Pro Portfolio: Joint WizardryJapanese master craftsman Kintaro Yazawa takes traditional joinery to a new level
At the start of his career, Kintaro Yazawa was a salesman in the textile industry–but a salesman with a keen interest in pipe organs. On a trip to Europe with a group of organ enthusiasts, he visited the shop of Marc Garnier, a French builder of tracker organs. Entranced, Yazawa quit his job and spent a year and a half as an apprentice organ builder. Once back in Japan, he turned to furnituremaking. In the 30 years since then he has built a wide range of furniture as well as urushi-lacquered boxes and architectural woodwork.
From the beginning, Yazawa emphasized the joinery in his furniture. Unlike other Japanese furnituremakers, he relished using exposed joinery–and he highlighted it with contrasting woods and carved details. In 1981 he met the English craftsman Alan Peters, and Peters asked him to demonstrate the Japanese double-twisted dovetail joint. (Peters wrote about the joint in FWW #61.)
Soon afterward, Yazawa began inventing joints of his own. Yazawa’s joints are based on traditional joints-dovetails, finger joints, miters, mortise and tenon joints-but always with a decorative twist. To the uninitiated, the joints can seem mystifying. But for the first time Yazawa has chosen to reveal his techniques to Fine Woodworking, which turn out to be delightfully straightforward.
Click on the audio slideshow link above for more information about Yazawa’s progress from novice to master joiner, or visit Yazawa online to see more of his workshop and portfolio.
Also, read his companion article, “The Wizard’s Secrets,” for a step-by-step tutorial on cutting a “letter tenon.”