Japanese wood

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Forum topic by MrRon posted 07-17-2019 05:06 PM 449 views 0 times favorited 9 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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5620 posts in 3691 days

07-17-2019 05:06 PM

After watching various Japanese videos showing their skills in making tight fitting joints and general carpentry, I conclude that their skill is due to the wood they use. I have seen a planning competition where they can remove a plane shaving that you can see through. Noting that, I don’t think the same can be done using the woods we normally use. The Japanese hold wood in reverence; as a living thing that needs to be treated with respect. They use mostly very basic tools, not the fancy tools we westerners use. Most of the wood I see in those videos appear to be a very fine grain with almost no knots. Even in house construction, the wood used looks very high quality. I wonder what is the name of their wood used and if it is available here. In house construction, wood is exposed, not covered by paneling, as is the case here. I have been to Japan many times and always look at their wood workmanship. I visited a place that sells wood and saw planks of wood just leaning up against a wall; hardly would I call it a lumber yard. In a U.S. lumber yard, wood planks stored in that fashion would all be bowed with a few twists and cups thrown in.

P.S. The closest wood that exhibits the working qualities of Japanese wood that I see is bass wood. It works well, but is not strong enough for construction use.

9 replies so far

View MPython's profile


151 posts in 260 days

#1 posted 07-18-2019 01:04 PM

Cedar and Cypress are the two predominant woods used in Japan for construction and some furniture. Both are conifers and are relatively soft. Some species of both produce very straight grained lumber. During WWII the Japanese decimated their natural forests for war construction. Today cutting of old growth Cedar and Cypress is closely regulated by the government and examples of these woods, if available at all, are very expensive. Commercially grown plantation trees have become the norm, but the quality of the farm-grown trees doesn’t match the old growth timber. Some hardwoods (broad leaf woods like Oak, Elm and Ash) are also used in Japan. Here are two articles you might find interesting:

View shipwright's profile


8336 posts in 3245 days

#2 posted 07-18-2019 02:36 PM

Yellow cedar, my favourite boat building wood, has been extensively exported to Japan from the Pacific NW for years as a substitute for Japanese Hinoki cypress. It is not actually a cedar but is also a cypress and very closely related to Hinoki. It is a common wood in coastal B.C., Wa., and Ak., with the best quality found at higher altitudes.

-- Paul M ..............the early bird may get the worm but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese!

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1302 posts in 353 days

#3 posted 07-18-2019 02:56 PM

A lot of generalizations in the OP. A SHARP plane of any type will take off thousandth of an inch shavings of various woods. And not all Japanese woodworkers use basic tools. Take for example Ishatani woodworking, he uses a combo of high ened machines and hand tools to make amazing furniture of various woods like Oak , etc. Maybe you just haven’t seen a lot of stuff that exists.

View MrRon's profile (online now)


5620 posts in 3691 days

#4 posted 07-18-2019 09:02 PM

Thanks for the info. I know they make furniture using modern machinery, but I was only interested in true craftsmanship.

View TravisH's profile


678 posts in 2382 days

#5 posted 07-19-2019 02:46 AM

Paulowina (Kiri in Japan) has been used for a very long time for construction of furniture, boxes, and musical instruments.

I have used it in the past when making fishing lures.

View Snipes's profile


412 posts in 2692 days

#6 posted 07-19-2019 02:58 AM

Oh yes, the true Craftsman… Not them dam posers.

-- if it is to be it is up to me

View pottz's profile


5749 posts in 1432 days

#7 posted 07-19-2019 02:02 PM

Oh yes, the true Craftsman… Not them dam posers.

- Snipes

i feel so cheap and dirty…......(head hung in disgrace)

-- sawdust the bigger the pile the bigger my smile-larry,so cal.

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3353 posts in 1021 days

#8 posted 07-19-2019 02:13 PM

The bigger wood mill, close to me is Frank Miller on the Ohio Indiana border at Union City. They produce the most quarter sawn White oak in the world. Probably 80% of it is then shipped directly to Japan. Millions of bd/ft since I have been going over there. I’m told they are also very fond of Walnut, and Cherry, and receive massive amounts of it from production mills in Ia, and Pa respectively. I think they are using the same wood as everyone else. As said, extremely sharp, well tuned tools are what you are seeing. In the hands of some well taught, very talented users.

-- Think safe, be safe

View diverlloyd's profile


3557 posts in 2305 days

#9 posted 07-19-2019 04:07 PM

Ron try watching japanology it’s on YouTube. One episode is on wood and how it’s grown to be straight and almost knot free. Almost all of the episodes are worth watching and very interesting.

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