Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Japanese Carpentry


Japanese Carpentry- Basic Framing Techniques


This is a new course that offers details of the Japanese traditional framing system and how to create it. It will not be an in-depth intellectual analysis, but rather a hands-on, step by step instruction of how it is done in real life by carpenters in Japan. 

Prerequisite: Completion of the basic tool class immediately preceding this or one of Dale's previous classes.

Please read Student Greeting from Dale Brotherton. It has important information about purchasing tools and making good decisions as well as specifics about chisels, planes, saw blades, etc.  You'll find links to recommended tool dealers on the 2nd page. Dale advises you purchase and/or acquire tools early.

Class Description

We'll start with an overview of building and framing design. Then cover selection and application of appropriate joints. Next we will move into layout using a light scale model frame to practice on. In addition to standard Mortise and Tenons, Beam Dovetails and simple scarf splices, we will cover variations and alternative styles of scarf joints. Finally we will move to the roof and learn the Japanese Hip corner ("Sumi") beam layout. Japanese carpenters squares with a special square root layout scale will be used.

With layout complete, we will cut out the joints covering classic techniques for efficient and accurate execution. Finally, we can hand plane all of the surfaces and then assemble the simple frame model as a group.

There will be a wealth of information presented that has until now been only sparsely available here in the States. Please bring your tools sharpened and ready work. If time allows we will discuss application of these techniques to your own pet project. Hope to see you there!

Japanese Carpentry Class Tool List

  • Chisels
    18 to 24 mm (3/4~1") and 12mm (1/2") are required, but bring other various sizes including slick chisels, if you have them, 48 mm (2”) will be very helpful. Any style of chisel will work; of course Japanese would be best.

  • Hand planes
    At least 1 Japanese smoothing plane and 1 Japanese scraper plane (tachiganna). Also associated tools for conditioning the block such as a beveled straight edge.

  • Saws
    1 medium 270mm Ryoba (double-edged) saw: Also a small saw 210mm~240mm crosscut or ryoba for tenon shoulders or a crosscut Dozuki (Japanese Backsaw) will be useful.

  • Sharpening Stones
    Japanese water stones required: 1 medium (1000~1200 grit) and 1 finish stone (minimum 4000 grit). Bring other stones that you commonly use such as a course stone (220~600 grit) and any intermediate stones. Stone flattening tools such as a kanaban and sandpaper, bucket for water, etc.

  • Hammers
    1 medium size 375~550g for mortising work. Other size hammers can be useful too.

  • Layout tools
    1 flexible full size Japanese carpenter's square. It can have inch or shyaku measurements and must have a square-root roof framing scale on the back side. Please do not bring a metric square. A machinist's square or a try-square could also be useful. For marking, bring good quality pencils or a Japanese bamboo brush (sumi-sashi) with ink pot (sumitsubo). Note: if you are purchasing a new sumitsubo, be sure to get silk and string. A marking gauge might also be useful.

  • If you are driving and have room, please bring any other tools that you would normally use.

Here is a link to the Japanese Carpentry Class Tool List that you can print out. 


Completion of the basic Japanese Tools class immediately preceding this class or one of Dale's previous classes.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.
This class takes place in Building 315 at Fort Worden. Map
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $750
Materials Charge: $50

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.