Building a Bench – Japanese Style – Woodworking

Today I’m going to build this Japanese
inspired bench, where I carve a crack and hand in lay some bow ties. I also get into
three or four different types of joinery. so let’s get started. I started out cutting the boards for the
top of the bench to their approximately even though the end design idea will have
bow ties joining a crack. I decided to use standard eight quarter cherry opposed to
a slab. Mainly because it’s much cheaper I don’t always find a slab with the
crack in just the right place to fit my design vision. So after I build the
pieces for the top I took a few minutes to decide which edges to put together to
hide the glue line so the grain blends together the best. Once I found a
combination I liked I put the two boards together and use some tracing paper so I
could see through to the grain and started planning out where the crack was
going to be. I tried following the grain the best I could so it would look as
natural as possible. I did several variations tracing different parts of
the grain until I finally settled on one that I liked. I also tried to pay
attention to the direction of the end grain and used it to determine which
direction the crack would go vertically through the wood. Then I used some carbon
paper to transfer my drawing to the work piece. Yes carbon paper still exists So I can better see the line while
in power carving I darkened it all up with a sharpie Then I went to work with a power Carver
on my angle grinder. Working to the line on the top and then trying to follow
that line I’ll work my way down to the bottom. Then I use the soft pad on my random
orbit sander to smooth out the grinding marks. Now on the other side I started at the
bottom removing the bulk of the material and feathered it up to the top until I
met my layout. Once I was happy with the shape I moved
on to a little faux finishing to make the crack stand out and look weathered
like it had been there a while. I used a dark brown dye stain and coated
the crack. Since it was water-based I was able to spritz it with some water while
I buffed off the excess to create a nice weathered look. Time is money so I sped
up the drying time with a heat gun. Once it was dry I sealed in the brown dye with
some shellac, so people that sit on the bench won’t get any Brown stain from the
crack on their clothes. The shellac was a little too shiny so I
knocked down the sheen with some steel woo.l Once I was happy with the look of
the crack I mortise the edges of the boards for floating Tenon’s to help with
alignment during glue up. Then it was time to move on to in laying the
bow ties. I used some paper to cut out a few different sizes and shapes and
started laying them out until I was happy with the look. Then I use some spray adhesive to attach the chosen ones to some scrap walnut and cut them out at the band saw. I attach some double-stick tape to the
bottom of each one so I can stick them down to the bench top preventing them
from moving around while I carefully traced around each one with a razor
blade. This transfers their exact shape to the workpiece and gives the tip of my
chisel a place to register when I start chopping them out. When I start chopping out the waste, I start about 1/16 in from the razor blade line removing a little
material before I go right to the line. This prevents the wedge shape of the
chisel from compressing the fibers along the razor blade line which will make the
fit of the bow tie look sloppy. As I work my way down I did several gentle test
fits and made adjustments as I went. I never want to force it until I’m sure
I’ll get a good fit. If the fit isn’t right I risk not being able to get it
back out without damaging something and will be stuck with a bad fit up. Once I was satisfied with the fit I
glued it up and drove it home. Then planed off the excess until it was flush.
I did have a small area on the bottom where I compressed the fibers with the
chisel, so I used a wet rag and some steam to swell the grain back up to
tight fit. Once I have all three bow ties inlaid it was time to move on to milling
the legs. To get the thickness I wanted I
laminated some eight quarter lumber together. I took my time matching the
grain before glue up to help hide the glue line, and I use my favorite wood
glue to glue them up. Now that the glue is dry I use the chop saw to square off
the ends and moved over to the table saw to cut the bridle joint. I use my shop
made sled to help hold the legs square to the blade. Since I’m making the dados
almost as deep as the blade will cut it. I took several shallow passes so I
wouldn’t overtaxe the blade having the work piece drift out of alignment.
I also flipped the work piece around and made a second pass each time keeping the
dado centered on the leg. leg is going to get tapered on all four
sides so I took a piece of scrap plywood and made a quick tapering jig for the
band saw. It mainly consisted of a sled and a few registration blocks glued to
it. Then for the opposing side I saved a
cut off to take up the space where the leg was taped. I ripped it to a more
manageable width and slid it in the jig. To clean up the band saw marks I ran each
leg over the jointer. Now to fit the top rail in the bridle joint I just kept
running the board through the planer taking a little off with each pass until
I had a snug fit. Now to cut the curve shape on the upper
rails. I made a temple and used some double
stick tape to attach the pieces to it. I took the bulk of the material off at
the band saw then routed one end flush. I then raised the router bit to
expose the lower Guide bearing and routed the other side. By using a bit
with a bearing on top and bottom I can always route downhill with the grain
avoiding tear out. Moving on to the lower stretcher I found
the center of the leg and marked out for where the lower mortises are going to go.
I don’t use this mortising attachment very often, but since I already tapered the
legs it seems like the fastest most accurate way to cut the mortises. To
get the face of the leg squared to the chisel, I use one of the cut offs to shim
it up then I went to work chopping out the mortises. I use an air hose to help
clear the chips as I worked, and the smoke you’re seeing is totally normal
when you’re using tools that are as dull as this. The mortiser left the walls of
the mortise a little rough so I just used a mallet and chisel to clean them up. To cut the Tenon’s on the stretcher I
used an angle finder to find the angle. Since each leg was cut on the bandsaw
and then cleaned up at the jointer there’s about a half a degree difference
between each leg so I’ve measured and cut each tenon to match it corresponding leg. I first cut the angle on the stretchers and then adjusted the
miter gauge at the table saw to match, cutting a rabbet on both ends. Since the tenons have a slight angle to
them, cutting the top and bottom shoulders at the table saw would have
been a huge pain. So I just finished them off with a handsaw. I marked out my layout line between
the shoulders, scribe with the razor blade, and use my chisel to make a notch
for the saw blade to track in. And did the final cleanup with the chisel
before test fitting. I’m down to the final piece but before
making the trestle I wanted to get the spacing of the legs just right. So I set
them up and took a step back to see how they looked. This is what determine the
length of the trestle. To make the trestle, I found a nice piece of cherry
with a nice curve in it. I used the curve in the wood as a guide to create the
curve in the trestle. I tried to find a balance between the proportions of the
piece and the grain and the wood for the angle cut on the ends. I just picked an
arbitrary angle that looked good to my eye and the corresponding arch. In the
trestle I found the center point and drove a nail in it and then using a thin
piece of wood, I bent it around the nail creating the arch. To make the top of the arch match the
curvature of the bottom I set the scribe to the thickness I wanted and
drew it in following a lower curve. Before cutting the curve I laid out the
half lap joints to connect them to the stretchers. I set up a dado blade in the
table saw to cut them. This was a two pass operation, so I just carefully lined up
the blade with my layout lines and made the cuts I did the same operation for the
stretchers I did a quick test fit and headed to the
band saw to cut out the curve. I used the disc sander and spindle sander
to clean up the band saw marks. There are always a few little divots or
mis-shaped parts in the curve left over from the spindle sander so I just
cleaned them up by hand using a flexible sanding strip. Then a final test fit up before glue
and finish. Thank you for making it to the end of
the project. If you want to help support this channel please join me on patreon
so I can continue to build cool projects more often and of course subscribe to my
channel and hit the bell to be notified when the next video comes out.


  1. When I first saw this I thought it was a work bench and after I watched your awesome build I’ve decided to enlarge all of your dimensions and make it into one. Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I have to say only a truly talented and patient person would carve out a bit piece of wood to imitate a gap/crap and then butterfly connect it. You are a true master carpenter and it shows in your videos!!!! Merry Christmas!

  3. Nice composition, i like the design.

    you could have used a sliding dove tail on the upper stretchers (gable ties?) to attach the bench top, that would have been sweet. the screws mentioned in an earlier reply ruined it for me. also, the lower stretchers look really fragile until the trestle is installed, maybe make them taller.

  4. 好好的木頭 硬是弄成有傷的缺陷 這不是有病嗎? 即使是日式 那也是因地制宜 因材施工 而不是故意為之 桌子守重實用性 這樣弄簡直就是本末倒置

  5. "Time is money so I sped up the drying time with a heat gun " guessing you didn't think about your electricity bill rise fom using the heat gun when you said that lol

  6. The commentary on the video could probably benefit from a more natural conversational flow. That said, this piece was amazing and incredibly beautiful. Very nice work.

  7. Love it, you certainly are very talented and you feel your work, though i am a wood worker with 30 years experience I will be studying your videos to bring my skill level and eye flow up, thank you Brian, I appreciate it

  8. You are obviously a skilled wood craftsman as I can see by every detail including the bowties, so why create a live edge when its so easy to find beautiful real ones.

  9. Thank u Brian for another beautiful piece of artwork every time I see ur video I learn more and more keep posting video sensei😃

  10. Can someone tell me what spray adhesive that is. One could easily question the strength/durability of a spray used in woodwork, but Brian has no hesitation in using it. Anyway, if someone could let me know, I would be very thankful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *