The Fuigo Joinery II

The work of building a traditional Japanese box bellows continues. For those who are just joining in, or who are looking to make a fuigo of their very own, the partial set of plans can be found in a previous post, Designing Fuigo. The joinery is very straight forward, nothing crazy, though that is probably a matter of perspective. I still consider myself a beginner woodworker, though there is a great deal I have learned since cutting my first finger joints for a bee hive.

I was trained to have students and teach playing the flute, and private instruction is very common in music. So it is not a leap for me to consider teaching woodworking. Though, the question that you ask yourself is if you have anything worth teaching. The fact of spending every day working with tools, many of them human powered ones, skews my perspective on that question.

But still, I end up with doubt about the teaching thing. I’ve been reading with great interest Sebastian’s blog: for a couple of months now. He’s started teaching, showing what a couple of students who truly want to learn can do in a short time, and also developing his own pedagogy for Japanese carpentry.

I woke up this morning and there’s someone left a comment on my blog, in the city right next to me, asking to study with me.  I mean, hello, what the hell am I waiting for?  Its an interesting turn of events that I can’t ignore, like a punch in the shoulder, get this craft  going in your local community.


So, back to the fuigo. I marked out the short sides of the box, using pencil, so sorry its not as visible as pen. I knew that I made my panel larger than necessary to get the two side pieces from, but was extra pleased that my layout was able to maintain the same grain orientation between pieces as well as avoiding the two largest knots in the panel. Even though the sides of each piece will be curved, I used a square layout to define the spaces.


The sides were knifed over using the same curved ruler as for the top and bottom dados I cut in the previous post.


The pencil line is the square marking for the side. The knife line is concave to the pencil line. One interesting consequence of the curve is that the thin 1/8″ dado at the bottom of this piece must also be curved. After marking the long edge with the curved ruler I marked the 1/8″ dado top and bottom and used the same curved ruler to knife the other side.


Although my body still complains when leaning over to saw, its hard to beat cutting thin paneling on a planing board. This is also the position I am least accurate with, so I cut slightly outside my lines so that they could be planed square.


Normally I’m bemoaning the fact that my shooting board is so long. Its kind of cumbersome, but in this case it was not long enough. I traded between my planing beam and this shooting board to plane to my knife mark.


Trimming the other side created its own new challenge, working into the corner. I really considered stopping to make a bullnose plane, but I’ve reached my limit for making tools to build this project. I want to actually get this done, you know?  So I went as simple as possible, cutting a small oak block to back up the blade from my block plane. Is this a chisel or a plane? Technically its a jigged blade, though there’s nothing but my hand holding it together. In any case it got the job done with a few light taps of my hammer.


The same oak block also worked great as a paring block. I did a shitty job of sharpening my chisel for this cut and end grain tear out resulted. Can you see the left side of the chisel, how I totally missed polishing out the corner? I have a tendency when sharpening freehand to put more pressure on the right side of the blade. To sharpen evenly I find that I have to feel like I’m pressing harder on the left side. When you see something like this, its back to the sharpening stones.


For the small dado I had to use my marking knife to score the curved sides. This project is really using my router plane a good deal, though all of this could be done with chisel only.


These specialty planes are great, but you need a lot of blades to cover all the widths you might need. This roll holds both my router cutters and my plow plane blades, tongue cutting as well. Its a lot of tool steel in one place, and I always carry the roll around very carefully lest something fall out and hit the concrete. I experience a little thrill every time I roll this sucker open and see all the versatility available to me. Thanks Vertias, for making stuff that doesn’t suck.


I’ve only used hand tools for this build so far, so I didn’t want to cheat when making the waste cut for the air entrance valve. And, finally, a chance to use the ‘V’ notch I built into the top of this poor little saw horse. I say poor because there is only one of them, and I’ll never make another like this, so It’ll end up being taken apart at some point. The wide top is nice, but it tends to warp and pull the legs askew with it. To compensate I use some twine diagonally between the legs and a twist stick to pull the legs back to flat as the weather changes.


I trimmed to my lines with the paring block, which avoids the need to mark out on the other side of the panel. I’m still struggling with getting really clean end grain, this photo is a good example of a cut surface I’m not satisfied with.


Much better results can be had by using a skewed slicing motion, but I still managed to leave cut marks. The trick in the end was wetting the end grain with a little camellia oil, something I’ve seen Chris Hall use to good effect. Though its a little confusing, because he says only to be wiping down the chisel with the oil, but from his photos you can tell that there was a fair amount of oil on the wood as well. Supposedly camellia oil is volatile enough to evaporate after a couple of days, we’ll see.


Lastly for finishing out the major operations on these side pieces, chamfering the outside of the air inlet. This is a small detail that I noticed in the John Burt fuigo video on Youtube.


I started by cutting down the end grain chamfer.


And finished with the long grain. During this whole day I was thinking how this fuigo is begging to be made with a power router and a good set of templates. Obviously there is not a huge demand for box bellows, but they could be made quite quickly if you cared to (and had machines that could handle planing the wide paneling). The beauty of the hand tool approach is not needing a huge planer or sander, a couple kanna and skill replace $15,000 in power tools. Suddenly that $1000 kanna starts looking more reasonable, though stick to the used market for good Japanese steel, the deals to be had are ridiculous.


One thought on “The Fuigo Joinery II”

  1. Gabe, I’m really really happy you are opening your workshop for others to learn. Makes me think of the structure of scientific revolutions, by Kuhn whom I never read. But the story goes something like this, science doesn’t advance via rational progress. An old generation dies, and new guys come to the fore with a different way of doing things, and there is a fight in between. Jason always says it comes in waves, people start looking at japanese tools, mystify them and then forget them. Every ten years or so.

    But I think this time is different, or I want to think it’s different. Stupid good deals can be had in ebay or buyee, Junji and Murakami are really friendly and helpful, and hopefully they can keep on supplying us with tools for many years more, and more importantly, we have started to make the stuff ourselves, the madonoko for example. And now you are finishing what may be the second proper fuigo in america… Imagine the possibilities that it will create.

    We just need to reach some kind of critical mass and the ball will not stop rolling.

    I love the router blades btw, I left my stanley in Europe, haven’t missed it but I can see plenty of use for it. I guess I’m getting a few more veritas blades and bringing it home in november, your collection is inspiring.

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