Procuring the wood
Wood logs are brought from near by areas and are stored generally outside the houses, in the narrow lanes. There are colonies of craftsmen in Kashmiri Ganj and Khojwa, Varanasi, who have been practicing this craft generation after generation.
A circular saw, embedded in a cemented platform facing the lane, is a very common feature in all the houses involved in this craft.
The wood block as per the size of the toy to be made is cut from the log. The piece is cleaned and sanded to get a smooth surface. The design of the toy to be made is traced on this piece. Extra wood is chipped off according to the design. Fine strokes with the hammer are made on the chisel, to give shape to the wood piece. It is again smoothened with a file. Sometimes, the whole toy is carved out from a single piece of wood whereas in some cases, different body parts are carved separately and joined together with adhesive. Each wooden piece that is cut to make an item is subjected to a process of slow heating to draw out all moisture.
Carving is followed by painting. Bright and gaudy non toxic colors are used to paint the body. First, the toy is dipped in distemper. When it dries, it is neatly painted with duco white paint. Two such coats are applied followed by the last coat of lacquer to bring shine to the surface of the toys. In the process of painting, painting is done according to the colors of a sample toy sometimes with slight color variations. For fine work, brush made out of the hair from squirrel’s tail is used for painting.
The painters have a basic sample piece for reference. For, ex- they have one basic sample for Rajasthani Elephant, which they use to paint a whole lot of toys. During the process of painting, they might make slight changes in color, pattern etc. in a whole lot. For special occasions like Christmas or other festivals, they are given the samples to refer.
They do not finish one piece at a time. They prepare one color and paint all the samples in a batch of toys with it and let it dry before they start with the next color. In one day, one painter finishes atleast 20 pieces.
Woodturning involves using a lathe to create objects from wood. As the lathe turns, the wood remains in the same position and slowly is shaped by the operation of the lathe. Using this basic process, it is possible to create many different objects from wood, including some designs that are intricate in detail.
It is of two types- Spindle turning, that involves using wood where the grain runs in the same direction as the lathe bed. Some examples are- table legs, legs for chairs, etc.
Second is faceplate turning in which the wood grain runs vertical to the rotation of the lathe. Some examples are- wooden platters, bowls, and charger plates.
Workshops are setup with turning machines powered by electricity. Around 5-10 craftsmen work together in a single workshop. Wooden logs cut in small pieces using a saw. After this, they are brought here and fit into the machine.
First, the machine peels off the outer rough skin to give a cylinder with smooth surface which is further used to give required shape with the help of skilled craftsmen.
Lacquering is done on a lathe. In the lac turning method, lac is applied in a dry state that is the lac stick is pressed against the woodenware to be lacquered. While the latter keeps revolving, the heat generated by friction softens the lac, making the colour stick to the surface of the wood. Lacquer ware toys are produced in this way. Thus, the craftsmen manipulate the stick where several colours are used.
Some of the lacquered pieces are painted with a brush. Non-toxic colors or acrylic based poster colors are used for this.