There are three basic variations on this technique: cutting lines, cutting dots, and cutting a combination of the two. All of them employ a special carving blade known as a kinma-ken.
Originally all kinma was done by cutting lines only, but it later became possible to produce complex designs using various colored Urushi and a variety of cutting techniques.
Kinma is said to have been transmitted from Southeast Asia hundreds of years ago.
Facts about kinma
After Urushi is painted into cut-away areas, the surface is planed flat again, so other colors which differ from the base color in the cut-away areas. In some parts of Southeast Asia, there is a custom of chewing betel nuts, seasonings, and other ingredients wrapped in betel leaves (betel is a vine growing in the region.) The custom is called chien mahk in the local language, and containers for betel made with the colored-Urushi technique were imported to Japan, after which the word chien mahk is said to have evolved into kinma.
Did you know?
If you blur the colored Urushi when you place it in the cut-away areas, you can depict the delicate color gradations of flower petals.
How to make kinma ware
"What Are Traditional Crafts? -A Guidebook to Seeing, Learning, and Enjoying-" Edited by the Japan Kogei Association Eastern Branch. Published by Unsodo ／ List of works English translation: Kazuko Todate (Art critic / Art historian)