I recently came across a documentary episode that features Sashimono, the traditional craft of Japanese woodworking joinery and furniture making. Sashimono furniture pieces often look relatively clean and simple in design, but under the surface they feature ingenious and intricate concealed joinery and no (or very few) metal fasteners. Each joint fits together like a beautiful multi-dimensional puzzle piece. And, as with any finely-designed piece of wood furniture, wood selection and careful grain orientation are critical.
The craft of Sashimono began as the furniture and woodworking techniques practiced by nobles and the Imperial court over a thousand years ago. The traditions of this craft continue today with craftsman who follow strictly regulated conditions and guidelines. A beautiful example of this tradition can be seen in a set of joinery models passed from teacher to student (watch for it at the 3:18 minute mark).
This episode is part of a documentary series titled, BEGIN Japanology. If you’re interested in precisely crafted joinery and beautifully designed furniture, then I highly recommend you set aside 30 minutes to watch this episode.