January marked the completion of my PhD, where I researched the role of moisture content in musical instrument tone production. Listening tests showed that even small changes in relative humidity can be perceptible as changes in tone. To help instrument builders with the dynamic behaviour of wood, stabilized wood products were investigated to see how they performed. Stable wood = stable tone!
Yakisugi is a Japanese technique for creating a weather, insect, and rot resistant finish on exterior wood. It is exactly what the name yakisugi entails, that is roasted cedar. This form of cedar siding has been brought into Western design processes by a number of designers and provides a unique texture and colouring that is not commonly seen when designing in wood. The texture is characterized by crazing and a matte black charcoal feel that is hard to reproduce any other way. A more lustrous black finish in often seen in urushi, Japanese lacquerware, but it is a completely different process and technique. One of the challenges of using the yakisugi method in a fine woodworking application is that the burning of the wood surface can cause significant warpage. This means that material needs to be left oversized, allowed to stabilize, and then resurfaced after being burnt.
...and a bench incorporating the yakisugi tehnique is in the works:
My MASc was spent trying to get an understanding of musical instrument sound production, a tricky topic. The result of this research work was the piano tone mapping technique seen below. The idea is to pull out the important information that defines the tone of a piano and illustrate it in a single image. With this quantitative tool we can start to build a bridge between the artist and the engineer.