Japanese Woodworking



In this 6 day hands-on workshop with Dale Brotherton, you’ll be building a post and beam gate utilizing traditional wedged and pinned joints all cutout with hand tools. The first two days will focus on sharpening and setting up chisels and hand planes. Then moving into layout and cutting of joints. The tools and methods taught will all be traditional. The course will be packed with details that usually require a lengthy apprenticeship to learn. There's a lot to cover, so bring tools, hands and be ready to work.

Note: We have changed the project in this class from an azumaya to a gate. Feedback from previous classes has been that the azumaya project was just too much for a six day course. The gate covers a lot of the same skills in a smaller project that is easier to complete. This way you will get to spend more time going in depth into specific skills and techniques. We will focus on sharpening and tool set up, learning to mark lay out, cutting the pieces, and actually assembling the gate. The pace will still be brisk; there is a lot to learn!


Class Description

We'll start by tuning up your water stones. Then learn basic setup and sharpening technique on your own chisel. We cover removing and resetting the handle, fitting the handle ring, preparing the back, dealing with the hollow ground, blade angles and subtleties of honing with Japanese water stones. Sharpening is done by hand with no guides in the traditional manner. Next we move into the hand plane, first learning to flatten the back using the "Uradashi" technique of forming the blade with a hammer and anvil. Then honing on a steel plate for perfect accuracy. Finish sharpening and trimming the blade as necessary. Next the chip breaker is carefully shaped, honed and fit to the main blade. With the blades ready, the block is trimmed as needed and fit with the blades. A scraper plane can then be set up and used to shape the plane base to the proper contours. Finally learn how to micro- adjust the blade settings and make shavings! 

On to the project, we begin by discussing wood grain types and proper orientation. Study an example of full house construction and examine how Japanese furniture is derived from carpentry systems. Then cover layout of the gate components and joints. Basic chisel mortising techniques will be shown as students begin cutting holes. Japanese saw use and maintenance will be covered while hand cutting our tenons. Next final trimming and tenon shoulder adjustments. Finally we’ll be hand planing to finish all of the surfaces, assemble the parts, dive in the wedges and pins; and final trimming. Don't bring glue or sanders, you won't need them!


Students are required to bring some tools for this class. Dale has put together this list of essential Japanese hand tools and recommendations for what to look for and where to buy them. 


No experience is necessary for this course. Just be ready to learn and ready to work!

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $ 900
Materials Charge: $30

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.