Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Go set from Yellow Mountain Imports arrives

The Go set that I had won at auction on eBay arrived late last week.

This post will cover the unpacking and stone cleaning (mostly taken with flash photography since I was pressed for time) and product detail photos (taken in natural light). You can view 1200x900 enlargments of all these photos by clicking on the images.

I later will post my overall assessments of the product and the purchase experience.

This blog entry may take longer to load since there are a lot of photos. I hope they will be useful for your own evaluations. Feel free to ask me any questions through the comments section. I'll entertain requests for additional photos if my time (and photographic skill/tools) can accomodate.

The shipment arrived in two boxes; one for the goban and another for the stones and bowls. The goban box was oversized (a good sign) and both did not show any indications of rough handling (an even better sign).

The goban box had this label on both sides. It was good that YMI tried to drive home the message that the content (as heavy as it was) needed careful handling.

The goban was enclosed in large bubble-wrap plastic and sandwiched between sheets of styrofoam along the top, bottom and three sides. Styrofoam popcorn was used to fill the remaining empty spaces. I judged the protection to be adequate.

The stones, bowls and carry bag were packed with styrofoam popcorn. The stones were in zip-lock bags and tucked into two corners of the smaller box.

Here are the bowls (inside the bag) and the stones after I had lifted them out of the box. You'll notice that the black stones appear powdery. I've learned that all new Yunzi stones ship this way and that they need to be cleaned before use.

The jujube bowls seem to have been nicely protected inside the carrying bag. The lids were sleeved in foam netting. There were no signs of scratching or scuffing.

Brochure: Front and Back

Brochure: Inside

A Yun-Zi brochure accompanied the stones. Clicking on the images will give you a (hopefully) readable enlargement (assuming that you can read Chinese).

Here you can see the grain detail of the kaya board. The board alone weighs 14 pounds and is made from one solid slab of wood. Most table boards are made from 4 sections that are glued together. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.

I had heard that table gobans are made from multiple pieces of wood either because (a) manufacturers need to make use of every piece they've got or (b) it reduces the risk of warping. Still, I remember being told that, as long as the wood has been properly dried, the risk of warping or shrinking is minimal to non-existent. Maybe someone can enlighten me on this.

Here you can see the pattern of the grain. Click on the image for an enlargment.

This board is not plain wood with a waxed-on coloring as I understand traditional Japanese gobans are. You can compare it to a Hyuga Kaya table goban from Kuroki Goishi Ten that I had blogged about back in early November (bottom of that link). This goban from Yellow Mountain Imports is more like a finished piece of furniture with a satin sheen. The playing surface is smooth and almost glass-like. More on this later.

I thought the board nicely complemented our furniture. I placed nine thick felt pads on the bottom for protection.

The bowls and board were set aside so that I could get started on washing and oiling the stones.

The stones were all covered with powder so I needed to wash them in the kitchen sink. After closing the drain, I placed a large towel in the sink and set the stones on it. I added a generous amount of dishwashing detergent and submereged the stones in water and suds. Using my hands and the corners of the towel, I scrubbed them clean.

I used six 1x1 foot kitchen towels for the whole process. One in the sink, two for drying, two to set the stones upon to dry, and one for wiping off excess oil.

I used a strainer to collect small batches of stones from the sudsy water and rinse them under the tap. These then went onto a drying towel.

The black stones were laid out to dry further. I then repeated the process for the white stones. Both batches are now ready for oiling.

My oiling mix was 6 drops of light canola oil and 6 drops of an aromatherapy oil from The Body Shop. This mix is just an aesthetic preference of my own. I selected a scent called Pink Grapefruit which is somewhat flowery and citrusy. The scent is both pleasant and waking at the same time.

You can opt to instead use sewing machine oil as is sometimes recommended for slate stones.

I placed the mix and the black stones in a zip-lock bag. The stones were then gently rolled about in the bag until I could see that they were all coated in the oils.

Now begins the tedium of wiping the excess oils off the stones. It's a slow process and I could only do six stones at a time. You have to admit however that these look much nicer after being washed and oiled.

All in all, I had 183 black stones. Here they all are: washed, oiled, counted and ready. (Whew!)

Of course, I need to do the white stones too (Groan!). I didn't add any more oil to the bag as there was still a lot left-over. I just tossed the white stones in. There was no residue from the black stones.

With the black stones, it was easy to see excess oil. Not so with the white stones. Wanting to do a thorough job, I slowed down my wiping process to two stones at a time.

Finally, both sets of stones were finished. There were five broken white stones in the batch that was sent to me and I contacted YMI at They responded later in the evening that they would mail me replacements.

The auction stated that these stones were 10mm thick. I measured a sample of ten stones with a caliper and, they are, in fact, only 9.5mm thick making them equivalent to Size 34. Still, I noticed that they were thicker than the biconvex stone samples that I got from the Go-Gamestore which were 8.8-9mm thick.

This by-the-window shot helps show the satin-like surface of the goban. I'm not an expert on wood finishing but it looks like the kaya was painted with one layer of a transparent shade and finished with a second clear layer. The clear layer was probably then buffed to its satin finish.

This close-up hopefully will provide you with more detail of the board's surface. The top surface feels completely smooth to the hand. You can only feel the grain on the sides. The bottom is glossy which is why I think they used a second clear layer on the board.

I'm guessing that the lines were silk-screened onto the board's surface. This enlargement shows minor imperfections that I found to one line on the goban. Notice how there seem to be notches on the second line from the top?

The angle and lighting of this shot makes the board look paler and less saturated than it really is.

And now for a close-up of the Yunzi stones. You'll notice some slight imperfections to the black stone to the left but these are nothing that you would notice unless you used a magnifying glass. Yunzi stones are supposedly molded from a mix of amber and ground stone. About a handful had visible imperfections; a pock here or there, perhaps a tiny chip, or a less-than-perfect curve.

The board color in this picture is very much what it looks like in real life; a warm orange-tan.

Here's another close-up of the stones. The black Yunzi stones look like slate and the white ones remind me of Mentos. Keep small children away from them. I had a hankering for candy last night while I was studying with these.

Here's one last close-up so you can enlarge it and see the texture of the black stones.

This is the set photgraphed indoors when illuminated by diffused sunlight. The colors seem just a little more saturated but it's roughly accurate.

This is a photo of the set outdoors under direct sunlight. The intensity and contrast of these lighting conditions really overemphasize the warm colors of this set.


At 3:22 PM, December 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know you need to oil slate stones. but did not know you were supposed to oil the yunzi stones also. Did YMI or Go Gamestore give you any info on care of the yunzi stones?

At 3:55 PM, December 10, 2005, Blogger frankiii said...

Beautiful photos and excellent write-up. Enjoy!!!

At 4:56 PM, December 10, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello OEM. Neither gave me advice for these stones but I knew that oiling would give them a smoother feel and a light shine. I had experimented with the stone samples from The Go Gamestore which felt raspy when I had received them.

Yunzi stones still feel coarse to the hands and nails after washing. The oil finishes them quite nicely as you can see from the lustre of the black stones.

Hello frankiii! Thanks! I'm looking forward to reading your opinions about your soon-to-arrive 15cm floor goban!

At 6:05 PM, December 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for the review, nice looking kit, I'm feeling tempted to try some Yunzi stones at some point now. Time I think to ask around and see if anyones got any I could play a game or two with.

I think all we need now are some action shots of games in progress on the board :)


At 6:32 PM, December 10, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello Paul. Real action photos will need to wait until I can get some of my fellow Northern California KGS colleagues over to a coffee shop for a friendly match.

Soon I hope!

Now I'm thinking that it might be nice to get a bag for this goban.

At 8:01 PM, December 10, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Must admit the oil makes the stones look very good, and I think you got a great deal if the board and bowls are half a nice as they look in your photos

At 7:50 AM, December 11, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice stuff indeed. Does the varnish allow the smell get through, which, in fact, is one of the most enjoyable aspects of true kaya?

About the board consisting of one continuous piece: Made from a properly chosen (and dried, of course) section of wood, such a board is well possible to be of the same sustainability as composite ones. However, most people esteem it as more beautiful, and the raw material needed is more costly.

The point is that for this technique the annual rings have to stand upright, which implies that only the center slice of a stem can be used. To build stabil boards from the slices that are more or less off center, one has to glue together pieces with alternating warping behaviour.

You may have noticed though that precious japanese boards of one piece many inches thick mostly do have tilted rings. This is, beside the aesthetical part, the technical reason that they come on legs. Towards their playing surface, rings do stand upright anyway, so that it stays even, regardless of the board possibly warping beneath.

(Hopefully I could explaine this comprehensibly?)



At 8:29 AM, December 11, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

Hello Blubb. Thanks for your input as this is very helpful. I'll be adding a photo in the post to show the side pattern of the woodgrain.

I don't know what the smell of kaya is like but there is a scent that comes from the board (although you have to put your nose really close to pick it up). I don't know if it's from the finish or the kaya. I would expect that a heavily-coated board like this would make it more difficult for the scent to come through.

At 2:42 PM, December 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The text in your picture (
says spruce board. I think Kaya board should be heavier. Nice board though.

At 3:20 PM, December 13, 2005, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

I honestly wouldn't know Spruce or Kaya if they came up to me and whacked me on the head with their branches. I can only take Yellow Mountain Imports at their word that the board is made of Kaya (albeit, as they described, of the Chinese-grown variety from Yunnan province).

The brochure however only accompanied the Yunzi stones. These stones are sold as a separate set or matched by YMI with their Bamboo, Kaya, Shin-Kaya and Cherry boards.

The board itself had no accompanying brochure.

At 8:28 PM, December 13, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

About single piece boards.

Large piece of wood (even small ones) have a tendency to warp and/or crack as the wood dryes. To minimize warping and cracks, the wood needs to dry slowly.

I have read that traditional japanese floor boards, used to be dryed over a period of ten years. During this time, some crack, bend or even roth and are therefore discarded.

The price you pay for single piece gobans includes the cost of production, storing, drying and loses from the boards that don't make it.

Smaller pieces can dry faster because of the better surface to volume ratio. Therefore, a similar sized board is a lot cheaper to make.

Take every thing that I wrote with a grain of salt because I am not a wood worker, all this is from things I have read or heard, your mileage may vary.

Enjoy your beautiful go set!

At 1:59 PM, December 14, 2005, Blogger snakeeater said...

I've started a blog about my YMI experience at:
Bottom line is my came slightly warped and I do not believe the boards are completely dried. So I am going to enjoy it as long as I can. :D

At 6:48 AM, December 27, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The grain as seen in your new pic is rather perfectly suited. I wouldn't expect the board to show any significant warping behaviour (well, to be sure, better don't play go while swimming - the board might tilt in case of unbalanced fuseki, anyway ;).

Cheers, enjoy your set.


At 11:07 AM, September 23, 2006, Blogger phosphere said...

Congrats with the set, CD! Nice saturation in that board, providing good contrast with the white.

Recommendation: (White) felt bowl liners.
Will silence stones when filling after game (mainly,) and protect wood from and oil discoloration.
Cut white felt about 6'' square; trim to hex then 4 cuts on diagonals about 3-4''. Place in bowls, folding edges over each other.

At 10:23 AM, April 26, 2009, Blogger Mihai Danila said...

Isn't it bad for the stones (which are made of wood) if you put them in water? Do you think you could have obtained the same result with the stones if you had skipped the washing and had simply removed the powder with a towel?

At 11:15 AM, April 27, 2009, Blogger ChiyoDad said...

The Yunzi stones are of a material that is similar to glass.

At 8:57 AM, May 01, 2009, Blogger Unknown said...

I just started learning to play Go and after seeing this entry I decided to get the 19x19 Goban & Yunzi Stones from yellow mountain imports. Since this is my first Go set it doesn't mean much, but I am impressed with the quality of the product.

Is there an oil you can recommend for the stones that is the least smelly?


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