Chop, Chop, Chop

In building the kasumi-gumi shoji screens there is ample opportunity to practice a few key skills due to the sheer number of repetitive tasks. This is a good thing. Once I rough-milled all the parts of the screens, from rails to stiles to kumiko, then did the initial planing and then the marking it was time to start on the mortises. With a rough count of 222 mortises (some of which are over 18″ in length, that’s a lot of mortises. dscf0090

Here’s an abstract picture of how the top rail, center rail, hip board, and bottom rail line up.


To speed up the process, I drill out the bulk of the waste on the mortises with the drill press. Here I’m boring out the long mortise for the hip board on the bottom rail.


…and with the help of a strong IPA, transferring the mortise markings to the tsukeko.


Trying to keep it simple.


An IPA can only get you so far. Coffee ends up being the real workhorse of this project.


Cleaning up the mortises, post drilling.


These guys, along with my mortising chisels, got a lot of work. Time for the sharpening station.


Mortises-chopped! Looks like the Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan (if you squint your eyes).


The Old College Try

Yesterday was my first attempt at sawing rift and quarter sawn boards. We didn’t get started until 2PM or so and in this latitude at this time of year, that doesn’t leave much daylight to give a detailed accounting of the process. And per usual we got a little sidetracked with a few things, not least of which was this cool log below.

The full width capacity of the LT-15 is about 26″ when all is said and done. So we needed to trim a bit off the side before slabbing it out. The plan was to saw through and through at 2″ increments and use the resulting slabs for any number of coffee tables and benches (I’ve been interested in building a sort of hybrid slab/Shaker bench lately).

As luck would have it, we hit metal right away. This came as a surprise being that this log was pulled from a stand of timber in some woods back in a friend’s pasture on his farm. But wouldn’t you know it, there ended up being at least 2-16 penny nails in this beast. We blew out one new blade entirely after the second pass and on our third try with a new blade, after digging out what we assumed to be all the metal, ended up hitting another nail. It didn’t “wreck” the second blade but it definitely had a negative effect and as you’ll see in the photos down below, created some significant chatter on the remaining boards.

After the third time of hitting metal we called it. Which means we ended up with 2 really cool slabs about 2.5″ thick and one very thick 6 inch slab with an undetermined amount of metal in it. Your heart kind of sinks every time you hit a nail and at some point you just have to cut your losses and move on. Below are the two awesome 6′ slabs we managed to obtain. The one on the right makes it easy enough to see where the nails started showing up. There’s also a great bark occlusion running down the middle. Perfect for some butterfly keys.


Quick shot of the wood pile. There’s a lot of pine in there that we’ll use for rustic benches. Otherwise we’ve got a smattering of black walnut, black cherry, a few hickory and some red and white oak here and there.


Most of the Cherry logs we got the other weekend were of medium size, the one below has about a 16″ diameter. To experiment with the rift/quarter sawn method we started with a smaller one with the idea that we would probably mess something up and didn’t want to waste a bigger one. Practically speaking my goal was to get several rift sawn boards that I could use for chair and stool legs down the road.


Here we are in the process of squaring up the log. Based on the WoodMizer graphic from the previous post we didn’t have a big enough log to get any boards from the 4 offcuts so those were just set in the woodburning stove pile. You can see here, where I’ve place some rudimentary marks on the log to indicate where I’ll be cutting to get the proper grain orientation as well as remove the pith.


And the end result. After removing the pith I basically ended up with two 4.5″ x 12″ timbers that I set side by side on the mill and then just cut into 2″ thick boards. Basically cutting two by fours, which will be perfect for stool/chair leg blanks. (I usually start with 2″x2″ blanks for those parts). You’ll notice the band saw marks-that’s a result of hitting that metal earlier which makes for a pretty rough cut. As for the resulting cuts-I neglected to get an end grain shot, nor did I take the time to measure the angles to determine exactly how many quarter sawn boards I got and how many rift sawn boards I got. The wood is now stickered in the air drying shed so the next time I get down to the land, I’ll get those picture and measurements and post here.


In these last two photos you can see some better examples of the rift sawn grain. Not perfect by any stretch and my understanding of the process is still a little fuzzy, but we will get there sooner or later. We do have 1 sycamore log and two really good sized white oak logs that are perfect candidates for this process and I’ll be sure to post the photos from that go-round.



Kasumi Gumi Shoji – Marking and Measuring

After the initial rough sawing of all the pieces for the second set of shoji screens out of Book 1 of Shoji and Kumiko Design, by Des King, I planed every piece to size. The horizontal and vertical kumiko, and the tsukeko all needed to be 6.4mm thick and the kasumi kumiko sized to 4mm thick.

The best way I’ve found so far to ensure uniform thickness after rough sawing is to adhere to 6.4mm strips along the bottom of my 22″ bevel up jointer plane. I set it to take very fine shavings and after several passes on each side of the kumiko the piece is sized correctly. It takes a bit of time, but I can size 2 to 3 kumiko at a time which helps speed up the process. For the stop I just use a small piece of wood in the tail vise and get to planing.


And here are all the parts ready to be marked and cut.


Before going further, I like to lay out the pieces in the order that they will go together. It helps to visualize the end goal and alerts me to any oddities that may have cropped up in the sizing process.


Next is laying out all the markings on the story stick. Before reading Des King’s book, I wasn’t familiar with using a story stick but it is indispensable in this process.


And the first kumiko mortise in one of the stiles. This mortise is for one of the kasumi-kumiko and is 4mmx4mm. I like to drill out the hole and then chisel out the rest w/a 1/8″ mortise chisel.

From here I’ve got lots of marking, mortise making, and sawing to take care of…time to get to work.


Kasumi-Gumi Shoji

In March of 2014 I purchased Des King’s book, “Shoji and Kumiko Design, Book 1, The Basics”. In that volume, there are three different shoji screens and a small number of kumiko arrangements that you can follow the plans and build yourself. I built the first screen that same year and played around with the asa-no-ha kumiko pattern as well. As life would have it, I got sidetracked on this and that and only now have I come back to this great how-to manual.

Which I left off at Shoji #2, or Kasumi-Gumi Shoji. For this example I’ll be building both screens as they are mirror images of each other. According to Des, Kasumi means mist and so there several different lengths of kumiko that represent mist in a way that only several small pieces of wood can. This shoji screen also incorporates a hip board. I’m kind of excited about that part as down the road I’m interested in integrating live edge hip boards to contrast with the somewhat strict structure of the shoji screens.

I’m give Monterey Pine a try this time-they actually sell it at the local big box store and it’s very nice wood and certainly less expensive than Port Orford Cedar and Alaskan Yellow Cedar. I’ll learn quickly if it’s adequate for the task at hand. For the hip boards I’m using Black Walnut from a tree I milled and dried myself and that will contrast nicely with the lightness of the pine.



Finally got my hands on a “maebiki oga”. I’ve been interested for some time with the idea of ripping boards from trees by hand and this particular saw seems to be the best bet. It measures 32″ from end to end and about 12″ at the widest part. It came with a handle which needs to be replaced and as you can see in the photo, that is also the location of the worst rust. I’d estimate it weighs around 6-7 lbs.

The saw body itself is perfectly flat and the teeth are in good condition. I’ve used saws of course for some time now but never really stopped to consider how they even work in the first place. Mostly I’ve used impulsed hardened blades that I just replace when they become dull.

Fortunately Tools for Working Wood has a very useful PDF on their website, courtesy of Gramercy Tools that gives a detailed rundown of saw anatomy, titled, “Elements of Saw Tooth Design”. This helpful PDF covers Rake, Fleam, Slope, Pitch, Gullet Depth, and Set. For the Maebiki below, you can see that it has a positive rake, and a rather aggressive one at that. As for fleam, it has none, which is typical of a rip saw(and will simplify the sharpening process). It also has no slope to speak of. For pitch, it’s progressive, ranging from 3TPI at the heel to 2TPI at the toe which makes it a bit easier to start the cut and then makes for faster cutting once you are moving. The gullet depth is variable as you can see from the image below, but they are fairly deep and that makes sense, given the size and amount of shavings that this blade would produce.

And lastly the set. From what I can tell given my limited experience, the set is moderate on this saw. It’s not totally flat and also not too extreme. Once I actually get the opportunity to try it out, then I’ll be able to determine whether or not it needs to be increased further. And for that, I’ll need to get my hands on a small anvil, or perhaps a chunk of Iron wood, which would be cool to have. I’ve seen it growing in the woods around here, but it’s a slow grower and not so common.


The next step will be to remove as much rust as I can, fashion a new handle and begin the sharpening process. For that I was able to find a 150mm feather-edge file to sharpen the teeth on eBay for $12, which is the largest I’ve been able to find so far. I’ve never sharpened a saw before, let along one as large as this one but I think having bigger teeth will make it easier in one sense and be helpful in measuring my progress.

Spoon #2 In Oak

Here are a few photos from my second attempt at spoon carving. This one is from the same piece of Oak as my first one-this was my attempt to replicate the traditional Swedish Spoon that appears in Willie Sundqvist’s book, “Swedish Carving Techniques”.

One benefit from using Oak is that you end up learning how to sharpen your tools rather quickly. This guy ended up being a birthday present.

Right now I’m sticking with “rough cut” shaping and leaving the tool marks, rather than smoothing out with sand paper or card scraper. I like the look that gives.