The fear of a sagging tabletop leads to a solution that incorporates Western joints and Japanese aesthetics.
By Toshio Odate
From the October 2010 issue # 185
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Many countries have their own woodworking traditions, which are often a combination of mythology and ideology. The Japanese are no exception, and those traditions are part of the foundation of my work.
There is a temple that ancient Japanese carpenters built. Its columns, hewn from trees, are positioned as when each was a standing tree. That is, the south side of the standing tree, when used as a column, also faces the south.
Though the tree’s south side has more knots, period Japanese carpenters believed that, if these trees had faced the sun for 1,000 years, as columns they would stand another 1,000 years if positioned the same.
Japanese woodworkers also try not to use wood upside down, even on small objects. And the heart side of the wood should always face the inside of a carcase or object. As a result, Japanese carpenters do not bookmatch material. Even for table legs, the core side should face the inside.
I follow these traditions as much as possible, especially the ideology used to indicate the two lives of a tree. Today, when making a sculpture or cabinet, I use materials that mostly come from my surroundings. There must be a strong reason to make an exception.
I don’t just hope – I carefully construct a table to exist at least 300 years.
Video: Learn to calculate the sizes of the drawer needed for your project.
Article: Discover how to sharpen your chisels properly from long-time sharpener and author Ron Hock.
Web site: Study the Tansu style and read about the history of the Japanese chest.
To buy: Purchase a set of Japanese chisels and other woodworking tools.
In the store: Pick up “The Drawer Book” for information about drawer construction.