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Thread: My Experiment Making a Hattan

  1. #1
    Treeleaf Priest / Engineer Sekishi's Avatar
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    Apr 2013
    Virginia, USA

    My Experiment Making a Hattan

    Hi all,

    As I believe Myozan and Jundo have made clear elsewhere, a lacquered Hattan is not required for Oryoki (unless you are going to be practicing at a temple in Japan). I believe black construction paper, or another dark paper that is approximately 9.5in x 13in / 24cm x 33cm will be fine for Treeleaf Oryoki, and apparently few western Zen centers include the Hattan in Oryoki.

    However, if you are feeling "crafty", and would like to try making your own, here were my experiences making a Hattan by applying a sprayed lacquer to a large sheet of black construction paper.

    1. A pack of 12in x 18in black "construction paper". In the U.S., that refers to a heavy (~50 "pound") dyed paper often used in craft projects.
    Something like this:

    2. A can of black lacquer spray. My local hardware store ordered two 11oz cans of Rustoleum (#1905830) for me. If you do not many mistakes, one 11oz can should be enough (I used two).

    3. Disposable gloves (for holding the paper vertically while spraying). The one I used was designed for aquarium maintenance so it went well above my elbow and lasted through the entire project. With a shorter glove, wear an old / disposable long-sleeve shirt because you will get over-spray on it.

    4. Two paper clips.

    5. Some string.

    6. Very fine steel wool (#0000).

    7. A mask and goggles.

    My method:

    1. I pre-cut my paper down to 9.5in x ~15in. This allowed a little extra on one end to where I could hold and hang the paper. I just cut this extra off when I was all finished.

    2. I tied the paper clips unto the end of a foot or so of string, and then tied the strings up on the shower-curtain rod of our spare bedroom. This allowed me to hang the paper from the paperclips during the drying process. I'm sure a garage or shed would be better if available (the lacquer is stinky stuff). Any space that is well ventilated where the paper can be left undisturbed for a few days should be fine.

    3. I put on my mask, goggles, and gloves (lacquer is pretty caustic - you don't want it in your eyes, nose, or on your skin). Then, holding the paper vertically, I sprayed a light coat of lacquer on each side of the paper using horizontal sweeps working from top to bottom. Keep the coat thin or it will run down the paper and harden into streaks.

    Spray sweeps horizontal, paper vertical...:

    The paper really soaked up my first few coats (this shows the original paper, one coat, and three coats):

    4. I hung up the paper from my paperclips, and set a 20 minute timer:

    5. I repeated this process 4 or 5 times, and then left it to hang for 48 hours.

    6. After all those coats of lacquer, little fibers that were sticking out of the paper grew into pretty noticeable bumps. I smoothed them off first by just lightly rubbing a piece of wood across them (to "break" them off), and then smoothed the surface with very light rubbing with the #0000 steel wool.

    7. After cleaning off all the dust from the steel wool, I put two more light coats of lacquer on, just like in step 3 and left it to dry for another 48 hours.

    8. Using a paper-cutter, I chopped off the "working" end (where I held and hung it up) so the resulting Hattan was the right size.

    9. Folding it was a little tricky if only because once folded, you are committed to that fold in that place (lacquered paper is stiff). After consulting with Myozan and Dosho and re-watching Jundo's instructional video (around the 10:00 part), I practiced with a plain piece of paper. Then I measured into thirds and folded the Hattan into a "Z" shape (with the folding third closet to the body -- the same motion as the drying cloth), and again into a second "Z". I found that laying a metal ruler along the fold edge helped in making it straight.

    10. The lacquered paper really did not want to accept the fold, so I ended up running it through a small craft press to really form the folds. Piling some books on it and leaving it overnight might work too.

    The final result is pretty shiny, but with a little bit of texture still from the underlying paper, and is water repellent.

    What *not* to do (in my experience / botched attempts anyway).

    1. Do not lay the paper flat to spray the lacquer. Its hard not to get little wet bits of lacquer on the back. And when drying, even really light coats can soaked through the paper. When this happens it ends up glued to whatever protective layer is under it. I made a mess and ended up tearing my first Hattan when this happened.

    2. If you spray outdoors, wait for a totally still day. No wind. NONE.

    3. Do bother waiting for it to fully dry between coats. It took around 48 hours to fully dry for me, and I could see no noticeable difference between a full dry between coats vs. just applying a light coat every 20 minutes.

    4. Thin coats! Too much at once and it will run (and harden that way). I really wanted to put it on thicker. To make it go faster / see results right away...

    As with sewing the Rakusu, I found this exercise filled with little attachments and aversions -- good teachings. If anyone wishes to try it out and has questions, I would be happy to answer them. Additionally, if you cannot find large construction paper, let me know and maybe I can send you a few sheets (I have plenty left)!

    Deep bows,
    Sekishi | 石志 | He/him | Better with a grain of salt, but best ignored entirely.

  2. #2
    I did very much the same as Sekishi but used a simpler method. I cut the card (I used ordinary drawing card you can buy from any craft/art supplyshop to size, marked out the folds and scored the lines with a sharp knife. I then sprayed the card on each side & then folded on the scored lines. The result is this

    Probably the quality is not so good as Sekishi's but it was cheap and easy to make and thus can be replaced when required. If anyone would like one of these Hattans I am quite will ing to make you one and sen it on


  3. #3
    This is so cool. I'll have to try this myself. Thanks so much for leading the way.

  4. #4
    This is awesome you guys, thank you for the hints and tips. Sekishi ... the elbow length surgical gloves are pretty cool as well. =)


  5. #5

    wow, thank you for sharing the excellent documentation! Well done!


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  6. #6

    Thank you for this wonderful effort and the exact description.

    Deep bows.


  7. #7
    Thank you.

    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

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