Jokan Ohama

A Unique History

Thomas Matthews' technique and design philosophy emerged from an invaluable partnership with Jokan Ohama, a Japanese architect and master woodworker. Thomas Matthews met Mr. Ohama in 1982 and, brought together by a common passion for craftsmanship, the two became friends and worked together for the next twenty years, first as master and apprentice, and later as business partners. The techniques and methods that Mr. Ohama imparted during his time in the US provides Thomas Matthews and his shop with the framework upon which to produce works of uncommon quality and versatility. photo: Leslie Matthews

Japanese Joinery Sawmill Furniture Stairways Doors and Windows

Japanese Joinery

The techniques of wood construction that Thomas Matthews learned under the tutelage of Jokan Ohama have a long and cherished history in Japan. The structural flexibility and resistance to trauma that they impart to buildings is possibly a reason why Japan is home to the world's oldest extant wood-frame structures. For each possible connection in a structure, many joinery techniques can be used. Each type of connection possesses strengths and weaknesses that must be balanced and considered in order to distribute weight, display the quality of the wood, and allow for seasonal expansion and contraction. The intensity of devotion required is great, but the rewards of using these techniques can be phenomenal, allowing great, cantilevered spans, and lofty buildings that seem to defy their own bulk.

photo: Warren Padula

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Japanese Joinery Sawmill Furniture Stairways Doors and Windows


In order to provide the most efficient and flexible service for our clients, we purchase the vast majority of our materials as raw timber, which we cut and prepare for the needs of the project at our at-shop sawmill and lumber kiln. This method produces much less waste than industrial timber suppliers, and is more respectful to the trees. It also allows us to provide lumber in large dimensions. On large projects, it is not uncommon for Thomas Matthews to see a tree through all aspects of its use, from its felling in the forest to its myriad places in the finished project. We also have extensive experience in using salvaged and recycled wood and look for reclaiming material from local trees felled in storm and construction.

Japanese Joinery Sawmill Furniture Stairways Doors and Windows


Decades of living and working amongst trees and lumber has given Thomas Matthews a keen and inventive eye for the possibilities hidden beneath their bark. The results of this attention are shown in the curling, shimmering forms within the tables and chairs that Thomas Matthews has crafted over the years. We keep an inventory of particularly promising and nicely figured wood to use in furniture and look forward to working closely with customers to produce a piece that will reward use with lustrous warmth and comfort.

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Japanese Joinery Sawmill Furniture Stairways Doors and Windows


The stairway is often a point of beauty and visual interest in the home, and their creation is a puzzle offering the potential for innovation and elegance. We specialize in the design and construction of stairways, especially helical and spiral stairways, and relish the challenges, and opportunities for unique design that they present.

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Japanese Joinery Sawmill Furniture Stairways Doors and Windows

Doors and Windows

We have a long and diverse experience in the design, production, and installation of custom windows and doors. Our work history includes circular-tracked sliding doors, custom designed roman blinds, and windows and doors using automatic openers. If necessary, we can customize or create hardware to fit special conditions.

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