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.



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

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).


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.


The Standard Shoji

I finished up my first (really second) attempt at the standard shoji with an aragumi kumiko arrangement and mizugoshi structure as based on the exercises in Des King’s, “Shoji and Kumiko Design Book 1 The basics”. I ended up building only 1 of the two screens as I seriously bungled the first screen several months ago.

The end result was overall a decent product but had its share of issues, most glaring of which involved one of the 45 degree miters on the tsukeko having an embarrassing gap. Beyond that there were slight miscalculations in the size of the rail mortises allowing one upon close inspection to see the tiniest of black spaces.

My next goal is to continue with the exercises and then give the Kasumi-Gumi Shoji a go. This design incorporates a hip board which will give it a nice heft.









Poplar Shoji

At last returning to the world of shoji. After a crazy few months, life is settling back into a much needed routine. With a little work 2015 could be a good year for shoji and kumiko work. Here’s a few pics from the current project using Des King’s 1st printed book.





Next Shoji Project

Working on the tenons and mortises for the 4 joints of the screen. The tenons are haunched and the jaguchi chamfer will be cut just prior to assembly. I’m using Poplar for this project and following the instructions for the 1st of the three screen designs from Des King’s Shoji book.