Japanese Carpentry

Japanese Carpentry

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 basic classes regardless of the location.

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 small 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 covering curved beam and multi-story 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 frame.

There will be a wealth of information presented that has until now been only sparsely available here in the United States. Please bring your tools sharpened and be ready to 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 (sumi-tsubo). Note: if you are purchasing a new sumi-tsubo, be sure to get silk and string. Raw silk purchased from a yarn shop rather than a tool store will be much higher quality. 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 runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
This class takes place in Building #315 at Fort Worden. Map

If you cancel your registration for a course less than or equal to 10 days prior to the beginning of class, we will keep 50% of the course fee.
If you cancel on or after the first day of class, you forfeit 100% of the course fee.

Port Townsend School of Woodworking

Our mission is to inspire a lifelong passion for craftsmanship through education in woodworking and traditional building trades. We range in age from 10 to 85. At first glance you might wonder what brings us together. The answer: a shared love for woodworking. We’re serious about technique, we maintain a tireless work ethic, we thrive on helping each other problem solve, and we believe the only failure isn’t trying.

Our passions include: hand tools, joinery, fine furniture, Northwest Coast Arts, woodturning, tiny homes, Vardo Wagons and creating an inclusive, supportive community.

More classes from Port Townsend School of Woodworking

  • Class schedule to be determined soon - please enter your email if you wish to be contacted when the schedule is released.