Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition


Working with Japanese Handtools - Dale Brotherton

We were honored to have Dale Brotherton teaching at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking last week. As one of the students said "Dale embodied the spirit of working with wood". For the first two, two and half days of the course, the students sharpened the blades of their planes and chisels. I was impressed by the elegance of the blades and the persistence needed to get the perfect edge - tapping on the softer steel on the back of the blade to flatten the hard steel laminated on the front.

They then plunged into working with the tools. In the true Japanese style Dale does not advocate using vises or clamps. You use your body or a simple stop to hold the wood in place. This allows you to sense immediately how the wood is reacting to the tool and then adjust how you are cutting.

It was Dale's style of using a Japanese handsaw that set me thinking - he uses it vertically - pulling downwards or  upwards (look through the slideshow to see some examples). Also when making the long cuts for the tenon cheeks he flips the wood over every 10 strokes or so - made much simpler by not using a vise or clamp. The other technique that he really impressed on me is how lightly he holds the saw - there's just enough pressure to stop it slipping out of his hand. (Reminded me of being coached on holding a squash racquet).

We look forward to having Dale back at the school next year.

(Click through on the link in the slideshow to download the images)

Here are a couple of very short videos showing Dale planing a beam:
Movie 1:

Movie 2:

For the students on the class here's a scan of the sketch of the saw horse