Redwood Box

I thought I’d see how a bit of Redwood 2×4 works with hand tools. I started by re-sawing a 17″ length of Redwood 2×4 for the sides and bottom of the boxes. A single length of 2×4 yields four pieces that plane to 1/4″ or three pieces that plane to 3/8″ when cut with a fine kerf saw like my ryoba.

Resawing Redwood

I’m still wondering how the Japanese shokunin would resaw lumber without a bench clamp. If the piece had some length to it I could lay it horizontally on the saw horses, but for short lengths cut into thin pieces?

Cat laying on tools

One of the cats I’m taking care of, a beautiful little tortoise shell named Kristina, thinks my chisel roll is a nice place for a nap.

Edge Planing

I planed the resawn pieces to thickness with my kanna at the planing board. Here you can see my kanna on edge for planing the edge of a board while atop another piece of board. This is largely the reason why the planing stops on the planing board don’t go all the way across.

Ripping Redwood

Ripping thin stock to width can be difficult with a Japanese saw. The cutting angle has to be low to the board and a hand or foot keeps the chatter minimal. Vibram’s Five Fingers shoes are my typical foot wear when in the shop.

Cutting Rabbits with kebiki

I used my marking gauge to help cut the small rabbits that join the sides of the box. Even though the early wood of Redwood is really soft the late wood rings are tough. I broke the tip off the blade of my marking gauge twice while cutting these rabbits. You use the gauge to score the cross-grain as deeply as possible.

Cleaning Rabbit

Then pare across the grain with a chisel to remove the waste. In this Redwood I managed to pare away about 1/16″ at each pass of the marking gauge.

Redwood Box rabbit

When you are 1/16″ to 1/32″ from your layout line on the end grain you can use the same set of the marking gauge to cut the rabbit to final depth.

Layout for box bottom

On the lower right frame of the photo above you can see where I used my 1/4″ mortise chisel to mark the width for the dado that houses the top and bottom of the box. I use the same set of the gauge to mark both the top and bottom dado.

Cutting dado

With the grooves marked out as deeply as possible the mortise chisel, bevel down, cleans the waste. You will have a lot more control of the cut with a firm downward pressure on the chisel.

Scoring dado

I used my marking gauge to score the sides of the groove as I cut to depth. The gauge was already set to the outside most side of the dado. To score the inside edge I made a gauge block that ran along side the board, allowing me to use the same gauge to score both sides. There are so many faster ways to make a groove like this, but skill with a chisel does not come easily and is largely a matter of practice. For the shorter ends of the box I simply used a fine rip saw to cut the sides of the dado to depth. Much faster!

Redwood Box

The hand plane finish on Redwood positively sparkles. I used two small finish nails at each corner to lock the joint while the glue dried.  I decided not to add any kind of pull to the sliding top, nothing to interrupt the clean view of the wood. These boxes have a 16″ internal length for storing artist paint brushes.

Woodworking While Away from Home

What do you do when you know you’re going to be away from the woodshop for a week or more? I’m currently house-sitting for my Grandfather while he’s off traveling, and decided to bring along a chest of tools and see what kind of work I can get done.

Makeshift Planing Beam

My grandfather built this house many a year ago, but its never really been finished. There’s always some kind of lumber on hand as well as saw horses. I grabbed an 8′ 2×12″ to use as a temporary planing beam. Its butted up against a structural beam for the roof, and has two framing nails for a planing stop.

Nail Planing Stop

I had just recently replaced most of the decking with redwood, so there is a great deal of scrap 2×6″ to work with. Its quite worn and warped, so it took a bit of work to get the pieces jointed up for laminating together. Its such a pain in the butt having to sharpen your plane blade constantly because of the dirt that works its way into the cracks on old decking lumber, but it can’t be helped. It was snowing while I prepared the lumber; good motivation for getting the work done quickly and moving inside.

I decided that a small planing board would be the best fit for the tools that I brought with me. If I was making doors or shoji I would be laminating up a longer planing beam from the scrap 2×6″. I should say that I’m quite lucky that my Grandfather has a ridiculous number of pipe clamps on hand for gluing up large stuff like this. I could do it with rope and wedges, but clamps are nice if you got’em.


The  block for the planing board is about 4′ long x 12″ wide x 5″ thick. I also nailed together a couple of Japanese saw horses from 2×6″ and 2×4″. Normally the planing stops and legs are attached with sliding dovetails, but because this is meant to be temporary and expedient I just screwed them on.

Planing Board

The planing board is 6-1/2″ high. Certainly it would be acceptable to have a thinner board, say, made from 2×4. As it were my planing board is nice and hefty, but being made from Douglas Fir, I can still pick it up to move it.

Working with planing board

It takes a bit of getting used to sitting while working at a planing board, but it is quite a bit more comfortable than standing by the end of the day. Of course, I only use my Japanese planes while seated like this.

Wooden box

Here’s a little wooden box with sliding lid made from some of the scrap decking. I’m house-sitting for the rest of the week, so lets see what else I can get up to.

Folding Screen Shoji


I just finished these new shoji panels today! I wanted to make something that I could offer for sale ready to go, and a folding screen set seemed like the best thing for people who love the look of shoji, but aren’t ready to lay out the money for a tracked installation.

My eye tends to like a bit more horizontal lines in the kumiko work, so I used a Yokogumi-shoji layout. This project also features my first use of the jaguchi rail extension, which really adds an elegant touch to the facing side of the shoji.

Shoji stile layout

Construction started with getting the Douglas Fir to rough size on the table saw and dimensioning to close tolerance with hand planes. Above you can see all six stiles clamped together to lay out the positions of the mortises and cut to total length. Marking with everything ganged together like this only works if you do a really good job dimensioning your material.

Kumiko layout

That need for accuracy applies even more so when marking and cutting kumiko. Here are a stack of horizontals clamped together for marking. I try to keep the knife lines quite light when marking for mortises on the thin edge (mitsuke) of the kumiko so that I don’t have to take a lot off in finish planing.


If you only have a few tenons to cut, as for example my vertical kumiko which numbered only five, a saw and chisel works the best. But if you have a lot of tenons to cut a rabbit plane can save time and do a better job. I used the edge of my planing beam as a fence to help keep the plane aligned square in the cut.

Kumiko tenons

The finished tenons are crisp and even. I did have to pay close attention to setting the fence on the rabbit plane. I endeavored to cut the end of the kumiko squarely when cutting to length, but  ended up having to make small adjustments to stay on my layout lines.


I used a double haunched tenon for the rail to stile joinery. It basically doubled the amount of work mortising, but I felt it is worth it for the strength of the panels, especially considering how thin I tend to make my top and bottom rails. I use a little wooden square as a reference when cutting the mortise to its full length. A wooden square is nice because I tend to drop it a lot in the course of cleaning the mortises. A metal square would quickly be rendered inaccurate after so many times hitting concrete.


As far as cutting the tenons, a fret saw was a time saver for removing the waste between the double tenon and between the jaguchi extension. What is a jaguchi rail extension you ask?


The front face of the rails and stiles lie flush with each other. In order to be able to put a chamfer on the inside facing edges of the pieces the rails need a small diagonal extension to match the chamfer of the stiles. The extension is cut first and the chamfers planed to match. I worried greatly about my accuracy in making all the jaguchi cuts exactly the same distance from the tenon shoulder. I’ve added this angled cut to my saw practicing exercises.


The jaguchi extension required a very thin 1/8″ (3mm) mortise chisel to clean the waste between the extension and the tenon.


It definitely added time to this project to use this joinery, but man, these joints are awesome and strong! With the tenons finished I went back and finish planed my kumiko to final thickness. The all important chamfers to match the rail extensions were also planed with my Japanese adjustable chamfering plane. I wouldn’t have tried the rail extension without it.


The kumiko for each screen were assembled with a bit of glue in the lap joints. I did a much better job this time around with the fit on my kumiko joinery. It all came down to checking each and every piece with a dial caliper. My final thickness for kumiko was .296″ and a difference of two thousandths of an inch was noticeable.


With the shoji assembled its important not to scratch up the finish on the face when applying the paper. I cooked up a batch of sticky rice glue and patted it on with a brush. The professional shoji paper from rolled out beautifully. The paper comes in a 36″ wide roll, so I was able to get two panels covered for one length by cutting down the middle.


All that remains is adding a few hinges and this set of panels is ready to add elegance to a home or office. I definitely see making more of these in my future.