Monday, January 16, 2012

Carpentry Study Group Update

The Online Carpentry Study Group has been running now for about 6 months and we are about to start our next project, which will be a roof model. A few readers have expressed to me that they would be interested in podcasts showing Japanese woodworking techniques, and I've also heard from a few people who have indicated an interest in carpentry study outside the realm of descriptive geometry and mathematics.That makes good sense, and I have noticed that the more complex drawing work is really of appeal to a fairly small group of fanatics.

So, in effort to bring Japanese traditional carpentry and joinery work to a wider audience, I have decided to expand the scope of the online study group. Starting February 1st, there will be a new section of the Carpentry study group created, a section devoted to those looking to learn more about the fundamentals of Japanese joinery and woodworking.

The first project will be a toolbox, or dōgu-bako (道具箱). This box will be made in a slightly higher class manner than usual, as we will make most of the box using joinery. Both hand tool cutting and machine techniques will be shown. Participants can tailor the tool box to their personal needs, and after all, as one gets more into Japanese woodworking, a place to store and protect tools is worth having.

Besides the podcasts, study group members will receive mailings with project drawings, cut lists, and tech tips. I haven't done a podcast before, so it should be fun! We'll be tackling projects you won't find anywhere else online, and exploring complex joinery, both Japanese and Chinese, as we work through project after project. I'll also be covering topics such as jig making, tool sharpening, and Japanese plane set up and tuning.

The memberships are priced quite reasonably, and the more months for which you are prepared to commit, the better the price gets. Here's the breakdown for new members:

3 months: $100
6 months: $150
12 months: $200

There is a 30-day, 100% money back guarantee for new members. Members who renew will have 6- and 12-month options, and receive a further price break on their memberships.

In addition to the mailings and podcasts, there will be an online forum available, where members can discuss their projects with one another, post up any questions, and post up pictures of their work - and you'll be able to get some idea of what the carpentry drawing group members are working on.

If this is something which might be of interest, please drop me a line. My contact info is found on the right side of the page. We're starting in two weeks and its going to be a lot of fun. Hope to see you there!


  1. I would certainly consider joining for this introductory material. I've gained a great deal of knowledge reading through your archives. Given the broadened content you may able to draw in woodworkers from other forums who may have only dabbled in Japanese woodworking. In my case I'd be signing up in March after I return from a trip.
    Mike S.

  2. Mike,

    good to hear from you and your interest in the study group is most appreciated. So far there are more than 20 members, and i hope to see you jump in sometime in March.

    Have a safe trip.


  3. Hi,

    I live in England & want to make guitars (electric predominately). I am in week 7 of a one year, one day a week carpentry course at Brighton City College (9am-5pm practical & 5.30 - 8.00 pm Wood Technology). It results in what is known here as an NVQ (that's National Vocational Qualification) Level 1 award. Places will also then become automatically available for me to go one to the next NVQ Level 2 next year.

    Also, along with all that, I have just moved into a new flat, a blank canvas (or un-carved block) if I've ever seen one, but it is small, prompting me to make a pre New Year's resolution to de-clutter or as I have preferred to call it, Zen-ify ;)

    I am however a complete beginner in carpentry, I have only had a chisel in my hands a handful of times now, my tutor however has expressed how impressed he was with my first assignment. Bearing that in mind, I'm starting out making Cigar Box Guitars or CBGs (Google them) and at 57 yrs think I'm being realistic... Master Craftsmanship takes a large range of accumulated tools, accumulated proficiency in joints and cuts & a good head with problem solving & maths. All this can be taught over the length of my course. But Mastery includes an intrinsic item which, by it's very nature can't be taught.

    Experience !

    Experience is something that cannot be taught, it is taught probably more by mistakes than successes, yet becomes the most valuable tool of them all. It is also of course, the tool that can never be taken away from you.

    So, I will not even consider the idea of become a Luthier (I wouldn't want to be one anyway) I am pleased to say I know my limits ;) Generally, I find hand made guitars all too often gaudy & pretentious & so I have to say, I have been scratching my head for inspiration.

    Making electrics though (essentially planks with wire & electrics added) would be a whole different cup of meat! Apart from the brilliantly designed & executed Fender Tele & Stratocasters, each of which has become templates for seemingly endless clones & mutations.
    I apologise, this is rambling, I guess I just love guitar stories ;)

    Japanese Carpentry though ... I'm inspired already !!! & I hardly even know what it is ;) !!! ... errr ... what is it? And when? And more importantly, would I be capable of keeping up, given my rooky status???

    Still y'know what they say ..... Zen Mind Beginner's Mind !

    Just a few more questions;

    When does the next course start? What tools do I need to accumulate, both to start the course as well as on an ongoing as we work through it? What are the skill-sets/experience level or any other terms for acceptance? And if possible, please tell me are there any concessionary rates or payment strategies for those currently on benefits? I was involved in a nasty accident some months back and getting back up & running (yes running !!!) has been a formidable challenge.

    I'd also be interested in any further liks, ie for information, designs, tools. I'm very interested.

  4. R. Knockside,

    thanks for your detailed message. CSG activities are on-going, and new members can join anytime. There are two groups, one called 'fundamentals', and one called 'Carpentry Drawing'.

    Carpentry Fundamentals: despite the name, not really for beginners, however there is no compound joinery work, descriptive geometry or difficult mathematics involved. The focus is on Japanese joinery. Members can choose to engage in a project or not, and the projects do not come in an set order, or build one-upon-the-next. Projects are detailed on a dedicated forum, in a step-by-step photo-journal. Members are free to post their work and/or their questions on the forum.

    Carpentry Drawing: to join this group you must complete prerequisites, and it is expected you have at least intermediate joiners skills. Prerequisites include the material in the TAJCD essays, Volumes I and II, completion of a table of values, and construction of a nailed-together, butt-joined hopper. Then there is an exam. After all that, you can join the group and the projects must be tackled in order, and are sent to members on a mailing-by-mailing basis. You must complete the assignment(s) from a given mailing before receiving the next. Drawing group members may also participate in Fundamentals group projects if they wish, however the reverse is not true.

    Member rates are the same for either group. If you are financially challenged to meet the costs, then we could look at modifying the member pricing. I'm far more interested in seeing someone who is truly motivated get into the projects and complete them, than I am in making money from this, so there is room for everyone. That said, even if I make the course costs lower, there are still expenses you will face in terms of tools and materials, so you need to be realistic about that. You will need a place to do the project work.

    Please email me for further information, and thanks for your interest.


  5. Any projects going on currently? I'm somehow just stumbling across this blog for the first time today.

    1. Yes, still going. Please email me directly for more info.



  6. Hey Chris Hall.

    I got very inspired buy your blog, and its a big help for people like me, that you can lean the techniques and mathmatics in the craftmanship of japenese carpentry. My thing is that i wanna to buy your books, and how is this posible?

    yours truely Frederik Hagerup, Denmark, Carpenter & carbinet maker.

    1. Frederick,

      thanks for the message and the questions. If you look immediately below the TAJCD Volume IV essay link on the right sidebar, you will see the following:

      "To purchase the 670+ pages of the first four volumes....please send mail to: kurisuhoru[at]gmail[dot]com"

      Please send me a mail and I'll let you know how to obtain the essays.



  7. Thank you Chris, this is a brilliant move and to build up the culture at its root, and I for one am honored that you'd extend this opportunity - beyond what you're already doing for the way. If only I could go all out and study day and night; this work is well worth it... and getting to that point is my plan, however, at this point it could be a while with a little thing called life in the way. Who knows, but it seems like this fundamentals project is a perfect link to give more momentum to the sooner realization of this dream. I will certainly be starting in here asap.

    Sitting in the dark, all the world waits patiently. Come let's build a fire.

    All the best - from the Berkshires - Travis

    p.s. love the post from NA train station too, I've often admired and photographed these works for the same reason. thanks for sharing.

    1. Travis,

      thanks for the comment. The online CW forum is there for you to join anytime if you are interested.



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