Glorious GIFs explain inscrutable Japanese joinery

© From cover, What is Japanese architecture?

Traditional Japanese architecture was made of wood that was held together with complicated joints. The joints had to cope with earthquakes, temperature changes, aging of the wood and more. It is really difficult to figure out how they go together; according to Johnny at Spoon and Tamago, "even until recent times when carpentry books began to be published, mastery of these woodworking techniques remained the fiercely guarded secret of family carpentry guilds."

But one anonymous Japanese man with a day job in the auto industry studied them in his spare time, and using mechanical design software, has created GIFs of them and put them up on twitter. He tells S&T:

Wood joinery is a dying art but the man behind these animations has hope. “3D printing and woodworking machinery has enabled us to create complicated forms fairly easily” he says, indicating that wood joinery techniques have plenty of applications for digital processing and manufacturing as well. “I want to organize all the joinery techniques and create a catalog of them all.”

There are 84 of them up on The Joinery twitter feed, with almost 26,000 followers, many of which are prominent architects and designers.

Mark Wilson of Fast Company hits the books about Japanese Joinery, to explain why they are so complicated:

"The intricacy of the joints enhance the character of the wood, bringing it alive," wrote the authors of Wood Joints In Classical Japanese Architecture. "Many of these joints preserve the natural strength ratio carefully balancing the shear, bending, torsion, compression, and taking shrinkage into account."

Many companies are now using CNC machines to crank out traditional North American post and beam buildings; I wonder how long it would take to program the machines to do these kinds of joints. Probably they already are.

Tags: Green Building | Japan | Wood Construction


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