Saturday, June 20, 2009

A great community project

A few weeks back, the Japanese woodworking group I am a part of, finished and installed a Cedar gate at the garden in Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. It began like all community programs -gifted monies and we work for free through the guidance of Jay VanArsdale

Originally designed by Jay, the gate did change when a student made a series of errors on a 10"x 10" from a 1000 year old cedar tree. In the Japanese tradition, one must never waste wood, but work around any error. Additionally in the same tradition it seems that a teacher knows that mistakes will be made and that is part of the process of learning ( It still does not keep one from getting spitting mad). Originally the gate frame top piece would have been a roof on its own. After the damage was done, a new idea was conceived to add a roof of cedar to cover the error.

The picture is of the finished gate when we were able to assemble the structure. Many students worked on this project in varying degrees, both in time and skill level. I have no name list and do not want to leave anyone out, so Ill just not metion anyone by name except for Jay. Jay spent class time assisting and coaching as well as many hours at home to get the gate ready for the 5oth anniversary of Lake Merritts Japanese garden. There were many pictures taken of the process which was a great learning experience. Although they are not posted yet (All of the website time is unpaid) the pictures will be posted likely by end of the summer at

If you are in the bay area and interested in woodworking by hand I urge you to look into these classes at the Oakland community colleges. I travel 100 miles to attend these classes that are on the weekends. Many travel similar distances. If you are at a distance further, I suggest you just focus on the website, there still is much that can be learned from the site and int wealth of information. Also every semester there are beginning classes available if you have little or no experience with wood. These classes focus on making a joint for the duration of the class day , learning sharpening, plane - set up and proper technique. If you are more advanced Jay will gladly give you a joint to do that is much more complex and the class has many examples of joints already made that you can take apart and get a good look at.

The gate in the picture was hand built. The finish is Bioshield penetrating oil. We took a Makita 5" power plane to the top to try and fix some errors, but besides some screws in the roof that are hidden the gate is just joints and wood set in the ground surrounded by tightly packed rock.
This is the beginning of a the larger project of replacing 200 feet of fencing and adding a few more gates in the garden if we get funding through a grant this fall. Ill keep you posted.