Category Archives: Shoji

Andon Lamp with Asanoha Pattern

Andon Lamp

I just finished this Andon Lamp, my first. Its made out of pine, and the ordinary character of the lumber was not making me terribly excited about what the finished lamp would look like. And in the daylight it is okay, not great, but turn on the lamp and the glow is magical. It doesn’t put out a great deal of light through the shoji paper, but the mood of this piece I love.

Andon Jigumi

The pattern work for these lamps is quite intricate and time consuming, leaving me wondering if there’s actually anyone out there who would pay for it what it is worth. I actually made it for a friend’s birthday, so I’ll use it as a test case for packing and shipping.

Andon Lamp 2

What do you think? I’m already designing the next one in my head. I can see looking at the market of other people who make this stuff that I need to be able to execute the diamond and hexagonal jigumi to set myself apart.

Izutsu-Tsunagi Pattern

Izutsu-tsunagi pattern sample

The izutsu-tsunagi pattern is an abstraction of the Japanese well curb, the parallel crossed supporting structure around a well. This pattern seemed like the next logical pattern to learn after asanoha. In fact, its a good bit easier and faster than asanoha. Today is the last day I’ll be spending at my Grandfathers house-sitting, so I didn’t want to put this pattern in a frame for lack of time.

Square Jigumi

I made a small square jigumi from 5/16″ kumiko using a pair of dividers to create the even interval between pieces.

Cutting kumiko

The smaller squares that form the pattern within the jigumi were thinner 1/4″ kumiko material. It would be a real pain in the butt to try to make the lap cuts with the kumiko already cut to length for each square. With four pieces stacked together I marked four groups, one for each square, and cut the lap joinery before sawing them to length.

Izutsu-tsunagi in progress

With the small squares glued together all that’s left is the diagonal locking pieces. There’s a bit of a challenge in getting each opposing key to be equal lengths. I suppose you could use a stop on your 45 degree trimming jig and slowly bring two pieces in to length through trial and error. In essence, some fitting is necessary, but a bit of math gets you closer from the start.

Locking piece length

The small izutsu square was sized such that it formed three even intervals within the internal space of the square jigumi. So, knowing the interval between the izutsu kumiko, its a simple matter to calculate the length of the diagonal locking piece. Pythagorean theorem anyone? With a simple right triangle you can just multiply the length of one side by 1.414 to get the hypotenuse, but its useful to know both methods of calculating.  I’m working to the thousandth of an inch and that is the tolerance that you need to be working with (for us poor Americans not accustomed to the metric system). I should think that if the thickness of my kumiko wasn’t consistent I would have a lot more time fitting these pieces. I’m pretty happy if my kumiko holds tolerances +-.002″ from what I want. Don’t force the first set of opposing diagonal pieces. If the fit is too tight there it will squish the izutsu square and make more trimming necessary for the remaining diagonals.

This pattern is great and I’m eager to use it in a larger shoji project, possibly as a border. Or, if I get the gumption, a whole shoji panel set with square jigumi with izutsu-tsunagi!

Asanoha Pattern Piece

Asanoha pattern

The redwood boxes I made a couple days ago inspired me to try using the rest of the redwood 2×4 I had for a small asanoha pattern piece. It measure one foot quare with a square jigumi and 1″ square frame. Because I’m still away from my home shop all of the work was done with hand tools.

Japanese mortising

I’ve been watching lots of Youtube videos of Japanese shokunin working at a planing board and they use their legs and feet to hold material while doing all sorts of stuff. It looks awkward, but turns out its faster than clamping material for mortising. In addition, my knees were absolutely screaming from sitting cross-legged and kneeling all day, so anything you can do to stretch them out feels good. Normally I’m sitting at the same height as the material I’m mortising, so working this way actually allowed me to be less stooped over.

Mitered mortise and tenon

For the frame joinery I used a mitered mortise and tenon. Not quite as strong as the mitered boxed mortise and tenon, but this piece is so small it didn’t seem necessary.

Square Jigumi

The kumiko work was quick, so few pieces to cut and mortise. I’m finding it necessary to finish plane my kumiko while checking thickness with a dial caliper to get accurate results. A kumiko-kezuri-kanna plane with holdown bar would really help my tolerances. I’ll definitely be making one in the future.  Iida tool sells a hikouki kanna by Inomoto for a mere $900. I think you can see why I use a much simpler kanna to make my kumiko.

Asanoha pattern

The mitered mortise and tenon required some clamps to hold things together for glue-up. I had a little trouble with the angles on my miters this time. The 45 degree jig that I used to trim the miters on the mortised ends was starting to get a little inaccurate and worn from use. I didn’t notice it until I test fit the frame pieces. Thankfully it was correctable without changing the total inside length of the frame pieces. This piece was sixteen hours to make, so its worth about $200 if it were to be sold.

Folding Screen Shoji

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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 eshoji.com 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.

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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.

Making a Wooden Marking Gauge for Kumiko Work

Wooden Marking Gauges

From left to right: splitting gauge, pencil marking gauge, knife marking gauge, double 1/4″(6mm) tenon marking gauge, and a 1/4″(6mm) mortising gauge for kumiko work.

These are all of the gauges that I use in my shop. The two on the right are the newest, brought about through a need to do more complicated and smaller joinery. Although I did not start with a home made marking gauge, these are the ones that now get the most use. I learned how to make these from Toshio Odate’s book “Japanese Woodworking Tools”. This post will show how I made the smallest one, my kumiko marking gauge.

Wood for marking gauge

The fence and the beam rough cut to length are so small they look like off-cuts that fell under my bench. The fence will be quartersawn oak. Its nice if the beam has a diagonal grain.

Wedge template

The mortise for the beam is centered on the width of the fence. The placement for the beam was by eye, a little to one side of center along the length of the fence. With the beam mortise marked, I use the wedge from my shoulder plane as a template for the keyed wedge I’ll be making for the gauge. I estimate by eye how large I want to make the wedge, and hold the template against a square placed on the lay out line for the edge of the beam mortise. Now an accurate mark for the wedge angle can be made. I also put a few pencil marks on the wedge template to tell me how much of the wedge segment I’ll be using to cut the actual wedge.

Gauge fence layout

It can be hard to see the mortise lines that go with the grain in oak, so I darkened them in with pencil. The beam is 3/8″ square and the wedge will be 1/4″ thick. Time to get the chisels out and chop the mortise, starting with the one for the beam.

Mortised marking gauge fence

With the mortises cut I chamfer all of the edges and corners. You want the fence to be very comfortable in the hand, no sharp corners to poke you and throw off your layout work. Next to the fence for a size comparison is my smallest plane, a Lie-Nielsen block plane. The smaller the work, the smaller the plane you use. I used my low angle Block plane for dimensioning the fence and beam, and the little Lie-Nielsen for chamfering.

Wooden Marking Gauge

Another size comparison with my most commonly used marking gauge. I’ve fitted the beam to the fence. I used the larger marking gauge to mark the beam slightly larger than the mortise for the beam. Then the fit was brought in with a block plane a few shavings at time, until the beam was secure but could move freely. Now for the fun part, the wedge!

Wedge fitted in fence

I used the wedge template as a pattern in some 1/4″ thick oak. You need a little room in front of the rounded part of the wedge such that the wedge can be loosened  but still remain secured in the fence. I cut the wedge out with a scroll saw, and pared the sloping top of the wedge flat to my pattern line with a chisel. Then its a matter of checking the fit of the wedge in the fence. It should be making good contact with the length of the fence mortise. If you tap it tight and loosen it several times with a hammer, any high spots that are rubbing will show up as burnished marks, and can be pared away with a sharp chisel until the fit is good. The wedge should secure the beam with a light tap of the hammer. This is not something to rush, the quality of future work depends on consistent marking.

Setting pin gauge

This gauge is set to the width of my 1/4″ mortising chisel, which gets a lot of work making shoji. In essence this gauge will ONLY be used for this chisel. I have other 1/4″ chisels, but they vary slightly in width. Two small finish nails were used as pins, inserted into slightly undersized holes, and filed to a chisel point. Adjustments in the width of the mark can be made by filing the pins on one side or the other. Both pins must be at exactly the same height for the gauge to mark evenly.

1/4" 6mm pin marking gauge

The finished marking gauge, so tiny! It makes my hand look very large, and I feel like I’m holding a baby bird. You can see on the opposite side of the beam that I messed up drilling the holes for the pins. My drill press table was at an angle resulting in leaning pins.

This gauge turned out well and I’ve already put it to use marking the jaguchi joints for tsukeko and kumiko mortises. I’m currently working on a three panel set of shoji for a folding screen set. Time to make something for sale! I’ll be adding a gallery page to my website when its done where I’ll show pieces for sale.