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Traditionally, Japanese structures are erected on-site from parts that are made in off-site shops. Perhaps, in even large-scale operations similar to modern day ironworkers, the erectors were not the makers of the pieces. Even in the shops where the architectural members were made, no one person, usually made all of any one piece. It was team work-the systematic delegation of work that resulted in efficient production and extensive training opportunities. Advancement on the ladder of skill was paid for in years of dedication, commitment and in its best and broadest sense-becoming a better team player.
At the Fall 2005 Kezurou-Kai held at the Oakland Japanese Garden at Lake Merritt, Sugimura-san, founder of Kezurou-kai Japan in 1995, shared his idea of building a one-half scale Festival Shrine Cart (see blueprint) for the Spring 2006 Kezurou-kai meeting in Nagoya, Japan. These 4-wheeled three-level carts are pulled through the streets at festivals through out the year throughout Japan. This cart would be almost 14' high and be kept as a children's educational model at the warehouse where the regular Festival carts are stored (reminds me of the Super Bowl beer commercial with the big Clydesdales and the little one). His idea expanded into a plan for plans to be sent to shops all over Japan and have them make apart or two that would be assembled in Nagoya at the Spring event.
This concept got even more exciting when he asked Kezurou-kai-USA to be part of this effort and contribute a section or two. Needless to say, there was no hesitation from the veterans from the Bay Area/Northern California. This group included James Weister, Mike Laine, William Richter, Richard Wiborg, and Jay van Arsdale. Ryosei Kaneko made two stepped-posts for the middle section which he sent down from Grass Valley. Old growth redwood -similar to that used in the gate construction at the Kezurou-kai event at the Japanese Garden- was chosen as the representative wood from Northern California. James Weister, group translator and liaison, provided recycled wood for our project. The panels in the bottom sections were a dark chocolate color that was extremely tasty, contrasted with the rich, fine-grained, dark-red wine pieces of the frame.
The challenge of this project was more than trying not to embarrass ourselves as we have worked numerous times with the exceptional Japanese Daiku-san (carpenters) at Kezurou-kai and know what to expect. All of these California daiku are experienced professionals, some worked years on the Ellison Japanese Villa and others spend their professional time on more personal endeavors. We all know that the opportunity to do good work starts with the rigors at the sharpening bucket. Working with redwood and the more compression able (soft) woods , is a true test of the compatibility of the edge's sharpness and the wood fiber's shear cut that results in a clean and clear cut-whether this creates the surface across the end grain of mortises or along the grain ,especially when planing for the burnished luster you can achieve with a Kanna (Japanese plane). The density of this old-growth redwood was extremely compact compared to the quality generally available today.
The lay-out for our pieces, which turned out in the final assembly to be spot on, was done by James Weister. Sugimura-san in Nagoya faxed the plans to James who relayed them to the rest of us. In this way, James was able to discuss the more subtle aspects of the plan beyond the Arabic numbers we could see on the plans.
The joinery work itself looked deceptively simple:

+The corners were connected with half-lapped joints of the top and bottom rails with housed stepped tenons that compression fit into mortises that stopped 2 mm from the bottom edge.
+The mid-posts were a stepped post that mortised through the mid rail had a tenon on each end that fit the top and bottom rail.
+The rear posts had an off- set (towards the front end) tenon top and bottom with a mortise for the mid-span rail to be housed.
+The panels in the lower section were floated and captured in grooves all around so they could expand and contract as in standard frame and panel construction.
This group met in Jay's shop, and after looking over the plans and parts list, divvied up the chores and got on with It-spending a memorable day working together, sharing our thoughts and experiences about this work, enjoying our tools from Japan, and their special place in the long history of this work process.
As with most professional adults, we have known each other for a number of years, but seldom get to enjoy the camaraderie of working together, unless we can volunteer for non-profit community based projects. For us, Kezurou-kai and Daiku Dojo help create these opportunities to work on special projects that we otherwise probably would not get on our own. To be one of the groups to be invited to contribute and be a part of such a unique project was a special occasion for us. Along with the Northern California Daiku, a contingent of avid woodworkers from Palomar College in San Marcos, Ca., and a group of German woodworkers, who had worked in Japan with Sugimura-san's temple building company, also contributed parts for the Shrine cart.
The completed Shrine cart can be seen at Ludo's blog. Ludo attended the April 2006 Kezuro Kai in person and took some excellent photos.

Chris Feddersohn of Palomar College also attended the event and provided us with some excellent photos.

Pictures and text of this project as it develops and other activities related to Japanese-style woodworking in the San Francisco Bay Area can be accessed at http://www.daikudojo.org . Check out this site for its growing information about activities, links to other sites, and announcements of things to come that in the future may give your skills development, your work more enjoyment, and access to other sources that have a lot of experience to share. . . and who knows, maybe an opportunity to contribute and become a better team player of global proportions.

Jay van Arsdale 2-22-06