Optional Slate Tiled Version
These types of timber lantern on a post have a history of many hundreds of years in Japan.
They are more often seen around or on the approaches to shrines to light up the pathways, also in parks and often in larger and varied styles in towns.
For shrine use, the lanterns are usually painted red with the ends of the squared frame end pieces painted white, and have a black roof. Around shrines and temples in particular, there may also be seen larger and more elaborate versions with copper clad roofs.
Away from religious sites though, the wooden lanterns of Japan are usually unpainted, and these have their own charm.
The most important criteria in the design of these here in the UK, was that they should not be a westernised pseudo Japanese version; that they had to be capable of being perceived as Japanese by a Japanese person.
Subtle nuances of shape, angles and their relationship to each other all contribute to that which is Japanese.
Confirmation that the design achieved its goal has been borne out by Japanese friends and professionals.
It's common knowledge that timber never stops moving; in damp weather it gains moisture and expands, then shrinks again when it dries. Characteristically, in outdoor conditions oak always gains lots of fine cracks (checking) in its surface as it ages.
It also changes colour to a silver grey, which many regard as one of its attractive features. Along with checking, these characteristics add to its rustic attraction.
The formation of cracks in oak over time is perfectly normal, expected, and not considered a fault.
Larger sections of oak can develop quite large checks which aren't detrimental to the overall strength of the piece, but better off without. Recognising a contributing factor, the lantern posts are produced in a way intended to help reduce the extent of this in the long term.
Because these lanterns are furniture for all weathers, careful thought has been given to many aspects of the design, all intended to maximise life.
Oak is acknowledged as being a good long-term exterior timber. Even if treated initially, but rarely thereafter receiving any regular or further care, it can be serviceable for 20 years plus.
After completion, all of the lantern parts are tank soaked in a timber preservative which also contains a wax additive (to reduce water absorption). Soaking time is always
much more than the manufacturer's recommended time.
This gives them a good "head start" and if you should continue with regular treatment (every few years), the lifespan is really quite indeterminate.
Do not be tempted to paint, varnish, lacquer, or use any other coating. Any type of coating will need to be well maintained once started, and if not very well maintained, instead of helping, will actually become detrimental.