Fabula Lignarius

Media Coverage

After prolonged effort it is nice to see that the result of your labor is appreciated by a larger public.

Journalist Michiko Kurita wrote an article about our work in the EU MAG. This is an online magazine for the Japanese delegation in the European Union. You can read it here.

article EU MAG front

As craftsmen it is good to receive attention in the media. Out of experience I have long abandoned the idea that ‘if you just do great work all the work will come to you’. That might have been true for some people at some point in time but in todays society and economic climate a different approach will certainly yield better results. I would love to be just the cutout guy working for an outfit who only does super high-end work, remain the unknown craftsman who only needs to focus at the woodworking task handed to him. Unfortunately my path has brought me in a different position. One where I need to take responsibility for complete projects or large parts of them. I choose to be a professional carpenter. Professional also means that the chosen activity provides in your livelihood and in that case you better get your name out there or little interesting work will come your way.

In articles as these it sometimes looks like all the work is executed by a single person. From a journalistic point of view I can understand that the focus of an article is limited. However there were quite a few skilled carpenters who worked on this project and all contributed significantly:

Len Bracket, Dylan Cedar Hennings, Jacob Studebaker, Shawn McVeigh, Max Ducharme and last but not least someone who truly embodies the ideal of the unknown carpenter Walter Hardzog.


Tool Confusion Disorder

Also known as TCD is a compulsive disorder characterized by an obsession with tools and often includes symptoms as delusions, neurotic behavior and irrational thought. It causes great distress experienced by patients in an attempt to fulfill their desires.

Some specialist have described it as a compulsive hoarding disorder but recent studies have shown that it is rather a habit disorder which takes on problematic proportions.

TCD can affect anyone but usually it is diagnosed among craftsmen, often hobbyists suffer from it as well and amongst them it has been known to transpose into fetishism.

The illness was first described by Dr. Patrick Kelly in 1946 when his mother who was a zeppelin mechanic developed severe acute TCD at the age of 92.

Signs and Symptoms

Common symptoms are, but not limited to, collecting of tools, the belief of supernatural powers in handmade tools, valuing tools for more than they are worth, and many more the list is continuously updated.

Patients are ‘confused’ since it is impossible for them to understand the true function of the tool, which is to execute work. Instead they believe that it is an object to acquire, cherish, collect, behold or simply posses.

Some patients evolve into pseudo experts pretending to be an authority in a specific field of expertise and publish nonsense about tools and related subjects. These nonsense are not only published online but you can also find them on fora and even in printed magazines.

Tool collectors sometimes develop a more complicated disease pattern which involves a sort of subtle online bragging behavior. Or the complete opposite where the collector becomes very possessive about his tools. This can result in keeping the collection private never showing it to other people.

Other symptoms are repeating marketing statements uttered by tool vendors in an effort to rationalize their delusion. Also contributing to the mystification of exotic, unknown or lesser known tools.

People with TCD often seek relief by acquiring more tools rationalising that it may benefit their results or that the acquisition of the tool is essential to the succes of their project. They attach extraordinary significance to the tool believing that without it they will not be able to express themselves true their craft.

In rare occasions patients develop a fetishistic relationship with their tools. This leads to complications in their personal life and often destroys relationships.


Recent studies have shown that the amount of patients suffering from TCD have increased over the last decades especially in western countries where access to high speed internet is common and craftsmen spend way to much time online.

It is relatively contagious and can be spread verbally. The company of infected persons can be enough to trigger the illness and severity is in direct relation to the duration of exposure.


There are only two known medicines that are effective they include selective trycyclic toolreleasium and a honey derivative produced in Mongolia. However some patients have shown no response to either one of them. And for those who do not response to initial treatment all hope is lost.

Medication is often combined with intensive behavioral therapy.


"Red and blue pill" by W.carter - Own work.

“Red and blue pill” by W.carter – Own work.


Once cured former patients describe a sense of enormous relief. Studies have shown that 84% of the craftsmen that have been cured for over a year where able to raise their craft to a next level.

Cured patients often end up giving away most or all unnecessary tools and conduct work with a minimalistic toolset without compromising quality of the executed work. They come to understand that their craft is about getting things done instead of hoarding tools or waisting time on online fora to discuss tools. They instead try to spend most of their time realizing challenging projects and often take it upon themselves to share knowledge with fellow or aspiring craftsmen by true and honest exchange.


I have been diagnosed with a mild form of TCD. My doctor, a highly accomplished medicine man, has prescribed honey harvested in the winter from the Arkhangai Province and it seems to help a great deal. This in conjunction with daily cognitive therapy should help me cure this awful disease within the next year they said. 

It is a lot of hard work and sometimes I think it is hopeless but luckily my family has been very supportive. This afternoon I had a bit of a fallback and after work I got online and ordered some custom made tools. I said to myself “it is ok, just once more for old time sake. From tomorrow I will never do that again, it’s a promise.”

Black Forest Zendo completed

The installation of the tan platforms was probably the most rewarding work of the project. Finally we could see things coming together. I let the pictures speak for themselves.







A view from the four corners.JvN_9286JvN_9287JvN_9288JvN_9290

Note how the pegs are not yet in place, the wedges are not trimmed either and the spacers still sit between the boards. At that point I had to go back for another round of trimwork. JvN_9299JvN_9413JvN_9454JvN_9456JvN_9471

And finally with the Noguchi lamps in place.


© All the pictures in this article where made by Jonas V. Nottbeck and are protected by copyright.

Black Forest Zendo plastering

After finishing the ceiling it was time for the plasterers to do their work. We contracted the local company Glück to do the plastering for us.


We used Claytec plaster for the whole project and did not bother to mix our own. Economically it didn’t make sense mixing our own clay plaster as we normally do and besides it would be very difficult to match the quality of the Claytec plaster. It depends on the project and the purpose but here it was certainly better to work with a ready-to-go quality product.


It can be challenging to find plasterers who are experienced with clay plaster and can work cleanly around the finished carpentry work. In Japan working cleanly and keeping the construction site orderly is the norm but in Europe that is not always the case. I was happy to see that the plasterers worked very neatly. I didn’t expect anything else, I visited some of their previous job sites and ensured that that their work was up to the standard we where looking for.


The plaster is build up in three layers with a jutte cloth in between after which a finish layer is added of less then 3mm. The finish is a white clay-plaster mixed with large grained sand to add texture. It was the client who chose this finish out of many samples.

We used the Yosima Claytec finish plaster that comes in wide variety of colors and textures. In Japan the common finish coat for plastering temples is shikkui, a lime plaster that is troweled endlessly to a perfect smooth and shiny surface. It takes tremendous skill to get this kind of finish to look decent since the slightest mistake or unevenness will show. What we used here is more forgiving. Glück did really good work and we are pleased with the result.


The humidity in the room changed from very dry, 20% because of the floor heating that was difficult to control at the time, to 94% because of the enormous amount of water that is mixed with the clay. It was the perfect test to see how the ceiling boards would hold up. (see the previous post here) The Western Red Cedar boards are fastened in a way that they are able to expand and contract with humidity. If this is not taken into account or if the fastening system is not applied properly you certainly end up with boards that are cracked right down the middle. I was happy that after the plaster had dried and we continued to install the tan tatami platforms I couldn’t find a single crack anywhere.

Stay tuned for the final push..


© All the pictures in this article where made by Jonas V. Nottbeck and are protected by copyright.

Black Forest Zendo ceiling 

After almost five years of preparation and planning we have finally finished the installation of the interior carpentry work on this project. It has been very pleasant to work for a community of people where everyone is so involved and appreciates our efforts to create something beautiful and long lasting. Here is the story of how we put together the ceiling (tenjo).

Often the craftsmen who conduct the actual work do not receive any credit and I have come across plenty articles where it sounds like a building project is realized by a single person. Let’s bring some attention to all the people involved. It gives a more complete account of the story don’t you think? Shawn McVeigh and Maxime Ducharme are two carpenters who have been working on the ceiling installation. Shawn is a Hawaiian carpenter trained by Dale Brotherton, he also helped us with some of the shopwork at East Wind in California. Max is a Canadian carpenter living in the UK who took one of my courses and worked on another project with me in the past. It is great to have competent and committed people to work with and they certainly deserve to be mentioned.

A traditional ceiling in a temple in Japan would often be a go-tenjo or checkerboard ceiling. However the design of this zendo is based on a similar design of a zendo in Crestone Colorado built by East Wind and designed by Len Brackett many years ago.

This design is quite unique with the 45 degree horizontal hip rafters running from the corner of the mume into the corner of the room. It allowed us to create a different feeling where the lower ceiling and the direction of the sao-bo wraps around the room and the upper ceiling. This type where the boards are held up by ceiling rods can be referred to as sao tenjo.

The frame to support the ceiling was accurately constructed on the ground before being raised into position. The location was critical since the hiprafters needed to land exactly in the corner of the room.


Preparation is everything…


For this project we used shaku as a measuring unit, and we always try to use gloves not to mar or stain the wood with our hands.


The ceiling boards are held in place with screws and wedges in such a way that they are able to move with changes in humidity. We used several thousands screws to construct this ceiling. I guess we are not doing the real thing since Japanese carpentry is conducted without the use of nails or screws..

JvN_8020After the center ceiling was raised we could continue on the perimeter ceiling installing the hips first, then the sao-bo and the tenjo-ita.


Sao detail around the Sierra-yama sugi (as opposed to Kitayama-sugi). We had to cut into the post to give the ceiling boards a ledge to land on.


The Ceiling board are laid down exactly in the same sequence as they are milled out of the tree. This ensures that the grain pattern is continuos. I am sure you can imagine that it takes a lot of care and attention during construction not to damage the soft Western Red Cedar boards. This is very unique material we are working with here! Long perfectly clear fine grained wood, there is only so much of it on the planet.


It is almost impossible to see on the picture but with the construction of a ceiling like this the center is slightly lifted, creating a very subtle dome shaped arch in the ceiling. this creates a feeling of loftiness. If you would make a ceiling perfectly flat it actually feels sagged and tends to weigh down on you and lifting the ceiling in the center eliminates this effect. Because of all the different parts of this ceiling creating that arch was a bit more challenging but it came out exactly how we envisioned it.

Below an illustration of which ceiling parts are perfectly straight and which ones are slightly curved. The green lines represent the mawaribuchi that are straight. The pink lines the mume which are curved and the yellow lines illustrate the arch of the ceiling. The curves are exaggerated for clarity.


Stay tuned for the completion of this project soon.

© All the pictures in this article where made by Jonas V. Nottbeck and are protected by copyright.

Her First Masakari

As you may have noticed there has been little going on my blog. I have remained quite busy in the background but don’t find the time to keep up with my carpentry adventures here on the blog. Don’t worry I am sure I will get back to it soon enough, I have been working on some wonderful projects and there are more coming up.

My family has expanded from two to three people. Becoming a father is without a doubt the best thing that has ever happened to me. It puts your whole life in a different perspective..



The masakari was a gift made by a close friend and fellow craftsmen. Check out his amazing urushi work here in instagram.