Takumi Woodwork Show How Japanese Style Woodworking Should Be Done

Takumi Woodwork Show How Japanese Style Woodworking Should Be Done

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

Most woodworkers know Japanese joinery is just wonderful, but what happens when two British guys start a woodworking business solely on this style of work?

The answer is Takumi Woodwork and the results are pretty special.

I contacted Louis from Takumi to ask him about featuring his business here on the blog, but as I was writing, I became more and more intrigued by the business side of these woodworking exploits. So I got back in touch with Louis to find out more about #thebusinessofwoodworking.

Takumi Woodwork was initially started by lifelong friends Louis Higgins and Ed Wilson. Louis being the carpenter/joiner of the duo established a successful woodworking business on the North Japanese island of Hokkaido before having to return to the UK. This return to the UK coincided with Ed finishing his University studies in architecture. The pair teamed up and Takumi Woodwork was born in 2016. Ed has since departed to work with motorcycles, and Louis carries on with the business on his own.

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

There’s something simple and pure about the Japanese style of woodworking that just draws you in. It is almost minimalist at times, but embraces the flaws and the character of the wood with gentle embellishments. Louis has captured the style perfectly.

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

As well as crafting beautiful furniture, Louis makes small everyday items. But for me, it’s his furniture that gets me— it is at such a high level. The Japanese word “takumi” translates as artisan, craftsman, or handmade, and Louis’ work embodies all these words superbly.

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

As a woodworker and business owner myself, I find it useful to explore the things that others do in their business. With this in mind, I plan to start a series of short interviews that can provide some insight into the ways other people conduct #thebusinessofwoodworking. I’m delighted to be able to kick it off with some views from a young, new business owner in Louis.

Dónal Moloney: Was it a risk to focus solely on a Japanese style of woodworking when you started Takumi?

Louis Higgins: I think it was a risk yes, but starting a business always includes a degree of risk. I think it’s more risky to start something with no ‘unique selling point’. Since I went to Japan I’ve noticed western culture taking more and more of an interest in Japan. People seem amazed at the level of patience and detail that the Japanese consider normal. Western woodworkers especially have a big interest in Japanese hand tools, and the joints used. I just don’t see risk as a problem. If something doesn’t work out, then accept it isn’t working and figure out how to make it work. If you have a passion for it, People will buy into your passion because it’s real. 


DM: How does running a woodworking business in Japan compare to running one in the UK?

LH: The main difference is, in winter once it started snowing, I put the tools away and worked as a ski instructor. I got sick of working out in the rain as a young man so I got my ski instructors qualifications. That’s how I ended up in Japan in the first place. 

The second main one is I’m not fluent in Japanese so it was more of a challenge on a daily basis, but I enjoyed learning. I was in a ski town popular with westerners with holiday homes. This meant I had no trouble getting work as there aren’t many english speaking tradesmen there. However in England I am just another woodworker, I have to actively look for work. This has been a learning curve. It’s much more difficult to run a business in a place flooded with similar businesses. The one good thing about that is, you need to try to offer something different to or better than your competitors, or the business will just go nowhere. I much prefer to just get work without trying though!

DM: What is the most profitable/lucrative type of work you have done in woodworking?

LH: There doesn’t seem to be a great deal of lucrative work so far in the new business in England. I have spent the last 18 months or so buying tools, making furniture speculatively, doing a trade show, advertising etc. I am basically throwing everything at it in the hope that one day I will make a profit. I am happy enough to do this because I love it, I come up with ideas all the time, I’m daydreaming all the time at how I can improve and what I could do in the future. I could make profit instantly by doing roofs, kitchens, and that kind of thing. I don’t find that stuff as interesting and I can always fall back on it if I have to. I do go out and hang doors or fit kitchens if I need to pay the bills. 

DM: What is your greatest struggle in the business of woodworking?

LH: My greatest struggle would be time management. I’ve spent a lot of time scratching my head wondering what to do or how to efficiently do something. I think it’s better to just go for it. It’s better to try something, makes mistakes, learn from them and then improve from them next time. 


DM: How has your woodworking business turned out differently than you expected it to?

LH: To be honest I had no idea what to expect. I just got frustrated as an employee and I always dreamed I would one day have my own business that treats staff well and everyone enjoys what they do. At the moment I’m not sure if I’d want to grow and have staff or just stay as a one man band with less pressures and stress. I’d love to somehow help young people learn woodworking in the future though. 

DM: What is the best business advice you have received, or the best business advice you could give?

LH: The best advice I have received would be the one that everyone says – just go for it. It may sound cheesy to some, but it works for me. I think you need to love what it is you’re “going for” though. It’s not an exaggeration that you have to work really hard every day. You have to make sacrifices at least for a short while. That would be really difficult for me if it was something I didn’t love doing. 

As a young man with a young business, I’m reluctant to dish out advice. When people come to my workshop they often ask where the boss is. However I do believe you can have a successful business if you love what you do, you finish every day knowing you’ve done your absolute best. Be grateful that customers want you to do the small non-glamourous jobs, and accept you don’t know everything. Accept that you can always learn something new. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. It depends on your definition of success, but I believe if you enjoy what you do you’re already successful.

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

Credit: Takumi Woodwork

Any woodworker inspired by the Japanese style of woodworking, and who wants to emulate great design, should head over to Takumi Woodwork and follow them for some creative inspiration. You won’t be disappointed.

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