Japanese Timberframing
with Dale Brotherton

Traditional Woodcrafts Series Level: Intermediate


Timberframing is all about building structure and so is Japanese carpentry.

The goal of this class is to build a small structure like the Azumaya (a small garden viewing pavilion) - you can see the Azumaya that was built in the 2011 class  in the slideshow above.

The tools and methods taught will all be traditional. The course will be packed with details that usually require a lengthy apprenticeship to learn. There's a lot to cover, so bring tools, hands and be ready to work!

Like to own an Azumaya?

The wood and the cost of Dale's time to prepare package (milled wood) for the Azumaya is around $4,000. If at the end of the course you would like to own the Azumaya, you may negotiate dimensions and design with Dale, please let us know.

The Azumaya will be delivered within 10 miles of Port Townsend as an assembled structure. You will need to organize a foundation, install a floor and have the Azumaya roofed.

Please contact us if you are interested in purchasing the Azumaya.

Class Description

This six day class will be a hands-on workshop. The first day or so will concentrate on sharpening and setting up chisels and hand planes. We'll start by learning basic setup and sharpening technique on your own chisel. We cover removing and fitting the handle ring, preparing the back, dealing with the hollow ground, blade angles and subtleties of honing with Japanese water stones. Sharpening is done by hand in the traditional manner with no guides. Next we move into the hand plane, first learning to flatten the back using the "Uradashi" technique of forming the blade with a hammer and anvil. Then honing on a steel plate for perfect accuracy and then final sharpening. Next the chip breaker is carefully shaped and fit to the main blade, then a scraper plane set up and used to shape the plane base. Finally learn how to micro- adjust the blade settings and make shavings!
With tools ready to go, we will move on to layout methods. (Milling and layout will mostly be prepared ahead of time, but all will get instruction on how it’s done.) Discussions will include wood grain types and proper orientation. Then step by step layout of the jointery. We'll be using wedged Mortise and Tenons, offset square-pinned Mortise and Tenon and housed Dovetails. These are typical Post and Beam construction joints.
Next making sawdust! Joinery cutout will use chisels and hand saws. We’ll cover various hand mortising techniques with and without power tools. Saw sharpening will be demonstrated along with hand cutting of tenons. With cutout complete all surfaces will be shaved smooth with hand planes.
Then assemble the frame. Imagine a large Chinese puzzle as big as a house. This is great fun! Bring a wooden mallet if you have one. With the frame standing, wedges and pins driven in, we move onto roof buildup and planking, some flashing and final roofing material.


You will need to bring your own tools to this class:
  • Chisels- 24 mm (1"), 12mm (1/2") & 3~6mm (1/8") required but bring other various sizes if you have them; 48 mm (2”) will be very helpful. Any style of chisel will work; of course Japanese would be best. Bring at least 1 new Japanese chisel.
  • Hand planes- Students will get the most from the class if they bring 1 new Japanese smoothing plane at least 50 mm wide (with laminated steel chip breaker). To tune up the smoothing plane you also need 1 Japanese scraper plane (tachiganna) any size, but wide is recommended. Western planes can be substituted, but less will be learned.
  • Saws- 1 medium 270mm  Ryoba (double-edged) saw: Also a small saw 210mm~240mm crosscut or ryoba for tenon shoulders. A crosscut Dozuki (Japanese Backsaw) will also work.
  • Sharpening Stones- Japanese water stones required: 1 medium (1000~1200 grit) and 1 finish stone (minimum 4000 grit). Optional: 1 course stone (800 grit).
  • Kanaban- Steel plate for lapping. Min. size approx. 3" X 10" X ¼"thick. Must be flat and smooth on 1 face. If possible get cold rolled steel (not hardened). Can usually be gotten cheap at a scrap steelyard. Important: Take a straight edge along and get a flat one.
  • Anvil- Any chunk of metal that is soft (not hardened) big enough to be stable with a rounded corner at least 1 ~2" wide.
  • 220 grit wet dry sandpaper- 2 or 3 sheets.
  • Small water bucket
  • Hammers- 1 medium size 375~550g & 1 small size 100~250g.
  • Miscellanous - Pencil, square, straight edge (beveled is preferred) & a small round or ½ round metal file, rags.
We recommend that you buy your tools from one of these sources: 
If time is short you can have the tools delivered directly to the School. Packages are securely recieved at Fort Worden State Park Office. We collect them and have them waiting for you at the school. Send them to:
Your name
c/o Port Townsend School of Woodworking
200 Battery Way,
Port Townsend
WA 98368

More about this class

  • Class Notes
  • Blog Entries



Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day. Please note: this is a six-day class - Monday through Saturday

Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.

Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $850
Materials Charge: $150*

* We will ask students to pay $150 towards the materials and the School will cover the costs of Dale preparing the package. When the Azumaya is sold we will refund the materials charge.

Coming Classes:

If you are interested, please let us know and we will notify you when the class is scheduled to be offered.


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200 Battery Way | Fort Worden | Port Townsend, WA 98368 | (360) 344-4455 | email

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