Wood-carving has, traditionally, been the forte of the Nepali artisan – using the most primitive of tools they have, over the centuries, endowed the simplest of products with great aesthetic appeal without detracting from their utilitarian value.
Most daily use wooden products are crafted by scooping out the wood with traditional tools. Hollowed out objects like the canoe, mortar, theki (wooden containers for yogurt and sour milk), singmang (container for clarified butter), chauntho (oil container), gauwa (milk container), and ari bowls are been crafted from the wood of the pine and cedar. Lathe machines have been introduced recently for the making of hollowed and cylindrical objects. These are then smoothened with sand-paper and given several coats of varnish to make the surface smooth and shiny. However, some of the hollow wooden objects like the theki, singmang, and chauntho, as well as wooden mortars and bowls, are being replaced with plastic and aluminium products.
FURNITURE, CHESTS, & BOXES
Soft-wood – like chanp (champac), pine, and cedar – is used in Nepal to make furniture, chests, and boxes. Sisso variety of wood is preferred for carving because of its beautiful grain. Chests made of soft-wood were a traditional wedding gift from the parents to the bride. These traditional chests are slowly being replaced by modern metal almirahs or cupboards/wardrobes.
Carved wooden furniture and chests are given a coating of turpentine oil or a mixture of light coloured rosin obtained from the pine trees to highlight the designs.
PROBLEMS & INTERVENTIONS
Traditional craftsmen are now affected by the scarcity of wood due to deforestation. The hard sal wood of the southern plains is rapidly being depleted. Although afforestation programmes have been launched, the requirement of wood far outstrips the supply.
Most of the wood-carving is done in Lalitpur and in the Kathmandu Valley.