Precut: Mechanized Timber Frame Construction in Japan

by ziggy on May 4, 2012 -- 3 comments -- Follow

Leave it to Japan. Seriously. I recently stumbled upon this video, which demonstrates the mechanized timber frame building technology that is being employed in Japan to build homes quickly, with little human labor involved.

Japan has one of the richest timber framing traditions, with centuries of experience and a host of complicated styles and techniques that have developed over that time — take a look at The Complete Japanese Joinery book for some intense examples of the work of traditional carpenters.

Well, some of that same timber joinery is now being completely created through the use of highly precise machines. As this video explains, a single factory with less than half a dozen human employees makes all of the timber for 800-1000 homes in a single year using this “precut” method. Gulp.

Japan, as always, seems to be a culture fusing both the new and old continuously, in often striking, or contradictory ways. In one sense, it’s great that they are preserving timber framing in new construction, but it is also extremely disheartening that the human input is so incredibly little in the process.

Will the knowledge be lost if only machines are left to make the joinery? How long can one expect to have the huge energy inputs to run a factory like this, anyway?

Send Me More Updates Like This!

  • Scott

    The techno-geek side of me thinks “Hey, That Is So Cool!”..but part of me wonders, as you said, will the skills to do this the old school way be lost at some point in the future(I doubt it-someone will always do things old school)?
    As far as energy-well, people are creative. We develop the energy sources as we need them(usually)and not before. As long as fossil fuels are readily available, we will use them. When they really do run short, you’ll see serious fusion research, and a working fusion reactor(or maybe solar power satellite systems)shortly thereafter..but not until the last possible minute.

  • Joe

    I lived in Japan for 7 years outside of Tokyo- had kitchen remodeled- the Japanese carpenters used hand tools- at first I was concerned with cost and time – but the results were well worth it

  • Dan

    Very cool
    Reminds me of how Sears used to offer an option with their catalog kit homes where you could have all your timbers pre-cut and numbered.

Previous post:

Next post: