On Saturday, I had my last session of Introduction to Japanese Woodworking at Laney College in Oakland, CA. It’s taught by Jay Van Arsdale, an active woodworker working professionally in the Japanese style in the bay area since the 1970’s and the author of a well known book on Shoji.
His class is hands down the best woodworking instruction I’ve ever had. If you’re at all interested in hand tool woodworking and are curious about Japanese tools and live somewhere in the bay area, I urge you to look into Jay’s courses. Jay’s one of the few english speaking masters of Japanese woodworking active in teaching the art in the US. He’s also unique in that he’s developed a more pragmatic rather than purely traditional Japanese style, that’s sometimes referred to as California Daiku. He used to offer more advanced courses at Laney, but the school due to budgetary cuts scaled back, but he’s now in the process of petitioning to get them back. There’s certainly demand for them given his class enrollments in the last decade. He also offers shorter term classes in his shop on occasion. You can learn more at the group’s sites below:
One of the great things about Jay’s instruction is that he’s all about the fundamentals. He emphasizes that once you learn the basics, any complex joinery is simply built up from some fundamental techniques. He calls these the five reductive processes: chopping, paring, splitting, rip cut, and cross cut. He also spends considerable time on sharpening and layout (with a focus on center lines). Sure enough by the end of the course, and all the joinery exercises, we grew to appreciate the power of thinking along these lines.
Some of the joints we worked on through the course:
I’m hoping to be able to sign up for his independent project course in the fall, but I know I’ll be practicing and thinking about the lessons I learned from Jay for a long time to come.
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