Watch a Traditional Japanese Carpenter Make 190+ Different Joints, All Without Nails, Screws, or Glue

Before the inter­net, it would have been hard to imag­ine that peo­ple around the world would one day be unable to get enough of tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese car­pen­try, and specif­i­cal­ly tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese join­ery. And before Youtube, who could have pre­dict­ed that videos show­ing each and every step of a wood­work­ing project — with­out nar­ra­tion, or indeed expla­na­tion of any kind — would find an enthu­si­as­tic view­er­ship? At the inter­sec­tion of these two sur­pris­ing phe­nom­e­na stands that chan­nel H Car­pen­ter, whose unadorned, method­i­cal, and detailed por­tray­als of wood­en joint-mak­ing have racked up mil­lions upon mil­lions of views.

In tra­di­tion­al Japan­ese join­ery, which we’ve fea­tured many times before here on Open Cul­ture, the car­pen­ter uses no nails, screws, or adhe­sives. Rather, he carves the ends of the pieces of wood to be joined into inter­lock­ing three-dimen­sion­al shapes that can hold sol­id for decades, or even cen­turies.

The biggest advan­tage of this tech­nique, writes a com­menter on one video, “is that it min­i­mizes the use of rust-prone nails and oth­er mate­ri­als, reduces dam­age to the wood, and damp­ens seis­mic shak­ing with unfas­tened joints” — always a con­sid­er­a­tion in earth­quake-prone Japan. “Fur­ther­more, the entire build­ing can be dis­as­sem­bled like Lego blocks, and only the dam­aged parts can be replaced and rebuilt as before.”

Like many oth­er Japan­ese tra­di­tions, this form of car­pen­try has been around for a long time indeed, and through the cen­turies has built up a for­mi­da­ble library of joints, many of them com­plex enough  not to be com­pre­hen­si­ble at first glance. With 193 videos on the rel­e­vant playlist so far, H car­pen­ter seems to have made a mis­sion of con­struct­ing all of them on Youtube not just to aid our under­stand­ing of their work­ings, but also to pro­vide us with the sen­so­ry plea­sures of the process itself. (A few mil­lion of his views are sure­ly account­ed for by ASMR enthu­si­asts alone.) Just like his fore­bears in the craft, he does it with­out using a sin­gle nail — as well, per­haps as a coun­ter­bal­ance to the chat­ter of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry, with­out speak­ing a sin­gle word.

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

Japan­ese Car­pen­ters Unearth 100-Year-Old Wood Joiner­ies While Tak­ing Apart a Tra­di­tion­al House

Build­ing With­out Nails: The Genius of Japan­ese Car­pen­try

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

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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  • Wendy Hosick says:

    I have only been able to see 2 of the videos. The oth­ers in this group are obstruct­ed and unable to be seen.

  • mike sanders says:

    Awe inspir­ing in a time of “every­thing now” it is pos­i­tive­ly calm­ing to watch such a mas­ter at work, at school we learnt wood­work and joints but this is a whole new lev­el and pure art. thank you

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