Perfect shavings and more at a Japanese Woodworking Festival

Comments (0)

“Kez” is a shortened form of a Japanese word for gathering, and I recently had the good fortune to attend the fourth annual NYC KEZ. As he has in the previous three years, Yann Giguere provided the venue for the event –his Mokuchi workshop and studio in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn, New York. Yann also served as a demonstrator and master of ceremonies, presiding over an inspiring celebration of traditional Japanese woodworking.  

The day begins with attendees joining in to split a large log in half, using wooden wedges and mallets. Many other techniques were also demonstrated, like hewing, ripping, and using a traditional spear plane to take spiral shavings.  

The highlight of this all-day event is a competition to produce the perfect shaving from a hand plane –gossamer thin, and continuous along the full length of carefully prepared board. Attendees intent on winning the grand prize (in this case, a wooden plane produced by a master plane maker) spend the early part of the day taking test shavings, honing plane blades, and catching up on what’s transpired since last year’s Kez.

While all this intense pre-competition activity was taking place, I watched a fascinating demonstration of traditional Japanese boat building, put on by Vermont-based Douglas Brooks. I never could have imagined the approach that Doug was taught during numerous apprenticeships to master builders in Japan –wedging planks in place with long spring poles braced against the ceiling, and sawing between adjacent planks to create mating edges. Equally amazing: the toenailing technique used to join planks together with nails shaped like miniature railroad spikes.

In a courtyard outside the shop, a small timber-frame pavilion was on display. Elsewhere, Yann and his partner Margaret made room for displays of furniture, delicate kumiko screens and “impossible” joinery that I could only marvel at. There were books and tools for sale, too –even an impressive selection of antique tools and hardware that a Brooklyn-based entrepreneur replenishes with regular trips to Japan. You can count me in for NYC KEZ 2018.

For more details about KEZ NYC, and for details on Japanese woodworking in general (classes, projects), visit the Mokuchi website:


Plane shavings you can see through; that’s all part of the fun and wonder at this annual event in Brooklyn, NY.

While planing contestants sharpen their plane irons, host Yann Giguere holds forth on the intricacies of Japanese woodworking.

Since a master woodworker must be ready to act as his own sawyer, the day begins by splitting and hewing a log.

Keyed scarf joints are truly amazing, but this one takes craftsmanship into the stratosphere.

Kumiko screens represent some of the most delicate woodworking you’ll ever see.

This pavilion was built by Yann and some of his students at a timber-framing workshop the week before KEZ.

Spear planes were used prior to the development of wooden planes.

That’s still too thick! The challenge in the planing competition is to produce the thinnest, most uniform continuous shaving.

Interlocking, 3-way joints are made without any powertool assistance.

Douglas Brooks demonstrates how Japanese boat builders clamp planks in place in order to saw a kerf between mating edges.


Write Comment

Write Comment

You must be logged in to write a comment. Log In

Top of Page