Just getting started and want to do it Japanese style and by hand; need your advice.

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Forum topic by Jeremy posted 08-04-2010 03:12 PM 4009 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 2848 days

08-04-2010 03:12 PM

I’m just getting started in woodworking, just joined the site yesterday, and have developed a love of all things Japanese. I recently moved to Berlin after spending the last 4 years living and working in Tokyo and would like to learn some of the Japanese techniques and the tools they use to implement them. I have no workshop to speak of, just a spare bedroom in my house, and no power tools whatsoever. I’m hoping to learn the traditional styles of working with hand tools.

My plan is to start with some small things like boxes, picture frames, etc and with time move on to some larger furniture projects. I figure this way I’ll have a chance to learn some of the basic joinery techniques on the small scale and then maybe try something bigger.

Anyway, I’d love some advice on what types of tools and books I should get started with. I don’t want to break the bank up front, but at the same time, I’m already tired of having to buy the same thing multiple times because the first two times I bought it, it was junk. What should I look for to get started?

I know I’m diving into the deep end with this, but I figure I might as well learn what I’m interested in up frontl.

Thanks in advance for your help,

6 replies so far

View lew's profile


12055 posts in 3750 days

#1 posted 08-05-2010 03:39 AM

Send a PM to LJ Junji

He can give you all the guidance you need.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Jeremy's profile


6 posts in 2848 days

#2 posted 08-05-2010 04:21 PM

I’ll drop Junji a line right now; thanks for the heads up.

To get me started I have ordered the following books from Amazon:

Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit, and Use

The Complete Japanese Joinery

The Art of Japanese Joinery

Japan – Culture of Wood: Buildings, Objects, Techniques

Hopefully that fill give me some decent foundation material to pour over, now its just a matter of selecting some decent tools to get started.

View spclPatrolGroup's profile


233 posts in 2889 days

#3 posted 08-05-2010 04:43 PM

Not that I have a problem with japanese woodworking, the end results are the same. I dont think I would ever do anything without a bench.

View Timberwerks's profile


360 posts in 3156 days

#4 posted 08-05-2010 04:45 PM

Here is a link I forgot to give you: Also in books check out

Making Shoji by Toshio Odate & Shoji by Jay van Arsdale

This video may also interest you:


View Timberwerks's profile


360 posts in 3156 days

#5 posted 08-05-2010 05:56 PM

I thought of a few more things. A great investment would be the Kanna video by Harrelson:


Also another great supplier for tools is:

When you buy your first kanna stay away from the ones you can find elsewhere in the $50 -$100 range, they will only cause frustration, have stamped steel sub blades and poor quality da’s. A good entry level kanna will be in the $150.00 range and above.


View Junji's profile


698 posts in 3376 days

#6 posted 09-18-2010 02:07 AM


I am really sorry I couldn’t write you sooner…
I am Japanese, and I do use some of traditional Japanese tools, so anything I can help, I would like to do so.

About Japanese tool books in English… I don’t read them.

To make something small and easy, you should start with a hand plane, a saw, and maybe chisels. As you may already know, Japanese traditional woodworking don’t use workbench, but I do believe it’s much easier to use one only if you have enough space for that.

Anyway, good luck, and welcome to LJ.


-- Junji Sugita from Japan,

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