With a rattling sound, a craftsman ICHIHASHI dips the frame of the abacus into a box of beads. As if by magic, after the action has been repeated several times each rod is filled with beads. The beads, rods, and frame of an abacus are first made separately. In the assembly process, the beads are placed on the rods, and then the frame is completed and polished. The abacus is made entirely of wood; the beads of boxwood or birch, the rods of bamboo, and the frame of ebony. They are almost totally handcrafted. Ono is the source of about 70 percent of all the abacuses made in Japan. For a time the electronic calculator threatened to extinguish the abacus, but slowly the warmth and refined beauty of this handcrafted instrument are beginning to reassert their timeless appeal.
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