• 10.11.16

It’s Impossible To Watch Just One Of These GIFs Of Japanese Wood Joining

The secretive art form is illustrated in these addictive animations.

Traditional Japanese carpentry is almost unfathomably complicated. Timber was joined, not by nails or screws, but by carving extremely intricate patterns into the wood, then interlocking them as self-reinforcing joints.


These aren’t your dad’s Lincoln Logs or Lego, though. The patterns include pyramidal cutouts and lines that resemble shark teeth. To the casual observer, these joints look completely absurd, a celebration of form over function only to be bested by Michael Bay’s Transformers. But in fact, they’re tiny engineering marvels designed specifically for the unique medium of particular species of wood.

“The intricacy of the joints enhance the character of the wood, bringing it alive,” wrote the authors of Wood Joints In Classical Japanese Architecture. “Many of these joints preserve the natural strength ratio carefully balancing the shear, bending, torsion, compression, and taking shrinkage into account.”

Now, as featured on Spoon & Tamago, a Twitter account is paying homage to the architectural forms. Using the design software Fusion360, The Joinery publishes animated GIFs demonstrating how these eye-bending constructions assemble together. From a look through their followers–including many designers you’ve probably heard of–The Joinery may be the worst kept secret on design Twitter. There’s clearly a reason for that.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.