Free Software Lets You Create Traditional Japanese Wood Joints & Furniture: Download Tsugite

The Japan­ese art of tsug­ite, or wood join­ery, goes back more than a mil­len­ni­um. As still prac­ticed today, it involves no nails, screws, or adhe­sives at all, yet it can be used to put up whole build­ings — as well as to dis­as­sem­ble them with rel­a­tive ease. The key is its canon of elab­o­rate­ly carved joints engi­neered to slide togeth­er with­out acci­den­tal­ly com­ing apart, the designs of which we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture in ani­mat­ed GIF form. Though it would be nat­ur­al to assume that 21st-cen­tu­ry tech­nol­o­gy has no pur­chase on this domain of ded­i­cat­ed tra­di­tion­al crafts­men, it does great­ly assist the efforts of the rest of us to under­stand just how tsug­ite works.

Now, thanks to researchers at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tokyo, a new piece of soft­ware makes it pos­si­ble for us to do our own Japan­ese join­ery as well. Called, sim­ply, Tsug­ite, it’s described in the video intro­duc­tion above as  “an inter­ac­tive com­pu­ta­tion­al sys­tem to design wood­en join­ery that can be fab­ri­cat­ed using a three-axis CNC milling machine.” (CNC stands for “com­put­er numer­i­cal con­trol,” the term for a stan­dard auto­mat­ed-machin­ing process.)

In real time, Tsug­ite’s inter­face gives graph­i­cal feed­back on the joint being designed, eval­u­at­ing its over­all “slid­abilty” and high­light­ing prob­lem areas, such as ele­ments “per­pen­dic­u­lar to the grain ori­en­ta­tion” and thus more like­ly to break under pres­sure.

This is the sort of thing that a Japan­ese car­pen­ter, hav­ing under­gone years if not decades of train­ing and appren­tice­ship, will know by instinct. And though the work of a three-axis CNC machine can’t yet match the aes­thet­ic ele­gance of join­ery hand-carved by a such a mas­ter, Tsug­ite could well, in the hands of users from dif­fer­ent cul­tures as well as domains of art and craft, lead to the cre­ation of new and uncon­ven­tion­al kinds of joints as yet unimag­ined. You can down­load the soft­ware on Github, and you’ll also find sup­ple­men­tary doc­u­men­ta­tion here. Even if you don’t have a milling sys­tem handy, work­ing through vir­tu­al tri­al and error con­sti­tutes an edu­ca­tion in tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese wood join­ery by itself.  The cur­rent ver­sion of Tsug­ite only accom­mo­dates sin­gle joints, but its poten­tial for future expan­sion is clear: with prac­tice, who among us would­n’t want to try our hand at, say, build­ing a shrine?

via Spoon & Tam­a­go

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery: A Kyoto Wood­work­er Shows How Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Cre­at­ed Wood Struc­tures With­out Nails or Glue

Mes­mer­iz­ing GIFs Illus­trate the Art of Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Wood Join­ery — All Done With­out Screws, Nails, or Glue

See How Tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Can Build a Whole Build­ing Using No Nails or Screws

Watch Japan­ese Wood­work­ing Mas­ters Cre­ate Ele­gant & Elab­o­rate Geo­met­ric Pat­terns with Wood

Nick Offer­man Explains the Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ben­e­fits of Woodworking–and How It Can Help You Achieve Zen in Oth­er Parts of Your Life

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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