Japanese Carpentry

Dale Brotherton



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!

In this class you'll make a couple of traditional Japanese Sawhorses.

New in 2014:

  • We've expanded this class to six days. Student feedback was clear that an extra day would ensure completion of the sawhorses.
  • If we can find a sponsor for a small traditional Japanese timberframe structure we will switch the class to focus on that. Please email us if you're interested in the class building a small structure (we do mean small). Realistically you'd need to live within 10 miles of Port Townsend.

Class Description

This six day class, taught by Dale Brotherton will be a hands-on workshop.

The first day or so will concentrate on sharpening and setting up chisels and hand planes. We'll start by learning basic setup and sharpening technique on your own chisel. We cover removing and 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 in the traditional manner with no guides.

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 and then final sharpening. Next the chip breaker is carefully shaped and fit to the main blade, then a scraper plane set up and used to shape the plane base. Finally learn how to micro- adjust the blade settings and make shavings!

With tools ready to go, we will move on to layout methods. (Milling and layout will mostly be prepared ahead of time, but all will get instruction on how it’s done.) Discussions will include wood grain types and proper orientation. Then step by step layout of the joinery. We'll be using wedged Mortise and Tenons, offset square-pinned Mortise and Tenon and housed Dovetails. 

Next making sawdust! Joinery cutout will use chisels and hand saws. We’ll cover various hand mortising techniques with and without power tools. Saw sharpening will be demonstrated along with hand cutting of tenons. With cutout complete all surfaces will be shaved smooth with hand planes.


You will need to bring your own tools to this class:

  • Chisels
    24 mm (1") and 12mm (1/2") are required but bring other various sizes if you have them; 48 mm (2”) and  3~6mm (1/8") will be very helpful. Any style of chisel will work; of course Japanese would be best. Bring at least 1 new Japanese chisel.
  • Hand planes
    Students will get the most from the class if they bring 1 new Japanese smoothing plane at least 50 mm wide (with laminated steel chip breaker). To tune up the smoothing plane you also need 1 Japanese scraper plane (tachiganna) any size, but wide is recommended. Western planes can be substituted, but less will be learned.
  • Saws
    1 medium 270mm  Ryoba (double-edged) saw: Also a small saw 210mm~240mm crosscut or ryoba for tenon shoulders. A crosscut Dozuki (Japanese Backsaw) will also work.
  • Sharpening Stones
    Japanese water stones required: 1 medium (1000~1200 grit) and 1 finish stone (minimum 4000 grit). Optional: 1 course stone (800 grit).
  • Kanaban
    Steel plate for lapping. Min. size approx. 3" X 10" X ¼"thick. Must be flat and smooth on 1 face. If possible get cold rolled steel (not hardened). Can usually be gotten cheap at a scrap steelyard. Important: Take a straight edge along and get a flat one.
  • Anvil
    Any chunk of metal that is soft (not hardened) big enough to be stable with a rounded corner at least 1 ~2" wide.
  • 220 grit wet dry sandpaper- 2 or 3 sheets.
  • Small water bucket
  • Hammers
    1 medium size 375~550g & 1 small size 100~250g.
  • Miscellanous
    Pencil, square, straight edge (beveled is preferred) & a small round or ½ round metal file, rags.

We recommend that you buy your tools from one of these sources: 

If you have any questions about the tools please feel free to contact Dale by email.


This is not a course for a novice or beginning woodworker. You should have hand tool skills equivalent to taking Jim Tolpin's Hand Tool Heaven, or have completed the projects in Jim's book, The New traditional Woodworker. Prior experience with Japanese hand tools is useful, but not required. 

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: $ 850
Materials Charge: $ 100

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. 


 LEVEL 2, 3