I've been looking at Bento boxes as gift ideas for him. It seems that it costs approx £20 to buy one bento box and that is likely to be plastic.
I'm assuming that traditionally they would have been made out of wood and covered in something like lacquer.
So I'm wondering how tricky it would be to make a Bento box and finish to look reasonably authentic.
Making a multi-compartmentalised wooden box would be reasonably easy it's the finishing I'm worried about.
I'm assuming it will be finished using lacquer so questions are:
What is lacquer? Are there varieties or types or brand names to watch out for? How do you apply it? Is it safe for serving food off of? What's the longevity of the finish like? Is this the most suitable thing for the application I describe?
Although this is a gift idea it's not for Christmas so I'm not going to try and get this done in the next couple of weeks!
Any help gratefully appreciated.
Oh - and I reckon reading this group has saved me several thousand pounds over the last couple of years so merry Christmas to everyone. -- Steve F
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http://www.jlist.com/SEARCH/bento/1 /
-- Please add "[newsgroup]" in the subject of any personal replies via email --- My new email address has "ngspamtrap" & @btinternet.com in it ;-) ---
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Unless you give us a link to a pic, most of us wont have a clue what you want to make.
Think
NT
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snipped-for-privacy@meeow.co.uk wrote:

Not a brilliant pic but gives you an idea. Second picture down.
http://www.cherryblossomgardens.com/adishes3.asp
Basically a square box with a lid, divided internally into compartments. I've since discovered that a 'bento box' is basically a japanese lunch box and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. These black shiny square ones are most commonly found in restraunts. -- Steve F
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wrote:

Sometimes lacquered, often not. Size varies a bit, some have compartments, some have separate inner boxes, some have neither.

Here's a few that I make from time to time. http://codesmiths.com/shed/things/maplebox.htm
You're probably best buying one. They'e nice things and fiddly to make a thin-walled one yourself, if you're not making a batch. Thick walled unlacquered ones like mine are easy enough - it's just an exercise in hand shaping and getting an attractive curve to the sides and top.

Unobtainable (google the rest - I've posted tons to rec.woodworking and rec.org.sca on the subject)
You can fake it tolerably well with shellac. Use black shellac, or use red ochre to colour blonde shellac. http://codesmiths.com/shed/things/knives/daisho /

Yes.
Keep lacquer out of the sun. It's waterproof when new, but the usual mechanism for damage is that sunlight loses the water resistance, then you get water damage.

If you're working in Vietnam. If you're in the UK, you can't do it with lacquer.
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Fitz wrote: <snip>

You're thinking of knocking out an urushi box for crimbo? Obviously a man of ambition!
As with many things Japanese, the practice of lacquering is an art form. I think you're supposed to start with a very thin wooden base and then apply many coats of the stuff over that - each one has to dry, and then get polished before the next coat is applied. Oh, and you'll need to grow some special trees from which to get the necessary sap and fruit to make the lacquer itself. Since the overall process is very time-consuming and difficult, top-quality urushi sells for one hell of a lot of money some times, particularly if it's old (it'll last for about a thousand years or more if you're careful). So if you get it right you could make a few bob!
Although the vapour is poisonous, lacquer once dry is very good for use in holding foodstuffs as it's wipe-clean, insulating properties are nice for soup bowls and indeed bento-boxes and the like. Not dishwasher safe though. A quick google overview:
http://www.lacma.org/art/perm_col/japanese/lacquer/j-lacquer.htm
http://faculty.vassar.edu/anwatsky/art358/lacquer.html
Let us know how you get on. It may be a good idea to enlist the help of the Japanese embassy to get you a visa to visit an urushi artist for some tips. Although it generally takes about thirty years to master the art, I'm sure you could pick up the basics in about a tenth of that time - Japanese always like to make things sound much more difficult than they really are.
Jonathan
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Yeah, why don't they just say "How's tricks ?" instead of "Konnichi wa ?" ?
--
geoff

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Jonathan wrote:

<shake of head> I thought perhaps the sentence that said this IS a gift idea but NOT for chrsitmas so I'm not going to try and do it in the next couple of weeks answered this one.
<snip useful stuff> Thank you for these useful bits - very interesting.

of
the
time
Bloody text based medium. I honestly can't decide whether you're being humerous and light hearted or utterly condescending.
You don't practice martial arts by any chance do you? Aikido maybe or Ju Jitsu... it's just that the only people I've come across before that were as precious about Japanese culture - as you seem to be - are those that think they have some sort of understanding born through diligent training. I've seen it become quite an obsession in the past.
If I've got you all wrong then I'll just appologise now to save any mucking around.
-- Steve F
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Jonathan wrote:

<shake of head> I thought perhaps the sentence that said this IS a gift idea but NOT for chrsitmas so I'm not going to try and do it in the next couple of weeks answered this one.
<snip useful stuff> Thank you for these useful bits - very interesting.

of
the
time
Bloody text based medium. I honestly can't decide whether you're being humerous and light hearted or utterly condescending.
You don't practice martial arts by any chance do you? Aikido maybe or Ju Jitsu... it's just that the only people I've come across before that were as precious about Japanese culture - as you seem to be - are those that think they have some sort of understanding born through diligent training. I've seen it become quite an obsession in the past.
If I've got you all wrong then I'll just appologise now to save any mucking around.
-- Steve F
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