Title: Goban and Shogiban – Creating Game Equipment
「碁盤将棋盤（棋具を創る）」 (Goban, Shogiban – Kigu O Tsukuru)
Author/editor: Yoshida Torayoshi 吉田寅義
Publisher: Taishukan Shoten 大修館出版
Format: White book housed in a gray colored slipcase.
Publisher Recommended Price: JPY2800
The best source of English language information on go equipment is probably JF’s article, “In Pursuit of Elegance: A Survey of the Best in Go Equipment” in the book “The Go Player’s Almanac 2001”. On page 155, JF writes:
the best book on board making: Goban, Shogiban: Kigu O Tsukuru (Go boards and shogi boards: Making game equipment), Taishukan Shoten, Tokyo 1981
This is THE book you want to read when you want to learn in depth about what goes into making a great goban. Not only does it show how wood is selected and which cuts produces which grain in the boards. It also talks about how defects are avoid when thinking about how to cut up up the trunk of a tree for the board. It shows illustrations of how the sword is used in placing the lines on the board. The wood is never damaged by the sword. Instead the sword just touches the wood and as the blade is lifted leaves behind on the surface a thin raised line of lacquer which you can feel. If you look at some of the boards produced in China or Taiwan, you’ll see that the lines might be screen printed, hand-drawn or even cut into the board and damaging the surface of the wood. Just looking at the illustrations of this book gives you a great feel for the idea of fine Japanese craftsmenship.
If you ever wonder why a floor goban has the pyramid cut at the bottom, most people answer you that it’s for making sure the inside is dry so the board doesn’t warp. But is that the only reason? In the book, the pyramid cut is called the 音ウケ. This means that it is also for the production of a pleasant sound. When you strike a stone on a floor board with the perfect pyramid cut. you should experience the aesthetics of this sound.
[Another Japanese name for the pyramid cut is 血溜り which means “blood receptacle”. The idea serves as a warning to spectators to refrain from interfering in a go match. Those who meddle with the game risk decapitation and having their blood collected in the pyramid cut.]
So with the ideal go equipment you should be able to use four out of your five senses.
– Seeing the fine grain of the board
– Smelling the aromatic oils of kaya wood
– Feeling the texture of the sword-drawn raised lines
– Hearing the resonance of each go stone striking the surface
The author, Yoshida Torayoshi 吉田寅義, is a master at making gobans and shogibans and one of the few who still uses a sword to lay the lines on the board.
More on the author (in Japanese language)
Drawing the lines of a goban
There is a section with some pictures of how to judge the quality of the lines of a well-crafted Japanese goban. The below explanations are my interpretations of the pictures.
Rounded raised lines must have uniform thickness and clean edges as it runs straight along it’s path on top of the goban. Please look at the picture below to see the difference between flawed lines and an acceptable line.
The lacquer in the picture below is applied by a metal or bamboo spatula. The result is a slightly raised rounded line.
The lacquer in the picture below is applied by a rat’s whisker brush. The result is a less rounded raised line. Clear lacquer is applied to the black lacquer as a finishing to perfect the roundness of the lines.
The picture below shows the lacquer as the katana or blade-like instrument is lifted from the surface. The lacquer then rests as a rounded raised line.