by Mathieu

In case you haven’t noticed today is the end of all times according to many good souls. The maya calendar may end today but the most pessimistic conclusion I can draw is that there is only more of the same coming. Anyway I asked myself what I would love to do on judgment day. I couldn’t come up with anything better, more relaxing and entertaining then doing some good old Japanese carpentry drawing while listening to Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times are a-Changing’. It proves to be a perfect combination since I am making good progress in preparing the upcoming workshop on Japanese roof geometry in Germany next month, you can read more about here.

It is more then just mere drawing and writing, preparing this workshop has proven a good exercise for myself as well. Reiteration is the best recipe for soaking those brain cells with these most important concepts. It now seems easy to draw all those lines on a piece of wood compared to distilling the essence of the Japanese carpentry layout method in a compact and understandable course. At least I am having fun and we still have to see wether we are all going to make it through today, who knows..

In the Japanese layout method we use the basic roof angle in a ratio of x to 10, very similar to many other traditions. At the moment I am working with a roof pitch with a run of 10 and a rise of 4.8. Why wouldn’t I use 4 or 5 in 10? The first reason is to prove that it is just as easy as anything else and the second reason is that it requires a little more attention from the students and I really like to stimulate concentration in any way I can.

Here are some sneak peaks of the drawings I made. These days I draft on the computer since it is very convenient and I need to train myself in becoming faster and more efficient with it so the more I do the better.

hip section

For obvious reasons I am not going to give away too much although I am planning to offer some information about the subject on this blog. One of my teachers, a remarkable craftsman, Ryosei Kaneko taught me most of the things I know regarding carpentry layout. I have learned from other sources as well but he’s training was indispensable to where I am now.

When we where working onsite he would explain me things at night and make some quick sketches and drawings or give me little exercises to practice. One of the most valuable exercises was drawing all the necessary triangles, derived from the basic roof pitch, to develop the angles needed to layout and cut the joints. Here is a simple example of what we would do.


Not much use if you don’t already know what you are looking at.

He also taught me a very cool way of drawing all these triangles in certain ways so you can develop origami models with them. For me this was the trick to remember all the different triangles and to understand where exactly they can be found in the roof. My brain is very visually oriented and when I see things it becomes easy to remember.

Since I am preparing this upcoming workshop I am remaking some of these models but also other ones which I am inventing as I go. I will not take credit for them since I am sure some otaku carpenter in Japan has pushed this origami concept much further then I ever will and they are all still based on what was taught me by my teachers.

Famous Fruit model

I am not planning on putting this whole course online but the paper models I would like to share. I hope to make these available in the future to anyone interested in them. It will be just a .pdf which you can print, cut and fold. Leave me a comment if you are interested in the origami.

If you are a carpenter it is a marvelous way to spend cold winter nights and train your visualization skills. And as always it is just your own imagination that will limited the possibilities of what you can do with paper.

Oh yes, I did forgot to mention that I am writing in English again. I am sorry for all the Dutch readers out there if I disappoint them but lately the interest in this blog seems to become more international and this way it is more accessible to a broader public. I hope for your understanding.