Kyoto Field Trip Notes

I have for some time now been working on a project Hunting Wajima – that has set out to imagine the form and construction of furniture that will be made by a workshop in East Timor. The name of the project was itself a project – a sort of branding exercise. I set out to come up with a name that would point to the spirit of the design – a design-brief in two words as it were. This is different from what I have done for another project where I carved a portmanteau word – Jaliangan – to define the form of a particular kind of contemporary architecture. An architecture of boxes and their jali like wrappers. Somehow very Japanese too.

NOTE: The Hunting Wajima Project is mentioned in a previous post:

In the current phase of the project I am building on a proposition – Slatted Constructions (as posted here I want to design a furniture collection that does two things:
1. It explores the notion of slatted construction as a program, a way of building furniture.
2. It explores the typology of Japanese wood work as a source of inspiration and as a text to write into the program of Slatted Constructions.

The exploration of Japanese wood work has brought me to Kyoto, the home of and location of traditional wood work practice in Japan. I am looking not at the hard and pushy furniture products such as what I been seeing in the furniture shops and the traditional wood working Kojos. I am yet to see something inspiring. A few days ago I visited a workshop making extremely expensive (1 million Yen and above, or 10,000$ and above) furniture. Drawer units and tables. Very refined work but it left me untouched. I was excited to see the use of the elaborate traditional joints, but apart from that I was left cold by the obsessive pyrotechnics, excessive finish and shiny polish. I was looking for the rustic the natural and the truly old. So I have set out to document the marginal and forgotten. Pieces of wooden craftsmanship that are natural and light. The photographs here are some examples from that documentation.

Today I came up with the elements of a language – a typology of components:
Legs: I am documenting the forms of legs, especially that of low tables.
Endings: I am looking at the way members end, often flat but every now and then differently such as with a taper
Sizes: I am looking carefully at the sizes of linear elements, I am looking at the cross sections of the timber.
Intersections & Crossings: I am looking at how the linear elements continue beyond the intersections, for a bit more.
Lattice forms: I am looking at lattice form – the grid – which is more often a composition mainly of vertical slats.
Joins: I am looking at the way joins are formed.
Key wedge: I am understanding how the wedge in the joint helps the furniture achieve No nails/ No glue

I then had a thought today that CAD and CNC could be played with to sculpt the linear elements. The joints still occurring in the precise rectilinear locations.

I am doing some photography and also collecting images in Pinterest. You can see my collections and resources in the links below.

Japanese Joinery:
Japanese bamboo Crafts:
Reimagining Nature:
Inspirational woodwork:

A great Japanese and Japanese inspired furniture board:

Slatted Constructions

My son grew and grew. So he outgrew his bed. Or his feet began to push against the foot of the bed. Apparently people who are 6 feet and taller (or longer when they lie down!) just let their feet hang out over the end of the bed. So we needed to make a bed where my son could let his feet hang out over the bed. We haven’t asked if his growth spurt would reach those long proportions. Meanwhile he has dismantled his bed – with my help and was set up to occupy the floor. Which worked fine till his eating in bed habit brought ants into this bed.




Images above – my list of timber sizes/ cut sizes, the routered slot for the slats, the slats.

So a new bed was on the cards. A good project for the father-son duo to do something together. The bed took six months – as these projects do. Many trips to Bernie Cook, our local timber merchant, a lot of laughter. I had settled on Tassie Oak to build this project – a local hard wood. I was to discover later that ‘tassie oak’ was just a throw away name for any construction hard wood that arrived at the timber mill. Worked for me. Only this particular hard wood was brittle – which causes a bizarre chipping of the edges with the slightest tap.


Testing the fit of slats into routered slots.


Clamps for the shorter side, tie-down straps for the longer side. Glued joints left for 24 hours to dry.


Every project has to generate infrastructure – as every good economist knows. This is how you build a great nation. Or workshop. I only added a relatively inexpensive Orbital sander ($45) through this project.

The images below are of the final phase of the assembly of the Bed and the final resting place of this piece. My son is behind the camera. He helped with the sanding, and drove me to the hardware stores – three times. The last trip was to pick up the hessian straps which we had left behind on the previous trip.

BnW Bed 2

BnW Bed

Setting slats, to staple on straps.


Slats and straps before I turned them the right side up.

This was me doing a classic slatted structure – I am now interested in exploring slatted structures as a way to make more pieces. Possibly a sofa, a couch, a chair perhaps. I have also recently participated in the dismembering of an antique Chinese table. There were some interesting details there, both of the flow of the legs and the intricacy of the joinery. Details I wish to pursue possibly alongside the Japanese joinery book that is sitting on my table. Maybe “slatted-constructions” is a name worth exploring through making projects. And their allied infrastructure development agendas.

The bed in the room. Corner Details.




My son is doing Photography in school – so the images below explore close ups and depth of field. 






Dad Sad

Transformer furniture

quickie desk bed photo
quickie desk bed closed

Transformer Furniture: Quickie by Jared Dickey : TreeHugger

Transformer furniture lets people get more out of small spaces, and you are going to be a neat minimalist if you have to clean off your desk before you go to bed every night.