Carolina Pen Company
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Urushi

 

What is Urushi?

Urushi lacquer is made from the sap of the urushi tree (Rhus vernicifera). It is harvested and refined into the lacquer used to enhance the beauty of many objects. In my case, fountain pens. Urushi is very unique because it does not act like the paints we are so used to. Where traditional paints dry by evaporation of a solvent, urushi cures by absorbing moisture from the air. The substance that causes this is urushiol. When exposed to warmth and humidity, an enzyme is activated and extracts oxygen from the water and supplies it to the urushiol. The urushiol cures and solidifies, forming a hard film. Urushiol is the same substance found in poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and even mango rind. To anyone allergic it causes contact dermatitis, an itchy rash. This is why raw urushi has to be handled with extreme care and cured properly.  Once it has cured the surface has hardened and the urushiol can no longer affect the skin. However, anyone with extreme allergies towards urushiol should take extra care when handling any urushi item. 


How is it cured?

Urushi is cured in a special cabinet that maintains a very specific & consistent heat and humidity. Each layer of urushi that is applied must be cured in this cabinet for a minimum of 24hrs to fully harden. Only then can that layer be sanded and another layer be applied. Urushi requires patience and determination to yield a beautiful piece of lacquerware. 


How do I care for my urushi pen?

Caring for your urushi pen is very easy. Urushi has only one natural enemy and that is UV light. Long exposure to UV light will break down the lacquer over time. Making it become dull and brittle. Every urushi pen I make will come with a handmade pen sleeve for proper storage when not in use. With care your pen will last for many generations!