Articles

The Fresh Side of Old

The long road that is traditional Japanese joinery, construction, and tool making received renewed interest in the 1960’s when a few intrepid American individuals journeyed to Japan to work and study. Those few returned home after many years of toil and achievement, bringing with them the tools of the trade and the trade itself (this is not your father’s woodworking). A few traditionally trained Japanese Daiku also started to join us here with their specialized training and insights and camaraderie. After many years those of us who benefitted from what washed ashore with these craftsmen have stepped up to carry on the work of passing it on. It is this desire to continue the person-to-person transmission of work that led to the birth of Kezurou-kai USA. Read More …

Mini-Kez Is Back !

Soon after a nationwide lock-down was announced in March 2020, our non-profit organization began to mobilize a campaign to teach on-line classes. Our organization has continued to teach more on-line classes throughout the three years since Covid-19 disrupted our public gatherings. Now as our focus turns to the next big National event at the end of September 2023, we also want to report on an international kez movement which has grown and spread. “Mini-kez” is a term to describe the informal gatherings which have taken on momentum and help foster the Kezurou-kai spirit of sharing. Read More …

Returning to Japan for a traditional plaster apprenticeship

In 2003, I learned something that changed my life. The walls of all the castles and temples I had visited as a child in Japan, the land of my birth, were made of mud. I was stunned. These quiet walls, surrounded by phenomenal joinery and sliding doors and displaying every shadow true to its origin, are made of mud? But they look conventional (like plaster). A man in his 50s, who came from generations of plasterers in Toyama where I taught English at the time, explained a few things about the nature of earthen plasters – a matter of course to him – that made my jaw drop. Read More …

Beginnings of Japanese influence on American design—The International Expo of 1876

Japanese elements in present day American architecture are so omni-present and so natural that many people would assume that such features and treatments have always been around. Large overhangs, irimoya style roofs, the careful use of exposed timber, open floor plans, natural finishes and materials throughout, reduced barriers between nature outside and the man-made interior, astute selection and expert handling of natural materials, etc. Read More …

Head, Hands, and Heart

My first construction job was with a contractor in the Central Valley. He took me on as an apprentice and I learned how to dig trenches, carry lumber and clean up the jobsite. It was hard work but I enjoyed the physical labor after years of school, where only mental activity was exercised. At one point, my boss, Alan, let me in on the “secret” of carpentry. He said, “Head, hands and heart. That’s what it’s all about.” I didn’t really know what he meant by that, but it sounded good at the time. Read More …

My First Kanna

I wanted to write to the newcomer to Japanese woodworking, the folks who attended the Kezurou-kai event last fall and saw for the first time Japanese woodworking tools in the hands of masters. It doesn’t feel that long ago I was standing in those same shoes. Attending my first Kezurou-kai, 15 years ago, was a pivotal point in my learn- ing process. Since then, each Kezurou-kai I have participated in has left me with the same feeling of connection and inspiration as the first. Read More …

Mini Kez

This past November’s in-person Kez event in Santa Cruz reminded me how important connecting with my community is. The pandemic was hard. One of the biggest challenges with it was the isolation. This year I’ve made a resolution to connect with more people in the Kezurou-kai community. For a guy who spends most of his time alone in his shop, even the occasional meet up with other woodworkers has a significant positive effect on my mental health. Being together in Santa Cruz refilled my tanks. I left with even more enthusiasm for what I’m doing than I did going in. Read More …

UCSC Hay Barn Event November 20, 2022

As I unfold and refold the washi-paper coverings of my own precious tools I think back on the experiences of this most recent event. The polished steel glimmering in the bright Autumn sunlight seems a fitting way to remember the Hay Barn Event. Over and over again that day I was struck by the connections we share. With one another as a team, with those who came from far and wide, and with humanity itself – stretching back in time and forward in hope. Yes it was all there on Sunday. Read More …

Why Kezurou-kai?

Our organization is a place where seasoned professionals, tool makers, and hand-tool enthusiasts can gather and share their love for hand-tools. It all started in the year 2000, with carpenters in Japan, looking for ways to interact with a dwindling population of tool-smiths. The first gatherings started when tool merchants invited carpenters to try out their best quality hand tools before buying them. Usually in Japan the finished tool is not yet honed to razor sharp, that’s done by the individual craftsman using water stones of differing coarseness’s. Read More …

Hakone Gardens Redwood Arbor Project – Mortise and Tenon

As you may recall from the Kezurou-kai last October, there was work taking place throughout the day on a redwood arbor that was to be installed at Hakone Gardens at a later date. Well that later date was February 18 – a rare day with no rain and no mudslides. Read More …
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