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Japanese Woodworking

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japanese woodworking

Japanese Woodworking Examples We Will Look At

Kumiko is the making of patterns using thin pieces of wood. These are planned and fit together at various angles. In addition this a very precise and beautiful art form. More information on Kumiko.

Shoji, meaning “to block light’, has been used in traditional Japanese construction for centuries. In addition Shoji may incorporate Kumiko in its construction. More information about Shoji.

Also find information and resources for Japanese joinery carpentry.

What Are Some Terms Used In The Art Of Japanese Woodworking?

Hake: Is a generic term meaning brush.

Hatagane: Clamps

Jigumi: A structure that houses an intricate Kumiko patterns.

Kanna: Japanese hand pull plane.

KaraKami: Intricately patterned paper imported from China during the Heian Period.

Kebiki: Generic term for a Japanese marking gauge.

Kumiko: Making of patterns using no fasteners, over 300 patterns that represent something important in Japanese culture.

Mikomi: The side of the Kumiko.

Mistuke: Front of the the kumiko.

Mitsu-kude: A Kumiko pattern based on the triangle.

Ryoba: Japanese pull saw with teeth on both top and bottom edges, one side for ripping and one side for cross cuts.

Shoji: Means to block out light and is used to describe doors, window coverings, sliding doors, screens.

Tategu: Generic term covering all internal and external windows and doors.

Tateguya: Craftsmen or business that makes and installs Tategu.

Washi: Type of Japanese handmade paper.

Tools Used In The Art Of Japanese Woodworking

Tools used in Japanese woodworking are specialized tools. In addition many years of experience are required to master them. However, many western tools can used in the making of some Japanese woodworking types.

  • Dozuki Saw: Get the best Dozuki you can afford. This will be your best friend when cutting Kumiko and small woodworking.
  • Square: A small decent 6″ square, you will use this all the time.
  • Metal and Clear Ruler: Rulers with both metric and imperial if you can get them.
  • Mechanical Pencil: A good mechanical pencil is very important for drawing those fine lines.
  • Block Plane: You will need a plane to make the angles on the Kumiko for the friction fit.
  • 1/8 Wood Chisel: Needed to clean out cuts made in Kumiko.
  • 1/4 Wood Chisel: Needed if you incorporate 1/4 Kumiko into your design.
  • Marking Knife: Better than using a pencil line to start your cuts.
  • Depth Gauge Marker: Not critical but always nice to have for depth cuts.

Kumiko

This art form has been around since the eigth century. In addition patterns in this art form include over three hundred known patterns. Examples are Asanoha (hemp leaf) and Sakura (cherry blossom). Moreover this art form is used in Shoji, used for windows, doors, furniture, urns and in hundreds of other applications.

For the hobbyist, this can be done at home in a small space. In addition only a few tools are required and a smooth space to assemble the Kumiko.

What Are Some Terms Used In The Art Of Kumiko?

This is certainly not a complete list of Kumiko or shoji terms and therefore can be used as a reference to when you are starting Kumiko.

Tool Terms

Dozuki: Very fine Japanese pull saw with a strong back to provide stiffness to the blade. This saw is used in the cutting of kumiko.

Genno: Is a Japanese hammer.

Hake: Is a generic term meaning brush.

Hatagane: Clamps

Kanna: Japanese hand pull plane.

Kebiki: Generic term for a Japanese marking gauge.

Ryoba: Japanese pull saw with teeth on both top and bottom edges, one side for ripping and one side for cross cuts.

Facts About Kumiko – Patterns

Asanoha: Very common and wide used Kumiko pattern of a hemp leaf that is seen in Kumiko as a square or hexagonal pattern. In addition in the construction of Shoji you will see the Fundo, Goma, Sakura and Asanoha patterns used often.

Of course there are many more patterns used by craftsman. In addition there are over 300 known patterns and probably many more.

Facts About Kumiko – Accessories

KaraKami: Intricately patterned paper imported from China during the Heian Period.

Washi: Type of Japanese handmade paper.

Dimensional Terms

Kumiko: Thin pieces of wood used to make Kumiko patterns.

Mikomi: The side of the Kumiko.

Mistuke: Front of the the kumiko.

Osae-mizo: A groove in the side of Kumiko.

General Terms

Shoji: Means to block out light and is used to describe doors, window coverings, sliding doors, screens.

Tategu: Generic term covering all internal and external windows and doors.

Tateguya: Craftsmen or business that makes and installs Tategu.

What are Kumiko Patterns?

kumiko woodworking

Kumiko can be constructed using one or many of over 300 known patterns. In addition each pattern represents something of importance in Japanese culture and for example most patterns are taken from nature. The Asanoha pattern for example is in the shape of a hemp leaf, where the Sakura pattern represents one of the most important symbols in Japanese culture, the cherry blossom.

Learning The Art Form

In the making of Kumiko and in Shoji, patterns range form the simple to the very complicated, and consequently masters of this craft are on a life long journey of learning. For more information on Kumiko patterns examples see Simply Native.

I have included links to the tools you will need on Amazon.

  • Dozuki Saw: Get the best Dozuki you can afford. In addition this will be your best friend when cutting Kumiko and small woodworking.
  • Square: A small decent 6″ square, you will use this all the time.
  • Metal and Clear Ruler: Rulers with both metric and imperial if you can get them.
  • Mechanical Pencil: A good mechanical pencil is very important for drawing those fine lines.
  • Block Plane: You will need a plane to make the angles on the Kumiko for the friction fit.
  • 1/8 Wood Chisel: Needed to clean out cuts made in Kumiko.
  • 1/4 Wood Chisel: Needed if you incorporate 1/4 Kumiko into your design.
  • Marking Knife: Better than using a pencil line to start your cuts.
  • Depth Gauge Marker: Not critical but always nice to have for depth cuts.

Kumiko – Strips

kumiko strips

Kumiko and parts of shoji are made from strips of wood. Pine and basswood are popular woods for this purpose. They are normally around 12 – 13 mm in height and from 2.8 – 3.2 mm in thickness.

Finding Kumiko Strips

If you don’t have the opportunity to have Kumiko strips cut you can purchase some Kumiko strips on eBay. Furthermore the most important thing to remember is that whatever piece you are making, the strips need to be the same dimension. In addition you can also purchase Kumiko kits which include all of the pieces needed to assemble a pattern.

Kumiko – Jigs

If you are cutting your Kumiko strips yourself, or you have someone cut them for you, what I normally find is that you will find some differences, in some pieces, in regards to the dimensions. After having done many pieces and patterns consequently I have found that even with the best of machines that cut Kumiko, you may still find that some pieces are slightly different in dimension.

In addition you will have to cut notches in the Kumiko, so that when they are fitted together and overlap they fit perfectly. As a result, having access to a good table saw is essential if you are going to cut them with machines. There are plenty of YouTube videos that give you great instructions on making jigs.

Below find a list of jigs I use for making Kumiko at home.

Dimensional Jigs:

Even with a really good table saw to cut your Kumiko not all pieces may be the same dimension. Moreover the height and thickness. I made two jigs to solve this. For example one is a thickness jig and one is a width jig In addition I can place the pieces in the jig, give them a couple of passes with the block plane and get them all to the same dimensions. Moreover this may seem like an additional step. Most importantly having all of your pieces the same dimensions is critical to a good finished piece.

Length and Notch Cutting Jig:

If you do not have access to a table saw to cut the notches you can make your own jig. Additionally this is where your Dozuki saw, square and depth gauge will come in real handy.

If you do have access to a table saw you will want to make a sled. This will be used to make all of your notch and length cuts. In addition this will save you tons of time.

Angle Cutting Jigs:

These jigs are needed to plane the angles needed for the pieces to fit together. Find many videos on making these jigs on YouTube. You will need a 22.5˚, 30˚, 45˚, 60˚, 67.5˚ jigs. You can use a larger wood chisel with these jigs, and alternatively you can use a block plane to cut the angles.

Instructional Books On Kumiko and Shoji

There is a series of books on Kumiko that I would recommend to use. These books are by Desmond King who has been using traditional Japanese building techniques to make Shoji and Kumiko for many years. Outside of the Japanese masters, he may be the foremost expert anywhere.

learn to make kumiko

Basics

This introductory book is one that I refer to all the time. It examine basic shoji making, design, comprehensive background information about shoji and detailed step-by-step instructions. This is supported by many diagrams and photographs.

Techniques

Moreover order to do this craft at a good or high level you will need to practice certain techniques. This book shows you how to use the tools needed and some practice techniques used by the masters. In addition this books is pretty much an essential part of your Kumiko education.

Kumiko and Shoji book volumes by Desmond King.


all about shoji

When we hear the word Shoji often times a Shoji changing screen comes to mind. In addition, if you do a little more research you will find out that, the Japanese word Shoji means “to block light”, so Shoji is used for a variety of purposes.

Traditional Use Of Shoji

Shoji can be found in traditional and modern Japanese homes and other buildings in other forms than a Shoji screen. Shoji is used as shades for windows and doors. In addition Shoji is used for sliding doors and room dividers.

In the Shoji lamp at left, washi paper, is used to dampen the light and give a muted light. Furthermore these and other items using Shoji are built using Kumiko.

Where Can I Get Books On Japanese Woodworking?

A number of reference books on Japanese woodworking and woodworking joinery can be found on Amazon.

Woodworking

learn the art of japanese woodworking

This book by Sean Graham is a comprehensive guide. Firstly you will learn the origin and history of the beautiful art of Japanese woodworking. In addition you will find reasons hobbyists and serious craftsman should consider adding Japanese woodworking to their skillset. Furthermore you will find a list of all the tools and equipment you’ll ever need and how to use them. How to pick and use a sharpening stone and keeping your blades as sharp as possible.

Secondly learn all about various wood types for Japanese woodworking. Furthermore, how to pick the perfect wood specimen for your needs. In addition get step-by-step instructions for the art of Japanese joinery, making simple joints to more advanced woodworking tactics.

and much more in this great beginner or advanced guide!

learn the art of japanese joinery

Firstly this complete guide will allow you to discover the unique history and development of Japanese carpentry. In addition learn many secrets of Japanese joinery only the master know.

Secondly find over 48 joints are covered and see 64 pages of stunning photographs. In addition the most seasoned, or weekend carpenter, can duplicate these beautiful wood joints. Moreover these can be used in the largest and smallest projects.

Learn more about Japanese joinery secrets here.

the unique art of japanese carpentry

Firstly learn about modern-day craftsmen who are working to restore a full monastery reconstruction, which will not be completed until 2030. Furthermore this will be completed using the same woodworking technology used to create this ancient building.

Secondly this book chronicles the painstaking restoration of the temple with original drawings based on the plans of master carpenter Tsunekazu Nishioka.

More than a job, these craftsmen are dedicated to preserving the unique cultural continuity found in Japan.

Learn more about Japanese carpentry


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