Blast From the Past (3) – 2009 Shrine Lantern Presentation

OK, everyone, I think this is the last of the older videos I will have to post, but it’s a good one! Once again, it’s raw footage and was not filmed with a tripod, so the video quality itself is understandably inconsistent. However, I think it’s something that most readers of this blog will want to see.

Background: The story of the shrine lantern

If you are a long-time or particularly enthusiastic reader of this blog, you may remember that in 2009, Chris designed and build a lantern similar to those found along the paths of shrines in Japan. His 50 (!) part series on designing and building the lantern starts here (June 14, 2009) and ends here (Sept 25, 2009).

If you look closely at the photos in the build thread, you can see that he built it in the kitchen of the small apartment we were renting at the time, almost completely with hand tools. At the time, it was inconvenient (“Honey, can you take the chisels off the kitchen counter so we can cook dinner?”), but it’s certainly a testament to his skills. I share this especially for woodworkers who are starting out, in case you are dreaming of a big shop but wonder what you can do in a very small space.

To take the photo below, for the business he was starting in the United States, Chris and I brought the disassembled lantern in our car to this path by a local reservoir. We set up the lantern, took some photos, disassembled again, and drove home with it in pieces.

Shrine lantern designed and built by Chris Hall temporarily set up on path near a lake with trees in background
Chris with the lantern during our photo shoot.

In 2013, Chris installed the lantern at our current home and did a few blog posts on the installation.

Shrine lantern with snow on the roof
During one of its first winters at our home.
Lantern Post July 2020
Lantern post waiting for me to come up with a solution – July, 2020.

Sadly, a landscaper riding a large lawnmower backed into the lantern shortly before Chris was diagnosed with cancer. The lantern was built to be very strong and was weathering beautifully, but it couldn’t withstand a direct hit from a vehicle. It cracked in several places and some chunks of wood were ripped off, so he removed the lantern head. Chris really wanted to fix it and designed a lovely replacement version with a copper roof (so he could practice copper roof work!), but he did not have a chance to build it before he died.

If anyone has brilliant alternative ideas for replacing the lantern head that do not involve Chris’s level of carpentry skills, please share them! I have a few ideas myself, but I haven’t pursued them. The wiring is still intact, but even if it doesn’t light up, I would be delighted with another (channeling Chris here) elegant solution that is not several thousand dollars.

Onto the video!

Once Chris completed the lantern in 2009, he decided to do presentations about its design and creation as a way to introduce more people to Japanese carpentry techniques. One of the cool things about the lantern was that Chris designed it to be assembled and disassembled relatively easily (even though it was comprised of over 180 pieces) because he wanted to use it as a teaching tool. He was a big fan of public libraries and volunteered at the local library in the town where we lived at the time, so libraries seemed like perfect venues. He did a series of free talks in libraries across Massachusetts and Connecticut. He would bring the lantern, in pieces, to each library and assemble it in front of the audience while describing the process. During evening presentations, he would add the wiring, put the bulb in, and light it up – the audiences loved it.

During the presentation in the video…

This video is most of the 1 hour version of the presentation. He also did several 2 hour presentations with more details. This presentation was at the Noah Webster Library in West Hartford, Connecticut, and there were about 80 people present. The audience member filming (my aunt) did not have a perfect view, but the audio is good even when the video isn’t great. Big thanks to her and my uncle for finding this and sending it to me!

Footage starts partway through but near the beginning – after he talks about his Japanese sawhorse.

There are many aspects of this talk that provide a sense of Chris’s values, skills, and knowledge. A few of the many things that I noticed upon watching again after so many years are:

Many people get hungry for something that looks like a tree.” – when describing why he thinks live edge pieces have gained popularity in recent years.

When he compares sanding vs. planing and talks about shaving – not sanding – his face…

Rocks – Good design life” – when talking about using rocks for foundations of lanterns instead of concrete. One thing about Chris – whenever we went to a river for a swim or on a hike near a creek, he was constantly on the lookout for rocks to use as foundations for posts. He rarely pilfered anything from nature, but he would make an exception for this. He was so intent on finding the perfect rock that if he found one he liked, he would carry it for long distances, even though his arms might be screaming by the time we got back to the car. The next day he would be sore but elated!

What about you? Anything in particular that struck you?

I may be out of old videos, but I will look for unpublished designs, writing, and photos to share that may be of interest. He designed a double wall system that could be well-insulated and go with Japanese double roofs. I’m not sure if that’s in our computer somewhere, but I hope so!

Thank you for continuing to bring Chris’s work and life forward through yours. And thank you for stopping by The Carpentry Way. ~ Ilana

7 Replies to “Blast From the Past (3) – 2009 Shrine Lantern Presentation”

  1. Dear Ilana,

    Thank you for sharing this video with all of us.

    I think that Chris’s presentation was very engaging and enjoyable to watch. The audience’s questions were interesting and so were Chris’s responses, I very much liked Chris’s dry sense of humour.

    I hope that all is well with you and Ryden and also your family.

    Take care and all the very best.


    1. Thank you very much, Herbert. I am glad you enjoyed this one and could hear the audience questions. Yes, Chris definitely had a dry sense of humour! All the way til the end. All my best and hope you and your family are well. ~Ilana

  2. Dear llana
    Thank you. This post and the last are like uncut diamonds
    or maybe partially facetted gems whose intrinsic value far exceeds any minor flaws.
    l think of him often.

    1. Tom, that is such a lovely way to describe these unedited videos. I’m glad you are enjoying them despite the fact that the people filming did not expect them to be used in this way. Thank you for continuing to think of Chris. That means a lot. Best wishes, Ilana

  3. Hi Ilana,

    Thank you for posting the video. The shaving his face analogy was excellent! I now feel bad about using sandpaper on my projects… I hope you and Ryden are doing well.


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