Yann Giguere is a fascinating man. Born in French-speaking Canada, he came to the US to go to college in Nebraska, where he began training as a woodworker. Through that program, he met a local furniture maker who was enamored of Japanese woodworking. Almost immediately, he says, he was hooked. That was twenty-nine years ago. In those intervening years, he has apprenticed with a number of highly skilled craftsmen trained in Japanese techniques from Vermont to Seattle and has had his own architectural woodworking business for the last several years in North Carolina. Now he has opened up shop here in Brooklyn where, in addition to his timber-framing, furniture and shoji-making, he has started teaching classes to introduce the beauty and precision of traditional Japanese woodworking to a new audience.
When we initially reached out to him, he responded immediately that he would love to do something with the group; perhaps an overview of tools and joinery. What we received was no less than a three-hour interactive class on not just the craft of woodworking in the Japanese style, but the history, tradition, and philosophy behind it. We discussed blade and plane construction and how to set them up properly, sharpening techniques, wood selection and grain orientation, some basic joints frequently employed in furniture and architecture, and how in real Japanese woodworking, one never uses sandpaper.
It’s difficult to summarize accurately all the points of such an extensive tour the world of Japanese woodcraft in a few short paragraphs. Perhaps the most important lesson that I personally took from the evening, was that the result one achieves in one’s work isn’t merely a product of the tools you use. (Although, I admit that after spending time with Yann, I have a strong urge to make some changes in my shop.) Rather, it is the spirit with which you approach the work. True, Yann carries a deep honor and respect for the long tradition he preserves, but it is the dedication to excellence in every aspect of that work that makes it so special. At each turn, there is a consideration for what is most appropriate and best for that particular moment; and that is something that everyone should aspire to.
For more info about classes and Yann’s work, visit: Mokuchi Woodworking.