DIY Tales: ‘Modern Kintsugi’ Rescue of a Beloved Mug I Got from Starbucks in Izumo


It’s quite the downer when a cherished piece of dishware gets a crack, especially if it’s a sentimental item, isn’t it?

This time, I decided to take on the challenge of ‘Modern Kintsugi,’ as introduced by DefragLife. So, here’s a record of my entire DIY journey.

When compared to traditional Kintsugi, the modern version is certainly more user-friendly and simpler. This time around, I managed to resurrect a piece of dishware that had not completely broken, but had suffered a significant crack, rendering it unusable.

What’s more, by repairing it myself, it’s become a truly unique piece of dishware – the only one of its kind in the world! If it’s an item you’ve always loved, the feeling of accomplishment just makes your mood soar. There’s nothing quite as luxurious as spending a special moment with a special piece of dishware.


Cracks Appeared in My Beloved Mug from Izumo’s Starbucks, a 2014 Memory

While I was on a business trip to Hiroshima, I had a free day. So, I decided to rent a car and visit Izumo, a place I’d never been before. This was the memorable trip where I ended up visiting the Izumo Grand Shrine.

I remember inviting a local friend along, who bizarrely advised me not to take photos inside the shrine due to his inexplicable spiritual intuition. I wonder how he’s doing now.

Just across from the shrine’s torii gate, there was a Starbucks, where I bought a coffee and a commemorative mug. The mug was stylish, in a neutral grey tone that would suit any scene, and had a perfect thickness. I loved it.

But then, one day, during a leisurely coffee break, I noticed coffee dripping onto my table. The culprit? A crack in my beloved mug.

The moment I saw the crack, I thought, “Oh! This is just like when I play the Megaton Punch game in Kirby Super Star, and it ends with a less-than-perfect result!” As I continued to observe the crack, rather than growing frustrated, I found myself growing fond of it. But, in its current state, I couldn’t continue to use the mug.

Unwilling to Give Up: Exploring the Art of Kintsugi

I absolutely love this mug, and it holds such fond memories that I simply can’t bear to part with it. Upon sharing my distress with my partner, I was met with a cold-hearted response: “Things break, it’s natural. Why don’t you just buy a new one?” I was taken aback by the ruthlessness. Reflect on the feelings of the object! Then again, I suppose an object doesn’t have feelings, per se… Well, actually, it’s more about my feelings, isn’t it?

Setting that aside, I recalled seeing a relatively edgy American drama on Amazon Prime Video where “Kintsugi” – the traditional Japanese art of repairing broken pottery using lacquer mixed with gold – was used as an analogy for personal transformation experienced by an individual at a certain facility. Kintsugi emphasizes that things can become stronger and more beautiful after being broken and repaired.

If you’re curious, this was alluded to in the last part of the second episode of “Nine Perfect Strangers”. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can watch it any time. The show was pretty psychologically intense and edgy. I loved it.

So, I decided to consult my frequent ally, DuckDuckGo, to research how to perform Kintsugi.

It seems traditional Kintsugi makes it unsafe for microwaves… What to do now?

Traditionally, Kintsugi involves using lacquer to glue the shattered pieces together, followed by the application of gold leaf over the top. But this method can be quite challenging and not exactly practical. Issues ranging from sourcing the tools, to their maintenance, and the overall cost, can prove to be a significant hurdle.

Sure, there are kits available for purchase on platforms like Amazon, but they tend to be pretty expensive. Plus, you have to be cautious when handling the lacquer – it can cause skin irritation. And trust me, you don’t want it to get on your mucous membranes – that can lead to severe problems.

Here’s a side note, and it’s quite the story. I once heard directly from a male artisan who worked with lacquer, about a rather unfortunate incident that occurred when he used the restroom after handling lacquer. I wonder how he’s doing now.

Anyway, back on topic, another significant downside to traditional Kintsugi is that it renders your dishware microwave-unsafe. It can be quite inconvenient if you can’t pop your dish in the microwave for a quick reheat. So, I decided to do a bit more digging and stumbled upon a blog that introduced a technique called “Modern Kintsugi.

Emulating DeFrag Life’s ‘Modern Kintsugi’

As I wandered the vast expanse of the internet, I stumbled upon a god who was restoring their crockery using a method called “Modern Kintsugi”. It seems gods don’t just reside in shrines or the cosmos – they’re online too.

A quick search for “Modern Kintsugi” shows that a significant number of people are trying this method. I felt compelled to follow suit. And so, I ordered the necessary materials to give it a shot myself.

This “Modern Kintsugi” technique uses food-safe materials, eliminating any risk associated with consuming out of the restored ware, and – here’s the kicker – unlike traditional kintsugi, it even allows the use of a microwave. That’s a pretty significant benefit.

Just a note, the Pebeo Porcelaine 150 Outliner in gold, which I used, seems to be difficult to get hold of due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I ordered mine from Amazon and ended up waiting about a month for it to arrive. As of June 2023, however, it looks like the stock has been replenished. So hopefully, if you’re looking to embark on a similar DIY adventure, you won’t have to wait as long as I did!

For those of you who might be interested in experimenting with different colors, you might want to consider this set. I’ve also purchased it for future use because gold isn’t necessarily the best match for every piece of tableware. So it’s nice to have options when you want to give a fresh, personalized touch to your favorite items!

Minimizing Risks with a Sacrifice: Testing on a 100 Yen Store Ceramic Piece

So, I decided to enlist a sacrificial lamb from our dear Seria-senpai. That is, I bought a ceramic piece to practice on before diving into the real task. The challenge was to carefully induce a crack without breaking the piece completely. It required a delicate balance, akin to Kirby’s Megaton Punch if you’re familiar.

I quickly realized this was the most difficult part – creating a purposeful crack on a new ceramic item was difficult. Eventually, I found a technique that worked. I secured the outer perimeter of the ceramic piece with reinforcing tape and used a flat chisel and a hammer to create a starting point for the crack, which I then gently expanded by carefully tapping with the hammer. It’s a delicate process, and if anyone is thinking of embarking on this same journey, I hope my experience can be of some help.

First off, I’ll be trying my hand with this kit. I couldn’t find any examples of mending just the cracks, so I plan to carefully apply the adhesive to the cracks to bond them back together, to restore the mug to its former glory. Let’s see how this goes!

Testing Proves Successful: My First Attempt at Modern Kintsugi

Here’s how the test on the ceramic dish from Seria turned out. Please excuse the slightly rough paint application. There’s no leakage or anything, and it seems to work just fine. It’s definitely looking promising.

Modern Kintsugi Test Case

Having Succeeded in the Test, It’s Time for the Real Deal

Here we go. It’s time for modern kintsugi, crack repair edition.

The method introduced by Defraglife is about gluing together completely broken pieces. However, in this case, since we’re dealing only with cracks, we’ll adopt some of the traditional kintsugi methods for repairing the crack and combine them with the modern kintsugi approach.

1. Identifying the Cracks with a Mechanical Pencil

When an object is completely broken, it’s pretty clear where to glue it. However, with cracked objects, it’s sometimes hard to see where the crack extends to, even if you look closely.

So, the first step is to trace the cracks with a mechanical pencil lead. The pencil dust will darken the cracks, making it easier to see them. It should look something like this ↓.

Made the Cracks More Visible with a Mechanical Pencil Lead

2. Carving out the Cracked Areas with a Scribing Needle

Scratching Away – It Sounds Like Fingernails on a Chalkboard

Next, you’ll need a scribing needle. A standard one with a 90-degree bent tip will do just fine. While I say a standard one will suffice, I realize most people don’t usually have one on hand, so please acquire one from a hardware store or home center. A cheap one will suffice. You can also find them on Amazon.

Next, use this scribing needle to trace over the cracked areas and carve out a shallow groove. This technique, also employed in traditional Kintsugi, widens the crack slightly, thus improving adhesion. It essentially creates a space for the glue to seep in. Since we’re going to fill it up with Titebond glue later anyway, don’t be afraid to carve with conviction.

Even if you don’t have a scribing needle, you might be able to use something like a design knife. However, for deep dishware like a mug, a scribing needle with a bent tip should be easier to work with.

※Remember, scribing needles and designing knives are incredibly sharp tools, so handle them with extreme caution. When I worked with them, I wore gloves, a mask, and safety glasses. The scribing needle is a concern, and the pottery dust can also be dangerous if it gets into your eyes. If you’re concerned about handling these tools, you may want to skip this step.

3. Applying Titebond Glue to the Carved Areas

Apply Titebond glue to the areas you’ve carved out. In traditional Kintsugi, this step would involve lacquer, but here we’re substituting it with Titebond. I recommend using the tip of a toothpick or something similar to dab the glue on, for a cleaner finish.

However, as pointed out on Defrag Life’s blog, this glue can be quite viscous, so it might not actually seep into the gaps. I decided that as long as I could seal the carved grooves, it should be okay.

Honestly, it’s hard to tell whether the glue has actually penetrated properly or not. Try pressing it in with your finger and convince yourself that it’s adhering correctly. Later, you can test it by filling it with water, and if it doesn’t seep, I think it should be okay.

4. Letting it Dry

Titebond has an “open time” where you’re supposed to let the adhesive surface dry for about 7-8 minutes, then adhere it and allow it to fully dry in the “closed time”. However, in the case of crack repair, this isn’t quite possible, so once you’ve applied the glue, you just let it dry.

After allowing it to dry for over 24 hours, fill it with water to check. If you leave it for a while and there’s no seeping or leakage, you can consider it okay.

Checking for Leaks After Drying – Seems to be No Issues.

5. Applying Gold Paint

Next, use Pebeo Porcelaine 150 Outliner Gold to add a golden color to the glued parts. It’s a simple task, but it can be surprisingly challenging. If you want to make it look neat, using a brush or the tip of a toothpick might result in a more precise finish.

6. Allowing the Paint to Dry

Allow the paint to dry thoroughly. According to the instructions of Pebeo Porcelaine 150, it should be 3 to 5 days, but according to Defrag Life, it should be fine if you let it dry for more than 24 hours with a drying agent, so I adopted that method. Just to be safe, I let it sit for about 2 days.

Now drying…

7. Baking the Paint to Set it

Following the instructions of Pebeo Porcelaine 150, bake it in the oven at 150 degrees for 35 minutes, then leave it in the oven until it cools down to room temperature. The guideline is to wait for more than 2 hours (as stated by Defrag Life).

Photos Like These are What iPhones Excel At
Who’d Have Thought We’d be Baking Pottery in the Oven. But the Door is Dirty.

Finished Product!

And it’s done!! I think it turned out quite well.

Testing it Out

I’ve been using it for about a week since it was completed. I heated soymilk in the microwave, poured hot coffee into it, just like I normally do. There were no leaks, and it returned to a state where it could be used as before. Thank you so much, Defrag Life.

Reflections on the Process → Fixing a Crack Can be Tricky, Sometimes it’s Easier to Just Break it All the Way

After actually doing the work, here’s my impression: if you strongly want to repair while keeping the crack, the above method will complete the repair without any problems.

But honestly, I thought it would be easier to break it down deliberately when the crack appears and repair it using the method described by Defrag Life. I kept thinking that way in the middle of the process, but I continued because it felt better to repair while the crack remained.

One more thing to add is that, perhaps, it might be possible to use it without any problem just by applying paint to the extent of a crack. However, I haven’t tried this, so I can’t say for sure.

In Conclusion

That concludes my experience with modern Kintsugi. If you want to sound cool, you could call it “Modern Kintsugi”. You could simply call it contemporary Kintsugi too.

It does take some time with gluing and baking, but it was incredibly simple compared to traditional Kintsugi with real lacquer. I plan to try various things in the future, such as changing the paint according to the color of the pottery.

The hardest part of the whole process was making cracks in the test pottery. I might not have needed to do that in the first place.

Thank you for reading this far.

(Update: March 2023) From “Buy a New One When it Breaks” to “Fix it When it Breaks”: A New Habit with Ceramics

It’s been over a year since I wrote this article, and thankfully, it has received a considerable amount of traffic. I truly appreciate those who are reading. It seems there are many people like me who feel sad when a beloved dish gets cracked or broken, and they search the internet hoping for a solution.

Since trying modern Kintsugi, I’ve always liked fixing broken items and continue to use them. Now, instead of buying new pottery, my new habit is to ‘fix it if it’s broken,’ and this has become a permanent fixture in our house.

For instance, the pottery in the next image, made in Hasami-yaki, was something we treasured greatly after receiving it through a hometown tax donation. One day, it got broken when it hit an IKEA double-wall glass while being cleaned. I remember being very sad about it.

However, having been trying this Kintsugi method, I thought this was a good opportunity, so I decided to try to fix it using the broken item restoration method. It was reborn as you see in the above image. This gives it the feel of having overcome adversity, adds more character, and I believe it increased my affection for it even more. It is still actively used in our house to this day.

Traditional Kintsugi as commonly understood is quite a challenge, but this modern Kintsugi is significantly more accessible and easy to try. So far, I have fixed about four pieces of pottery and they have all been successful, and I have not experienced any difficulties in their use.

And of course, unlike regular Kintsugi, this method is microwave safe. So, the use of the items remains the same, but the only thing that increases is the affection for the item. It’s an amazing technique. I can’t thank Defraglife enough.

To all of you who have read this, I encourage you to make ‘fix it if it’s broken’ a new habit for pottery. I hope you enjoy your days filled with small, loving moments.

See you somewhere else!