What’s Behind Door #1?

After a lot of very cold, shop-prohibitive weather, the holidays, and some general laziness, I finished one of the Kasumi-Gumi hip board shoji panels. My original intent was to build two, and then a basic display frame that would allow the panels to slide as they were meant to. But I had some technical issues and had to cannabalize some of the pieces from the second door to finish the first one. Cutting all those half-lap joints by hand, particularly of the 4mm wide kumiko proved to be more challenging that I foresaw. So, good practice but I’ll have to cut some more kumiko for the second panel before I can finish the original goal.

Here’s the primary vertical and horizontal kumiko fit together and set lightly on top of the frame to get a sense of where everything goes and whether my initial measurements and cuts were accurate.


A detail of the various Kasumi (mist) kumiko after assembly but prior to attaching the shoji paper. Each of the free-end kumiko are chamfered on the top and sides. Don’t look too close or you might see some warts in the joinery:-)


After a long evening of sawing, chopping, sawing and chopping some more.


Door #1 glued and assembled.


Shoji paper attached to the back.


Time for some surgery here: I made a very simple walnut pull, using a gouge to rough out the indentation-was going for a rustic, hand-hewn look. Not perfect but kind of interesting.


And the pull mortise cleaned out.


Fitting the pull to the mortise.


And tapped down. Just need to plane the excess flush with the stile.


And the finished piece. I’m pretty happy with it. Definitely some gaps, especially where the kasumi kumiko meet the tsukeko. This is really just a result of patience or lack there of. The more time I spend really focusing on cutting the joinery, the better it is.


Mini-Me (or Mini-Home)

A few years ago (7 to be precise) when my significant other and I moved to our current home, we happened to catch an IMAX movie at a local museum. As we were exiting the theater, we noticed a large dollhouse on display. It was made entirely by hand and quite large, about 3’x4′ and about 2′ high. According to the information card, it was built by the original owner of the actual house in 1932. And as we looked closer, we were remarking about how similar it looked to our house. The roof was open so you could see each of the individual rooms, complete with all the furnishings down to the candles on the dining room table and His & Her towels on the shower curtain rod.

Anyways, we then noticed a 4×6 photograph in the corner of the display case showing the original house as it stood today. We both looked at each other with kind of wide eyes, realizing that in fact this was a scale model of our home that we had just bought! It was pretty crazy. This entire miniature version of our actual home. I felt like a kid again, staring in amazement at all the detail, the individual wood shingles, the cast iron pots on the stove, the list went on and on. The guy that built this dollhouse spared no expense.

Given the craziness of it all, I contacted the museum and let them know if they ever happened to de-accession this particular piece, that we would love to have and return it to its original “home”. Well, just a couple weeks ago, one of the curators called me and asked if we were still interested. And so I was able to pick it up this week and bring it back to where it was built.

Apparently the dollhouse was built by the original owner of the house in 1932 for his two daughters who then many years later donated the house to the museum in town. A handwritten note on the bottom of the house by the builder stated that it is in fact to scale: 1 inch = 1 foot. As the museum ran out of space recently, they contacted us, with the blessing of the daughters, to see if we would be interested in taking it back. And so it has returned.

I will design a stand for it and we’ll display it in what is now the den. And I’ll post more pictures soon. But here’s a sampling…


The living room:


The dining room:


And for a sense of scale:


I Hear Those Sleigh Bells Ringing

It’s been quite cold as of late and that makes it’s tough to get out into the workshop. So I haven’t made much progress on the shoji but I keep chipping away. Once I’ve chamfered all the front edges of the kumiko, I’ll get started with the lattice work. The chamfer itself is small, approximately 0.5mm and 45 degrees to the face. img_7271

Don’t Forget…

…issue #2 of Mortise and Tenon Magazine is available for pre-order.

Over time I’ve come to appreciate those things in this life that lend themselves to quiet and contemplation. From working only with hand tools to sitting down with a cup of coffee and reading a quality magazine from cover to cover, the satisfaction of slowing everything down, for just a moment, brings a welcome respite from the day to day noise.


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.