Master wood working Weasel creates custom art

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --

As the smell of fresh lumber hangs in the air, windows grow hazy from layers of sawdust and work orders flow in from every squadron, a skilled craftsman adamantly works to create masterpieces for all his customers.

The 35th Force Support Squadron wood workshop is led by Yutaka Kashiwazaki, a 35th FSS woodshop master laborer who dedicates his efforts to teaching Airmen attention to detail and the importance of hard work through his expertise built from 30 years of woodwork. 

“I have been working here 18 years, but I have been doing woodwork for more than 30 years,” Kashiwazaki said. “It was my hobby that became my passion, so I focused perfecting my craft and taught myself different things.”

Kashiwazaki’s skills range from small trinkets to large 5-foot gifts, and he gives his all with each carving, sawing and detailing made.

“People can come in with an idea of what they want, give him parameters, and Kashi will come up with a masterpiece,” said Vanessa Breen, the 35th FSS director of arts and crafts and auto complex. “There are things he creates that come out of the woodshop that just amaze me.”

The amount of people who use the woodshop range anywhere from 75 to 150 at a time, depending on the rate of people leaving or coming to Misawa, but Kashiwazaki, a valued Japanese partner and member of Team Misawa, is always there to guide those with an interest in the craft.

“During teaching, some people will bring their own plans and I teach them which machines they’re supposed to use,” said Kashiwazaki.

Tech. Sgt. Steven Ryder, 35th Maintenance Squadron aerospace propulsions technician and a woodcraftsman, said every time he comes to the woodshop it’s always a pleasure working with Kashiwazaki and is glad he has a way to relieve some stress through a creative outlet.

“I get to beat stuff with a hammer, relieve stress and that allows me to work at my prime,” Ryder said while laughing light-heartedly. “I enjoy creating, and there is so much satisfaction to start out with just a plain piece of lumber and build it into something unique once it’s completed.”

Breen said the woodshop is happy as well as lucky to have the master laborer.

“He has such a passion for his craft,” Breen said “He’s very detail-oriented and extremely hard-working. Whether it’s him making or someone assisting him with a project, he inspects everything before it goes out. He takes pride in his work.”

Breen added he even takes the time to work with customers to help develop their ideas into something greater than they originally thought.

“He brings in a lot of skills from his background,” Breen said. “From his color selection to how intricate his detailing is, his Japanese culture comes out when you see his products. He makes it easier for customers by providing them with many creative and new designs.”

Even at home, he works tirelessly on perfecting his craft, ensuring his skills stay at their optimum level.

“At my house I do woodworking, too, but more intricate and I mix different mediums,” Kashiwazaki said. “I like mixing lumber with metal and glass. It’s fun and refreshing to create new things.”

Along with learning from Kashiwazaki, the workshop provides personnel with the best quality of each plaque, shadow box and intricate design, to satisfy requests of those who recognize their Airmen serving by their side.

The woodwork master said customers are happy with his work and appreciate the hard work he puts into each project, and added he always has ideas in his mind.

“I have lots of hobbies, but none of them compare to this one,” Kashiwazaki said. “Woodworking is the best and I love doing it.”

Breen said Airmen can always come in and enjoy the amenities they offer, like the various types of lumber, and she understands although this is a unique craft to some, it provides a creative outlet allowing Misawa Airmen to stay resilient and keep their innovative minds going.

“The shop gears towards providing individuals a way to create their own crafts,” Breen said.

The woodshop’s hours of operation are Monday through Friday, noon to 8 P.M., and Saturday, 9 A.M. to 6 P.M. For more information about the woodshop, call DSN: 226-4452.