Workshop: Japanese Hip Rafter

by Mathieu

From 28th to 31th of January 2013 I will be teaching an intensive training in roof geometry at Dictum in Niederalteich Germany. By making a model of a hip rafter we will explore some important aspects of the Japanese lay-out system. The hip rafter of a roof is a challenging piece to fabricate, especially if one chooses to employ intricate joinery as is the case in the Japanese tradition. Besides the woodworking itself we will delve into many related subjects so the participants will gain a thorough insight and  will understand the essence of the Japanese lay-out system. 

hip detail

Covered topics:

  • half lap joint of the wall plates
  • connection of the hip rafter with the crossing of the wall plates
  • connection of the jack rafters with the hip
  • structurally sound and elegant joinery solutions
  • geometry and the Japanese roof lay-out method

This is just a limited description and only lists the main subjects. We will be discussing much more like tools, efficient cutout methods, use of the sashigane and the urame (back scale), some trigonometry and mathematical approaches to solve cut angles etc.

I really look forward to teaching this course and I am sure it will be a very nice experience both for the participants and myself. The facilities at the Dictum workshop seem to be very nice and such an environment will benefit the participants progress. It will be all about learning, hand tools, concentration and having fun while doing all that.

The price for the workshop is 450€, this includes four full days of training, course material, a printed reference and all the wood to construct the model. For more details you can have a look at their website here.

Japanese roof geometry is often regarded as a difficult subject to understand or master and to a certain extent this is true. On the other hand a normal hip that is angled 45° in plan is not  the most difficult thing to understand or build. With some guidance, decent woodworking skills with hand tools and some focused attention most of us can understand the basics. It is definitely my purpose to demystify the Japanese lay-out system and lay a foundation for further study.

Due to some miscommunication there are some inaccuracies published on the Dictum website. I have no idea about the cause but I suspect they based the description of the workshop on information I had send them earlier. I guess this must have been misinterpreted somehow. I have contacted them regarding this matter but it seems difficult to make any changes and they prefer to keep the description as it is.

Nonetheless I feel that I must correct what is published since I find it important to be accurate about these matters. Based on their description of the course, here is my own and accurate version.

This workshop covers the detailed design and construction of a traditional Japanese hip roof. You will gain an insight into some aspects of Japanese architecture and the Japanese carpentry lay-out system. Using Japanese handtools and basic mathematics, you will learn the required skills to mark and cut the parts. Each student creates a 1:1 roof corner segment, consisting of a wall plate with interconnecting half-lap joints, the hip rafter and added jack rafters.

I must also note that “kikujutsu”, as mentioned in their original description, does not translate as ‘Japanese carpentry’ but as ‘the art of (Japanese) carpentry drawing’. I can only guess where they must have picked up this word since I had not mentioned it to them before.

They also asked me to write a description of myself which was then altered before it was published. Here is the original version. I find it difficult to write about myself in third person and hope that I don’t need to do it too often.

Mathieu Peeters was inspired by crafts from an early age, his father is a sculptor and his grandfather was a furniture maker. After working in the conservation trade he ended up in the California at East Wind inc. a leading company in Traditional Japanese Architecture. There he learned from some very skilled and accomplished carpenters and he now runs his own small company in Belgium. He is very passionate about his work and continues to study as much as he can about carpentry and related subjects so he can pass this on to anyone who is interested. He also teaches young carpenters at a local trade school.

Enough complaints now, let’s get back to the things that really matter and cut some tight joints.

EDIT: Dictum, upon request has kindly offered to change the descriptions and they now accurately represent what we are offering.

If you have any questions regarding this workshop please do not hesitate to contact me or Dictum directly true this form. You are all kindly invited to participate. I can assure you it will be a very rewarding experience.