Inspired by the patience and dedication of a traditional Japanese apprenticeship, I embarked on a life-long journey to become a master furniture maker. Fifteen years ago I began my self-imposed apprenticeship with a minimal collection of Japanese hand tools to teach myself the fundamental skills of woodworking. I spent over a year on blade sharpening alone. Along the way I explored the woodworking traditions of Japan, China and Early America. I now integrate these influences with my own design aesthetic to create personal, one-of-a kind furniture pieces. My simple shop is a place of quiet solitude where I can be present with my work. Through the use of hand tools I create an intimate relationship with each piece of wood, combining my own spirit with that of the tree. I invest myself in the entire building process, from selecting wood from local sawmills to hand-forging my own hardware. It is this attention that gives a strong sense of presence to my work. Today, I combine the fundamental skills I have learned with the efficiency of modern power tools to create furniture of heirloom quality with the hope that one day it will inspire a new generation of craftsmen artists.
INTRODUCTION TO JAPANESE CARPENTRY
The Way of Japanese Carpentry embodies more than just the technical aspects of woodworking. It is a way of being led by presence of mind. It is finding elegance in both the simple and complex. If you look, beauty will be found in all things, from the uncomplicated toolbox to an exquisite temple. In class, we will work with this intention and focus, building with a clear heart and mind for the joy of making itself.
Professional furniture maker and instructor Andrew Hunter will introduce students to this broader perspective of Japanese hand tool woodworking. Starting with an introduction to the tools themselves- Japanese saws, planes and chisels will all be covered in detail, with demonstrations and exercises on setting up, sharpening, and tips for use.
The first project, a simple pair of low saw horses, will literally and figuratively set the foundation from which the other class projects will be built. The Japanese way of woodworking allows for great mobility and the use of heavy workbenches fitted with metal vises is not typical. Often just a pair of these low saw horses is all that is used. In class, we have access to both, but these little horses are a great addition to any shop, especially if your shop is not a permanent one.
The traditional Japanese toolbox, project number two, is also constructed with mobility in mind. We will build ours from softwood with simple nail construction. This quick project is meant to demonstrate the whole process of making, from choosing lumber to a completed piece.
For our final project, we jump all the way in with some Japanese joinery. Each student will create an intricate lapping scarf joint known as a Kanawa which is typically used in the building of houses and temples, and post repairs. In class, we will layout and cut a smaller version of this joint that could be used in the context of furniture.
But, before we’re able to do that, each student will have to make their own traditional Japanese layout tool. The sumitsubo or ink line is a very important tool in Japan. It is said that within the straight line this tool creates a whole temple can be found.
No experience with Japanese tools is needed for this class.
Students are encouraged to bring their own Japanese tools to class. Andrew will offer feedback and assistance on getting them tuned and set up to work more efficiently. Andrew will also have a selection of his own Japanese tools for students to try out. If you don’t have your own Japanese tools (yet), no worries, bring what you have. Please note that Andrew is offering a Japanese Hand Plane class the weekend before this one which includes a brand new, high quality 54mm plane.
These tools we will be using. If you can bring your own set, that is great. If not, the instructor and School can provide you with tools.
Japanese Hand Plane (comes with Japanese plane weekend class)
Saw for med-fine work with a fresh sharp blade. A replaceable blade Japanese Ryoba saw (rip and crosscut in one) in the 240mm size range is a good option. (School has 210mm Ryoba)
A set of chisels including at least a 1/2” and something around 1”.
Hammer or mallet for striking the chisel (school has both)
Sashigane (Japanese carpenter’s square). Any flat square will work
Combination square (school can provide)
A trusted straight edge ~12″(School can provide)
Your favourite layout pencil (mine is a .5mm mechanical), and be sure to bring your glasses if you need them!