18 Intricate Examples of Traditional Japanese Wood Joinery

His experience as a woodworker brings an expert touch to the animations.

Pat Finn Pat Finn

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We tend to think of knowledge in terms of progressive accumulation, with each succeeding generation having more information at its disposal than the one that came before it. What is less recognized, however, is the knowledge that gets lost in the course of progress. In architecture, particularly, little attention is paid to the way in which the standardization of building practices led to craftsman techniques falling by the wayside.

japanese wood joinery

車知栓継ぎ仕口の四方差し Shachisen-tsugi-shikuchi-no-shihousashi. GIF via The Joinery (@TheJoinery_jp)

Nowhere is this more apparent than Japan, a nation with an architectural tradition like no other. Long before screws and metal fastenings became de rigueur, Japanese builders had mastered the art of wood joinery. Using techniques handed down in guilds and families for centuries, Japanese builders would fit wooden beams together without any external fasteners. Buildings would stand for generations, held together with nothing more than tension and friction.

Over time, these traditional building practices mostly fell out of ordinary use, although they continued to serve as a source of inspiration for architects like the Japanese master Shigeru Ban. While traditional joinery techniques were documented in books and archives, their two-dimensional representations were hard for non-experts to visualize; that is, until recently, when one woodworker decided to bring these techniques back from the dead in GIF form.

japanese wood joinery

河合継手 Kawai-tsugite. Via The Joinery (@TheJoinery_jp)

@TheJoinery__jp is the Twitter account of this artist, a young Japanese man who works by day in automobile marketing. At the time of writing, he has created GIF illustrations of 81 traditional wood joints. The project is ongoing, as the creator continues to seek new information about this fascinating tradition from books, magazines and other archival sources.

To create his GIFs, The Joinery uses the mechanical design software Fusion 360. His own experience as a woodworker brings an expert touch to the animation, which deftly captures the satisfaction that comes when parts fit together perfectly. Overall, the project is a great example of how modern technology can facilitate novel, dynamic engagement with old secrets buried within the archive. In fact, as ArchDaily’s Patrick Lynch points out, these joinery techniques may be relevant yet, as CNS milling and 3D fabrication continue to transform the way we build.

japanese wood joinery

Via The Joinery (@TheJoinery_jp)

Check out more of these mesmerizing animations via the medium of Twitter:

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Pat Finn Author: Pat Finn
Pat Finn is a high school English teacher and a freelance writer on art, architecture, and film. He believes, with Orwell, that "good prose is like a windowpane," but his study of architecture has shown him that a window is only as good as the landscape it looks out on. Pat is based in the New York metro area.
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