By: Josh West
Japanese carpentry is distinguished by its advanced joinery and its finely planed wood surfaces by using several different methods. Among all of the different tools they have used, the Japanese saw, plane, chisel and gimlet were the most popular. Almost everywhere, you can see their impressive woodworking skills from chairs and tables to their largest buildings. All Japanese carpenters have shared the practice of this special talent from generation to generation. A carpenter will usually identify with one of the four distinct carpentry profession; Shrines and temples, residential, furniture and interior finishing carpentry. All of these professions show the elaborate wooden joints and how they relate to their wooden structure or building. As it is not uncommon, most of the Japanese carpenters will work with multiple professions.
The most important thing to a Japanese carpenter is his tools. They are found within a multitude of variations and specializations geared toward certain tasks. The Japanese saw, one of the most used tools, cuts on the pull stroke, unlike the usual European style push stroke. This gives the carpenter a more precise cut and allows the blades to be quite thin. The next tool is the Japanese plane; which is the most commonly a wooden block. This is similar in respect to the archaic type of European wooden plane, in which the blade is fixed in place by tapping down upon a wooden wedge. Next is the Japanese chisel. These come in a larger variety of types and gradations than a normal chisel. There are bench chisels, paring chisels, striking chisels, heavy timber chisels and slicks, and steel construction. Like the planes, the blades are of laminated hard steel/soft steel construction. Bevel angle varies from 20 to 35 degrees typically, with mortising and heavy chisels featuring steep angles. Lastly is the Japanese gimlet. The gimlet is used for boring circular holes in a timber, often as the first stage in the hollowing out of a mortise. Though it may seem easy to use, the gimlet is considered one of the most difficult tool to learn. Some other tools that are not used as much are the Japanese axe, hammer and a bamboo pen used for marking and measuring.