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Since I started out in pre-internet days, I relied a lot on books. These are a few that I found helpful along the way.

Shoji: How to Design Build and Install Japanese Screens  by Jay Van Arsdale. About $15

Great book on shoji. If you are lucky enough to be in the Bay Area, Jay teaches classes in Japanese woodworking as well.

The Complete Japanese Joinery by Hideo Sato and Yasua Nakahara. About $20

Focusing primarily on carpentry and house building with great overview of how to cut specific joints and where to use them.

Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their tradition Spirit and Use by Toshio Odate. $26

Toshio was a shoji maker in Japan and he explains tools and tells stories of his apprenticeship. This was a really important book for me.

Making Shoji by Toshio Odate. $15

The title says it all.

The Art of Japanese Joinery  by Kiyosi Seike. $17

Mostly a picture book of pretty joints and not of much help in cutting them. Nonetheless, it is on the shelf of nearly every woodworker (Japanese style or otherwise) I know.


Stett Holbrook

Stett is a senior editor at MAKE with abiding interest in food and drink, bicycles, woodworking, and environmentally sound human enterprises. He is the father of two young makers.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

Contact Stett with tips and story ideas on:

*Sustainable/green design
*Young Makers
*Action sports


  1. Awesome guide, thanks for posting. I would love to get into joinery. Need to accrue a few things first… :)

  2. I was fortunate to take a Basic Woodworking course with Toshio Odate in NYC at Pratt one year. He embodied the Japanese approach to craft and I have often thought of him when I create and build my works. I am glad to see your collection of books contains several of his works and they continue to be used by current craftsmen today.

Japanese Woodworking: A Gift Guide for Beginners