The scarf as the pieces are being driven home.
Jesse De Geest/YouTube The scarf as the pieces are being driven home.

Jesse De Geest is a carpenter/woodworker in BC, Canada who shoots video on the side. His “Samurai Carpenter” shtick is somewhat annoying, but if you can get past it you’ll see a highly skilled tradesman who is devoted to his craft. And who am I to argue with his adopted persona, when his YouTube channel has more views than mine?

Check De Geest’s video (below) of the cutting and assembly of a tapered key locked scarf joint. The taper is a way to maintain strength while the key allows for tight assembly and the ability to disassemble the joint later on. Being able to disassemble joints matters because in traditional Japanese construction important buildings, such as temples, might be taken down, refurbished, and then reassembled. Drive out the pin and the scarf in the video can be pulled apart.

I like De Geest’s take on tools. Yes, he uses Japanese style hand tools, but he acknowledges the same work could be done with western style tools. You do whatever works. He mentions in passing that Japanese saws and planes are both designed to work on the pull stroke. I knew this, but never made the connection.

There are good reasons for preferring pull-style tools. The body of a Japanese saw is extremely thin, but it won’t buckle because it’s always in tension. And with most tools, you have more control pulling than pushing. If that doesn’t make sense, then consider what happens when you try to loosen a stuck nut on an engine or piece of equipment. If you push a wrench and it slips, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll bash your knuckles. But if you slip while pulling the worst that can happen is you’ll drop the wrench.

About the joint in the video below, it looks like the pieces grew there.