Once the metal is smelted, the artisan pours the alloy (while scattering sawdust over it to prevent air bubbles from
occurring) into a mold whose inside, designed to create a disk-like lump, is applied with cow fat. Air bubbles can
break up the entire block during the following stage of hammering. Some flawed
lumps or sediments can be reused while others cannot, particularly when the
ratio is incorrect. Therefore, the artisan must be extremely careful not to let air
bubbles occur or have the wrong ratio, so the work is not ruined.

The heated alloy disk, the basic material for all bangjja ware, is called
baduk because it looks like a piece used in the traditional board game of the
same name. In a stage called nepimjil, the baduk is then hammered by three or
more forgers, under the close supervision of the chief artisan who regularly checks
the thickness of the baduk and controls the beating accordingly by seizing the baduk with a
long clamp, so that it can gradually transform into the correct shape. Because a baduk can easily
crack and break when its temperature is too low, artisans need to repeat the heating and hammering process until
it has an overall even thickness of 1-2 mm. The chief artisan needs to be able to discern the thickness of baduk by
the naked eye and take the right action of adjustment, as appropriate.

The stage of nepimjil is followed by ugimjil, in which several pieces of thinly spread baduk are piled up and
hammered into a concave form; dakchimjil, in which the concave baduk pieces are separated one-by-one and each
piece is hammered and heated to form its final shape; damgeumjil, in which the hot object in the final form is placed
into cold water to increase its hardness; and byeoreumjil, in which the hardened object takes another bout of forging
to rid it of any malformation that may occur during the stage of damgeumjil. This long production process of bangjja
ware normally ends with gajil, cleaning oxidized membranes from the surface of the ware so that it can display its
original golden color.

In the past, all these stages were performed at night because the artisans could only check the temperature of the
heated object by looking at the glow emitted by it. Today, however, they work in the daytime in a darkened room. Also
in the past, the process of bangjja production involved at least 11 artisans, but because of modern equipment today
six craftsmen are enough. The time-consuming and laborious manual labor has also been reduced, to a certain
extent. Despite that, many parts of the process, including having the right thickness and form, still depends on the
artisan's eyes and hands as well as the knowledge and skills that come from many years of experience in the

The production of a bangjja yugi requires patience, concentration and the strenuous labor of hammering several
thousand, even tens of thousand, beats. The long process of repeated forging and the unique alloying ratio are
the secrets to the remarkable features of bangjja yugi. A closer look at the copper-tin alloy through a microscope
reveals that the metal particles forming it are loosely combined; but when examining a completed bangjja
ware, it shows that the particles are closely and evenly combined. It means that the alloying ratio and
the numerous beatings have changed the very nature of the metal.

The golden brilliance of bangjja yugi exhibits reserved elegance and pride. It is a
beauty that can be attained only by the long, arduous manual toil of bangjja
artisans. The tradition handed down for more than 1000 years secretes its golden
aura whenever the hammering sounds by Yugijang Yi Bong-ju reverberate within
the air.

* Photo of Yi Bong-ju by Seo Heun-kang

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