< Horyuji-Temple, Nara, Japan - housing the world's oldest surviving wooden structures
It is no exaggeration to say that historically, Japan has developed some of the most advanced woodworking techniques in the world. While Europe and mainland China have always been rich in mineral resources and were able to develop advanced building techniques using stone and clay, Japan’s volcanic soil produces very little usable stone and clay, though, on the plus side, it produces a wide variety of trees from which to build houses and furniture.
What is especially interesting is how surprisingly durable and long-lasting Japanese woodworking is even when compared to the modern day usage of concrete and steel. Hōryū-ji (法隆寺）, lit. Temple of the Flourishing Law) is a Buddhist temple in Nara whose magnificent woodwork is still in good condition today after more than a thousand years of existence. That such wooden structures can for so long, especially in Japan’s infamous vulnerability to typhoons and earthquakes, is nothing short of a miracle in construction.
> Sketches of traditional Japanese joints. Source: George Nakashima, The Soul of a Tree, Kodansha 1981
Wood, surprisingly, is a great material that maintains its integrity in an earthquake. Japan’s woodworking techniques in particular have developed unique uses in wooden joints that tend to forgo nails and glue and create sound structural stability that can adequately endure the devastating vibrations of an earthquake.
Japanese craftsman consider joint construction a complex and nuanced art. There are dozens of specific joints, and each have their own name, varying in size, shape, and angle. Some joints are extremely intricate, with multiple points of entry through alternating shapes. In his book The Soul of a Tree, master woodworker George Nakashima wrote extensively about the careful, spiritual nature in woodcraft and argued that joints should be considered an “investment, an unseen morality.” To him, carefully considering the wood’s strength and imagining a tight bond that must be able to endure a variety of forces was of utmost importance. Using only wood to create joints is not only a natural method of craftsmanship to create sound structure, but also a means of ensuring the wood’s quality in a piece of furniture can last for generations.
> Koshikake-kama-tusgi (lapped gooeseneck mortise and tenon joint). Source: Kiyosi Seike, The Art of Japanese Joinery, Weatherhill 1977
While modern streamlined manufacturing have popularized using nails and glue, wooden joints have been woefully neglected. Most furniture today no longer has the subtleties and nuances that set it apart, makes it unique.
Our White Wood collection is one example of a small, but persistent community of craftsmen and manufacturers who are determined to keep the natural craft of wooden joints alive. Not only is each piece is built to survive for years and years to come, but the natural beauty can be seen through the intricate corners where you can see where the wood was carefully carved and shaped. The White Wood collection is a testament to quality both on the inside and the outside.