Mizugoshi Structure & Aragumi Arrangement

Switching gears back to doors, I’ve just finished milling the lumber to build a pair of Arugumi-shoji screens. In my first attempt to build a shoji screen I followed along in Jay Van Arsdale’s book, “Shoji: How to Design, Build, and Install Japanese Screens”. That resulted in this:


An OK first try. I’d rate it a C+.

For my second go, I’m following along with Desmond King in his book, “Shoji and Kumiko Design: Book 1, The Basics”. In it, he describes how to build three different shoji screens; the standard shoji, the kasumi-gumi shoji, and the kawari-gumi shoji. I’m starting with the first one, a standard shoji with a mizugoshi structure and an arugumi kumiko arrangment.

King goes into some detail as to how those structures and arrangements are arrived at. If you are interested, I highly recommend his book. For my purposes, I will be building a set of shoji screens that each have 3 vertical kumiko and 5 horizontal kumiko. One addition to this set of doors that I did not include with my first screen is the tsukeko. This is essentially an interior, secondary frame that the kumiko sit inside and that is then housed within the actual rails and stiles.

The main challenge so far is the conversion between metric and imperial. The calculations themselves are not the problem, it’s that the imperial system is ingrained in my head, not to mention all my tools except for a ruler that I own that has a metric scale on it and a set of Japanese bench chisels. I find myself going back and forth both mentally and in measurement which in fact makes a difference when you are dealing with millimeters and 1/32nds of an inch. On the one hand I crave the exacting specifications but on the other, it’s somewhat of a stumbling block.

My solution thus far is to go through the project instructions and convert everything; first to an imperial decimal, then to an equivalent fraction. This frustration brought to you by America (and to be fair let’s not forget the Anglo-Saxons and the Romans). If you decide to follow that link remember two things: grab a stiff drink and keep telling yourself it’s OK that you are actually interested in that sort of thing).

Nonetheless, I came to a more or less satisfactory compromise that I’m hoping will work out in the end. (when all is said and done I’ll post the exact measurements for anyone who is interested….in Imperial Units).

Onto the milling. I’m using Poplar. I used it before and as far as I can tell it is the most convenient and appropriate wood to use in my situation. It’s affordable, it planes well, it’s light-ish, and it’s quite enjoyable to work with. And just to clarify, Poplar actually comes from the Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera). The heartwood is often greenish, and the sapwood is white to yellow in color. It gets a bad rap sometimes, but for shoji, it’s ideal. Still, some of the wood can get streaked with black or green and this can take away from the appearance. I’m going to try to use its contrast to my advantage in how I arrange the different pieces. We’ll see how it goes.

To mill it, I used the table saw with a thin kerf blade, the mitre saw to cut to length and then my benchtop planer to get all the kumiko pieces close to their final dimensions, leaving a little bit extra to compensate for the final planing with the smoother. Here’s all the pieces for the project (from left to right-stiles, top rails, bottom rails, tsukeko, story stick[MDF], horizontal kumiko, vertical kumiko):


And here are all the kumiko and tsukeko after they were run through the planer (and because it wasn’t from my choice lumber pile, I’ve lightly clamped it all together to disguise the slight warping that occurs-all of which will straighten out fine in the final assembly):


The digital calipers come in handy here. Also, for this round, I’m not using the best Poplar I have on hand as it’s more of an experiment, so there are a few knots and some less than straight grained pieces. Not a huge deal, but this can be problematic when using the power planer as the knots have a tendency to tear out.

And my tsukeko are not as thick as I would like, but I had enough scrap laying around to make them and so I hate to use the nice stock I have for a learning project and will accept the less than perfect results. At this stage in the game, I’m confident I can make adjustments to bring it all together.

IMG_2654Tomorrow I will mark the story stick and then begin marking out the stiles, rails, and tsukeko.