In wood flooring, as in most of carpentry, the quality of the product is the measure of the installer. By today’s standards, that means a floor should have tight joints and be smooth, level, and free of squeaks.But it hasn’t always been that way. In feudal Japan — where precision timber joinery was refined to a high degree — a carpenter with a wealthy client might be called upon to install an uguisubari, or “nightingale floor,” which was designed to emit a chorus of birdlike chirps under the slightest foot pressure anywhere on its surface. These floors served as early...

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