Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Japanese Tools


Japanese Tools - Basic Techniques


This class will be a hands-on workshop beginning with sharpening and setting up chisels and hand planes. Then moving into layout and cutting of basic jointery. 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! 

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 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!

With our tools in shape, we begin discussing wood grain types and proper orientation. Then layout of simple jointery, including wedged Mortise and Tenons, offset square-pinned Mortise and Tenon, Housed Dovetails and, if time allows various scarf and splice joints. These are typical Post and Beam construction joints that also carry over into furniture and cabinet work. We'll cover basic chisel techniques while cutting out the joint mortises by hand. After that, we'll study Japanese saws with a demonstration of adjusting the teeth for a straight cut. Then use of the saw while hand cutting our tenons. Next final trimming and tenon shoulder adjustments. On to hand planing to finish the surfaces. Assembly of parts; drive in wedges and pins; and final trimming. Don't bring glue, you won't need it! This is a group project; making a pair of trestle-style sawhorses. 

In summary this class will give you the fundamentals for setting up and using Japanese hand tools to cutout traditional joints. This class is a prerequisite to the"Japanese Carpentry Framing" class. 

Japanese Joinery Class Tool List

  • Chisels
    18 to 24 mm (3/4~1") 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 50mm wide (with laminated steel chip breaker). 70mm is standard, but a high quality narrower plane can often be gotten for less money. Western planes can be substituted, but less will be learned. To tune up the smoothing plane you also need 1 Japanese scraper plane (tachiganna) any size, but if you have a choice, wide is recommended.
  •  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). 
     Optional: 1 course stone (220~600 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. (There will be some available for use and/or purchase at the class.) 
  • 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- at least 2 or 3 sheets. 
  • Small water bucket
  • Hammers
    1 medium size 375~550g & 1 small size 100~250g. These can be any style, but an octagonal head is useful for the small one. Claw hammers are difficult to use. 
  • Miscellaneous
    Pencil, square, 1 straight edge minimum 12” long (beveled is preferred) , a small round or ½ round metal file and rags. If you are driving and have room, please bring any other tools that you would normally use. 
  • Here is a link to the Japanese Joinery Class Tool List that you can print out. 


In summary this class will give you the fundamentals for setting up and using Japanese hand tools to cutout traditional joints. This class is a prerequisite to the"Japanese Carpentry Framing" class.

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.