Mr. SOWA says with a smile, "I was saved by the wood stove in a cottage of Mt. Tanigawadake I went in New Year's." I arrived at the cottage with my body frozen to the bone after a great struggle, where I was wrapped with a gentle warm air generated by a beautifully wavering flame. At this moment I was attracted by an wood stove. Of course I never thought that I would make it by myself then.
At first, I bought a ready-made wood stove at a home improvement center. However while using it, I found that I was not satisfied with its performance. So I studied an wood stove produced in Europe, the home of it and got a flash of belief that I might be able to make it because I was, in the first place, engaged in a hand making involving automobile wiring and precision metal processing and had techniques and machine tools good enough to make stoves by chance.
As a mountaineering fan, nothing is more pleasant than treating mountaineers with their bodies frozen to the bone with the wood stove which I made. I just want to make high quality stoves and to please everybody with them. Such a simple reason has made me start manufacturing stoves each of which is only one in the world.
The stove material comes from the base of machine tools which are scrapped, sold overseas or melted in a furnice. I once purchased a secondhand machine tool which was originally priced several tens of million of Yen a unit. Forged iron bases are taken out from the purchased one or from the machine tools which are left unused in my factory being disassembled. Of couse I have to change design of the stoves to be manufactured in accordance with the bases of the machine tools because they are essentially different from each other. The stove size becomes large or small to compact one by the material to be used. Manufacturing, therefore, actually starts from the point when customers select bases.
Design is determined after selection of the base. I make up a design image taking every possible opportunity when I am on a train or in a hospital waiting room. I enjoy this imaging time, too. Making good use of the original base structure, I decide where to make a window frame through which a fire flame can be seen, where to make a stove pipe hole and where to make an wood input port. The work to breathe a new life to the machine which is about to terminate its life may be done from the sense of "MOTTAINAI" (that's a waste) and "MONOZUKURI" (making things) particular to Japanese.
Well, image alone is not able to make products. Actual processing technique is required. That is my strong point. There are probably few people who can do designing, casting, installation of heat resistant glass and finishing alone without other's help. Thus waste materials are brought back to the life of a stove as a result of combination of techniques, machine tools and images.
My immediate target is to make 100 units of stoves. I have produced 25 units or so in 6 years. I think I have to speed up my works. Otherwise, I will not be able to catch up with the target because of my body which will not obey me. (laughter) I hope I will be able to enjoy making for another 6 years or so. Things cannot be done continuously without pleasure. Of course, I don't think that my job is just a passtime.
I'm particular about making only one stove in the world. Properly speaking, it is very costly if the stove is made from the very beginning. However I maintain a market price because it is made of waste materials, I like to make it and I want to widen usage of this wonderful stove. However, please be understood that it is not shopping on the cheap at all. A compact stove may cost aboutYen300,000, available for a solitary house or a villa. A large size stove may cost around Yen600,000, good enough to keep warm air in a building of 100 Tsubos (333 square meters). Hence I hope customers who really want will buy it and enjoy it for many years.
HEAD OF "SHOBUNRO" (CAST STEEL WOOD STOVE) ATELIER
He started manufacturing of cast steel wood stoves in addition to his original job as a worker involving automobile electrical wiring and precision metal processing. He outputs cast steel wood stoves full of originality made one by one using the most of his techniques of casting, welding and cutting as well as shaping image coming into his head. A lot of products have already been sold throughout Japan.