Wood lacquering is a process where blocks of wood are shaped to a desired form and coloured with Lac, a resinous substance derived from the secretions of Lac insect. This abundantly available material is mixed with dyes and wax to create a paste which adds glossy colour to the final product and makes it waterproof.

Raw Materials

Lac paste - This is made by boiling wax, Chandrak and dye together. It is cooled and shaped to form colourful 'Pattis' (strips).
Wood - 'Sagwan' (Teak) was used earlier but since the availability dwindled, the craftsmen shifted to locally available 'Dudhi' wood (Calabash). The wood is soft in texture and is non -“ fibrous, making it an ideal work surface for shaping and polishing. The wood is bought in units called Chatti, where in 3 Chattis of wood are priced for Rs. 990. The damp wood obtained is dried out before it can be used. 
Colours - Artificial colours or acrylic paints are used to create lac pastes. These come in bright colours like pink, green, red, yellow, blue, black and are obtained from Indore and Hoshangabad.
Chapdi - This is a type of wax and is boiled with Chandrak, a varnishing agent and dye to create a lac paste. It is sourced from Maharashtra.
Chandrak - This is a natural varnishing agent used to prepare the lac paste.
Kewda oil - This is used with Kewda leaves to add shine to the products.
Kewda patta - This is used in the above mentioned varnishing process.

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Waste

The left over wood materials and shavings are used as fuel source. 

Tools & Technology

Lathe machine - This machine is used for cutting, sanding, drilling or shaping the wooden blocks. Various tools are applied to the rotating wooden piece to create an object that has symmetry about an axis of rotation.
Chisels - These sharp beveled tools are used to cut and shape the rotating wooden blocks to get a desired shape.
Gauges - These are used to measure the thickness of different parts of the wooden block to achieve desired results.
Kulhadi - A wood chopping axe, used to break down blocks of wood.
Aari - This is a 'saw' used in cutting blocks of wood to a desired workable size.
Curved blade - This is used as a wood carving tool while working on the lathe.
Mathni - This is a wood polishing tool.
Sandpaper - This is used in polishing the soft wood products while they are being shaped on the lathe machine.

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Rituals

'Vishwakarma Jayanti' is celebrated as a holiday on the seventh day after 'Basant Panchami', though it is not a government recognized holiday.

Process

The lacquered objects are mainly created out of Dudhi wood found in the Budhni Ghat areas. As the naturally occurring 'Dudhi' wood is damp, it is left to dry before being cut into desired workable sizes. 

These wood pieces are set on the lathe with one end of the wood piece being fixed and the other side being open. Wood carving tools like the chisel are used to gouge out hollows in the open end of the rotating wood piece as well as create curves on its outer body. As 'Dudhi' wood is soft and pliable in nature, this process is a fast one, where the artist's skill and dexterity is required. After the object has taken its final shape, it is polished with sandpaper and set for lacquering. 

Small pieces of coloured lacquer are prepared by mixing acrylic dyes, Chandrak and Chapdi (wax). In this process Chapdi and Chandrak are boiled with acrylic dyes to create a lacquer paste, which is cooled and shaped into 'Pattis' (strips). These coloured Pattis are pressed against the rotating wood piece to add the desired lac colour. The heat caused by friction between the lac strip and rotating wood causes the lac to melt and stick to the wood surface. A piece of bamboo is held against the log where lacquer has been rubbed to make it uniform and a piece of wet cloth is applied to the wood while it is still rotating. Once the coloured lacquer is dried after application on the wood, it is polished with Kewda oil and leaf to get a smooth and shiny finish.

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