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Book 3 - The writing's finished

All the Book 3 writing and pattern making is finished, and I'm now waiting for the proof copy to arrive so I can begin the editing, rewriting, and anything else that's necessary to get it into a publishable state.

The book is 196 pages, 356 photos, and 164 diagrams, and gives detailed instructions on how to make 45 hexagonal patterns.

This will bring the Shoji and Kumiko Design series of books to an end. The three books give instructions on five complete (but scaled down) shoji, and more than 80 different patterns. I started writing the first of the books more than five years ago.

The following photo is the tentative cover. Provided it looks good on the proof copy I'll receive, this will probably be the eventual Book 3 cover.

Book 3 cover

Hopefully, all the checking will be finished and the book will be ready for publishing before the end of the year.


New patterns — Futae-zakura and wa-tsunagi

These are a couple of new patterns for Book 3. The first is the futae-zakura kikkō (二重桜亀甲), and this is one of the sakura family of patterns. The other sakura patterns (sakura, yae-zakura, and kawari yae-zakura) are covered in detail in Book 2.

Futae-zakura kikkō pattern (二重桜亀甲)

The second is the
wa-tsunagi (輪つなぎ), which means a connection of circles, and in this pattern, the circles are formed by the hexagon and triangle shapes.

Wa-tsunagi pattern (輪つなぎ)

This now brings the number of patterns for Book 3 to twenty, so I've completed roughly half of what I want to include in the book. All going well, I hope I'll be able to finish making and writing some time mid-way through next year, and finally publish it no later than this time next year. Fingers crossed.


Two new patterns — Dragon's claw

These two patterns are the ryūsō (dragon's claw) variations.

Ryūsō asa-no-ha  龍爪麻の葉
Ryūsō asa-no-ha 龍爪麻の葉

Ryūsō kikkō  龍爪亀甲
Ryūsō kikkō 龍爪亀甲


Two more benten patterns

These are two more benten patterns for Book 3. The meaning of the word benten is covered in my blog entry of 24 July.

The first pattern is the
benten tawara kikkō (弁天俵亀甲). The tawara kikkō pattern was covered in my 11 July blog entry, and if you look carefully, you'll notice that the benten tawara kikkō is simply that pattern with the addition of a triangle in each jigumi triangle. The dimensions of the individual pieces have, of course, been changed to give, in my view, a better balance for the new pattern.

Benten tawara kikkō pattern 弁天俵亀甲

The second pattern is the benten mie-kikkō (弁天三重亀甲). Mie means triple, and this pattern consists of triple hexagons with the benten triangle structure.

Benten mie-kikkō pattern 弁天三重亀甲

Both of these patterns are quite fiddly, and the benten mie-kikkō in particular is perhaps getting towards the upper end of the difficulty scale. The half-lap joints of the pattern pieces are quite close together in some parts (3mm), and there were a few breakages, so it was also a good test of patience. Very satisfying when the last piece slid in.


New patterns — Urahana variations

The following three patterns for Book 3 are the urahana variations. The actual meaning of urahana (裏花) (or urabana) as it relates to these patterns is a bit of a mystery. Ura () means the back/rear, or reverse side; it also indicates a hidden meaning when used in relation to something that someone has said. Hana () simply means flowers. So here, I think the best thing is simply to accept that a kumiko shokunin sometime in the past decided to call this family of patterns "urahana" and leave it at that.

The three patterns are:

Urahana kikkō
Urahana kikkō 裏花亀甲

Yae-urahana kikkō
Yae-urahana kikkō 八重裏花亀甲

Kawari urahana kikkō 変り裏花亀甲

These are quite interesting patterns to make, and each has its own set of challenges.


New pattern — Tsumi-ishi kikkō

This new pattern is called the tsumi-ishi kikkō (積石亀甲). Tsumi-ishi means piled rocks, and in this pattern, the repeating hexagonal shapes take on the appearance of rocks stacked on top of each other.

Tsumi-ishi kikkō pattern

This is one of the simpler patterns for Book 3, but there's still enough of a challenge in cutting and trimming accurately to keep you on your toes.


New pattern and process — Yae-karahana kikkō

This is one of the more complex patterns that will be included in Book 3 — the yae-karahana kikkō. It is closely related to the previous karahana kikkō pattern.

Yae-karahana_kikko pattern

The following photos show the process I followed in putting it together. I don't explain how to make the pattern — you'll have to wait for Book 3 to be published for that — but the photos will give you an idea of what's involved in making a pattern such as this. As with all the patterns in all of my books, the yae-karahana kikkō was made without using any specialised tools; just the normal tools I detailed in Books 1 and 2.

First, I cut the three-way
mitsu-kude joints in the jigumi, then the three half-lap joints between each of the mitsu-kude joints.

Yae-karahana_kikko 02

I then cut the jigumi pieces to length, and chamfered the ends. Two of the Type A pieces will be further trimmed, but it's more efficient to cut all the pieces together.


Next, I assembled the jigumi.


After which it was time to make up the hexagons.


Eight hexagons are required, and each hexagon side is 7.5mm. The following photo will give you an idea of the size of the piece.


The hexagons are secured in place by three longer locking pieces extending from the corners of the triangles. Jaguchi joints are used to hold the hexagons firmly.


All the triangles have to be filled in.


Next, I started on the smaller locking pieces that intersect the outer jigumi pieces (red arrow below). These also use jaguchi joints to lock the hexagons.


All these pieces have to be inserted before I can move on to the next step.


The next pieces to insert are the smaller internal locking pieces (red arrow below). These have jaguchi joints at both ends, so any adjustment is quite difficult. The half-lap joint has to be in the exact centre between the jaguchi joints, so in this pattern, these are by far the most difficult pieces to cut and insert.


The final pieces to insert are the second hexagonal pieces (red arrow below). These are trimmed to fit on the 60° jig. These are not particularly difficult, but the sheer number of pieces make this final process quite time-consuming.


Once these final hexagonal pieces have been inserted, the pattern is completed.


And that is how I made the yae-karahana kikkō. Most of the more complex kumiko patterns at first seem to be a confusing maze of pieces of wood heading off in all directions and angles, but if you can break the patterns down into their individual pieces within each of the triangles, they do have a much more structured feel about them.


New pattern — Karahana kikkō

This new pattern for Book 3 is called the karahana kikkō, and is a well-earned break from the pattern mitsu-kude joints. Karahana (唐花) is a Chinese floral arabesque-like pattern, and the karahana arrangement of petals is often used in family crests.

The hexagons and short pieces with
jaguchi joints at both ends make this quite a challenging pattern.

Karahana kikko pattern


New pattern — Yae-kikkō

The yae-kikkō is another of the more advanced and complex patterns for Book 3. As the name indicates, this pattern combines multiple (yae) hexagons (kikkō), and there are also multiple places where disaster can strike. All the internal joints have to be spot on, otherwise it's not going to come together. This is a very interesting pattern to make.

Yae-kikkō pattern


New pattern — Yae kikyō kikkō

This is another of the advanced patterns that will be included in Book 3. This one is the yae kikyō kikkō, and is probably one of the more difficult patterns covered to date. Multiple pattern mitsu-kude joints and extensions that have to be exact make this a tremendous challenge.

Yae kikyo kikko pattern


New pattern — Kikyō tsuno kikkō

This next pattern is called the kikyō tsuno kikkō, and it falls under the kikyō family of patterns. The difficulty with this pattern is the pair of mitsu-kude joints on the hinge pieces that form the hexagonal shape. These are combined with three half-lap joints—two for the triangle pieces and one for the jigumi. These pieces either fit, or they don't fit. There's no way of making any minor adjustments after they've been cut. If there's any inaccuracy whatsoever, they won't come together, just snap at one of the joints.

This is just one of the many difficult challenges that will be faced in Book 3.

Kikyō tsuno kikkō pattern


New pattern — Komachi kikkō

This new pattern for Book 3 is called the komachi kikkō, and is quite straightforward to make. Komachi (小町) means "small town". It is also the name of a town in Kamakura, a city in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Kamakura was the seat of the Shogunate and the Regency during the Kamakura Period (1185–1333), and, historically, Komachi was the site of a bustling market in front of the local shrine. Today, the town is a popular shopping area with many coffee shops and restaurants.

I'm only guessing, but with the name
komachi, this pattern may be a representation of the stalls that formed the Komachi market in ancient times. But, as I said, this is only a guess.

Whatever the origins of its name, though, it is a very attractive pattern.

Komachi kikkō pattern


New pattern — Kikyō kikkō

This comparatively simple pattern for Book 3 is the kikyō kikkō, and it is grouped together with the yae-kikyō I covered in Book 2. Kikyō is the Japanese name for the bellflower. There are a couple of other kikyō patterns I'll include in the new book, and they involve multiple mitsu-kude joints within the pattern, so that in itself presents a new challenge.

Kikyō kikkō pattern


New pattern — Benten asa-no-ha

This is the next of the benten variations for Book 3. This one is the benten asa-no-ha.

Benten asa-no-ha pattern


New pattern — Benten kikkō

This is another pattern for Book 3. This one is called Benten kikkō.

Benten kikkō

Benten is a Japanese Buddhist goddess, and is often shown playing a biwa (a Japanese lute). She is linked to the Hindu goddess Saraswati, and is one of the seven Gods of Fortune (Shichi Fukujin) in Japanese mythology and folklore.

The following photo shows the
Shichi Fukujin at the Jōrenji Temple in Tokyo. Benten (or Benzaiten) is third from left playing the biwa.

Seven Gods of Fortune

There are a few benten patterns, and this is the least complicated.


New pattern — Tawara kikkō

This is the first of the patterns for Book 3. It's called the tawara kikkōtawara is the name for the round-shaped straw bag used for carrying rice, grains, and other produce.

This is also the first of the hexagonal patterns in which the pattern kumiko form half-lap joints across the jigumi. The jigumi kumiko are 3mm thick (mitsuke), and the pattern kumiko 2mm.

Tawara kikkō pattern

The book will go into a detailed step-by-step explanation on how to make this and the other patterns covered. As with all the patterns I'll cover in the book, this was crafted with normal hand tools, and jigs that have already been made. For these patterns, though, a pair of pincers or tweezers will prove to be an essential piece of kit.


Starting Book 3

I'm just finishing off a hall table, and I should be able to start on Book 3 next week.

The new book (and a planned Book 4 following this) will cover kumiko patterns. The vast majority will be hexagonal patterns, and will be highly advanced. All the hexagonal patterns in Book 2 were structured within their own triangles to form the hexagonal shape, but most of the patterns in this book intersect the jigumi, and this raises the level of difficulty significantly. The following diagram is an example of the types of patterns that will be included in Book 3. This pattern is called the
Kikyō tsuno kikkō, and it is one of the more complex patterns, but by no means the most difficult.

Kikyo tsuno kikko

And if you thought cutting the mitsu-kude (three-way) joint was difficult, probably in Book 4 I'll introduce the tombo (or tonbo — dragonfly) pattern. This pattern incorporates the yotsu-kude (four-way joint), and will be a tremendous challenge.

I'll put the patterns up on the website as I complete them.

Similar to those in Book 1 and Book 2, all patterns in this book can be made with normal tools and jigs. No specialist tools will be necessary.


Book 2 now available

Hopefully all the typos have been corrected, and after three and a half years, Shoji and Kumiko Design, Book 2 – Beyond the Basics is completed, and now available.

The book covers all of the patterns on this website that weren't included in Book 1.

Book 2 — Nearly there

I've ordered the second proof of my book Beyond the Basics, so it shouldn't be too long before I'm satisfied that it's ready for final publishing.

This is the cover that it will probably have (although this may change). The photo is of my art piece
HANABI, and the book covers every pattern in there, and quite a few more.

Shoji and Kumiko Design Book 2 Beyond the Basics cover


Book 2 update

It certainly has been a while since the last entry. Work and writing has kept me away from the website, and also from making up the YouTube videos, so my apologies to people who are waiting for the next instalment in the shoji making. I’ll be able to get back to it soon.

The big thing is that I’ve finished writing up all the patterns for
Book 2, Beyond the Basics. This is my second hard-copy book, and in it I give detailed explanations on making two shoji, and over 40 different patterns. Some of these patterns are in the Kindle ebooks, but there are also many new patterns explained. At about 230 pages, Book 2 is around 60 pages or so longer than Book 1, and it contains purely instructions. There’s no padding. At this count, there’s 336 photographs and 189 detailed diagrams. Like the first book, Book 2 will be self-published, and I cover my thoughts on self-publishing and my preference for it in my blog entry when I published Book 1 here.

I also give detailed explanations on cutting the diamond base (
jigumi), a couple of patterns, and a few diagrams of some of the diamond patterns. And I give detailed instructions on cutting the hexagonal jigumi and the mitsu-kude joint, and sixteen or so hexagonal patterns. I cover all of the hexagonal patterns I show on this website, and a couple of extras. These are detailed instructions so that you can make all of these patterns with just a few jigs that you make up yourself. You do not need any specialised or expensive Japanese tools.

All that’s left to do now is a bit of additional wrap-up writing, indexing, and other bits of tidying up. Then checking, editing, proof-reading, and any necessary rewriting. So there’s still a bit of extra work to do before I can give it the final OK, but hopefully it shouldn’t take overly long. I’m very excited about this book as it brings together all that I’ve learnt and experimented with since completing my course at Shokugei Gakuin, and I hope you will find of some interest and value.

Now back to the writing so I can finish the book off as soon as possible.

New pattern - Chōchin masu-tsugi

I managed to squeeze in another pattern before I finish off the YouTube shoji. This one is called chōchin masu-tsugi. It’s very similar to the chōchin izutsu-tsugi I made last year and included in the blog here and the patterns section here. All the difficulties with this kind of pattern I mentioned in the chōchin izutsu-tsugi blog and pattern sections are further compounded by the jaguchi at the ends of the locking pieces for this pattern. These jaguchi on the ends are a “one-go” cut, and even the slightest inaccuracy means the piece ends up in the bin. It’s a good test of patience.

Chochin masu-tsugi (提灯枡継ぎ)


New pattern - Shokkō

This is the shokkō pattern, and the latest one I’ve made for Book 2. Like all of the shokkō family of patterns, this also lends itself to tremendous variety in shape and character. Apart from the large number of cuts, the most difficult aspect of this pattern is that there are two different angles in the jaguchi on both ends of the diagonal locking pieces. In this particular design, one side of the jaguchi is 67° and the other is 23°.

It took nearly an hour through trial and error to set up the two
jaguchi jigs needed to cut the two angles. Even after the end stops had been set on the jigs, minor variations in the pattern dimensions (a natural result of hand cutting everything) required very slight adjustments in the relative position of the locking piece being cut and the end stop. This is what is known in Japanese as “kan” (), which is a sense or feel based on experience. Believe me, there’s a lot of kan involved in shoji, and especially kumiko work.

Shokkō (蜀江)

Now it’s back to the shoji video for YouTube.


New pattern - Shokkō kaku-tsunagi

This is the latest pattern I completed for Book 2. It’s the shokkō kaku-tsunagi, and is closely linked to the kaku-tsunagi pattern.

This is a beautiful pattern that has its most impact when looked at from a distance. Initially the eyes tend to focus on the small diagonals forming stars, but the slightest shift in focus sends the stars into the background and the squares to the front.

Shokkō kaku-tsunagi (蜀江角つなぎ)


New pattern - Hakkaku-tsunagi

I completed a new pattern today for inclusion in Book 2 - Beyond the Basics. It’s the hakkaku-tsunagi. Hakkaku means octagon, so the pattern is a “connection of octagons”.

Hakkaku-tsunagi pattern
Hakkaku-tsunagi pattern

At this stage I’m looking at about 20 additional patterns to those in my Kindle e-books for inclusion in Book 2. So depending on how big it becomes, altogether there will probably be between 35 and 40 patterns in the new book, mostly in the square
jigumi base, but towards the end I’ll start on some of the diamond patterns. The mitsu-kude hexagonal patterns will have to wait until Book 3.

And so far I’ve been making reasonable progress.

More patterns to follow as I make them.


Rocking chairs and shoji - an update

This is just a quick update on rocking chairs and shoji.

I’ve been granted the rights to sell Hal Taylor’s rocking chair book, back brace hole template, paper template set, and the three-disc DVD set to woodworkers in Australia, New Zealand and Japan, so a page covering that can be found
here. With the exchange rate the way it is, these prices are very good, and for woodworkers in this part of the world, postage doesn’t require a new mortgage on the home. Sales are only available to woodworkers in Australia, NZ and Japan, though.

The next piece of info is that I’ve started putting pen to paper for my second dead-tree book. The title will be
Shoji and Kumiko Design, Book 2, Beyond the Basics. It will include all the patterns in the Kindle books that weren’t in Book 1, plus a few additional square patterns. I’ll also move onto the diamond kumiko arrangement, and there are quite a few interesting and challenging patterns there as well. And I’ll also briefly touch on the mitsu-kude arrangement, and possible one or two simple patterns in that jigumi. I don’t have a time-frame for the book as yet, but I’m looking at sometime mid next year, fingers crossed.

In the meantime, please have a look around my restructured website. There’s a bit more info about kumiko and some of the tools, and of course, there’s the new section on rocking chairs.


Shoji and patterns book 3 published

The Complete Guide to Shoji and Kumiko Patterns: Volume 3 has now been published, and is available at Amazon.

The book covers all the patterns shown

The Complete Guide to Shoji and Kumiko Patterns Volume 3 cover


More patterns for Vol 3

These are a few more patterns I’ve been making up for Volume 3.

Some of these patterns use the
jaguchi joint in the locking pieces to secure the pattern. I touched on the jaguchi joint in kumiko very briefly in the asa-no-ha section of Book 1 in the dead-tree version and in Volume 1 in the ebook version, mainly as an introduction, but in Volume 3 I explain in detail how to cut and fit this joint. The principle is much the same as the jaguchi joint I use in the rail and stile joinery in shoji: angled extensions help to hold the piece firmly in place.

These patterns are in no particular order.

soroban-kuzushi  kikko-nishiki
Soroban-kuzushi (left); Kikkō-nishiki (right)

tsuno-shokko  yotsuba_kaku-tsugi
Tsuno-shokkō (left);Yotsuba kaku-tsugi (right)

yae_tsuno-shokko  yae_shokko
Yae tsuno-shokkō (left); Yae shokkō (right)


All these patterns are also shown in the square patterns page.

A few more to complete, then I’ll start rewriting and putting them together for publication. The book after that—Volume 4—should be the last of the square patterns; from there I move on to the diamond patterns, and all angled cuts from then on.


Another pattern — Goma-gara (square)

This is the square goma-gara (goma means sesame, and gara means pattern), and it will be included in the next book of my shoji and kumiko pattern book series (Vol. 3).

This is perhaps one of the more difficult of the square kumiko patterns, and is the first of the patterns I cover that is cut with angled joints. These angled joints add to the level of difficulty, and also lay the foundations for the diamond patterns and the
mitsu-kude hexagonal patterns I cover in later books.

Square goma-gara pattern

Like the goma-gara in the hexagonal jigumi, the square goma-gara really is an attractive design, and is right up towards the top in my list of favourite patterns.


Shoji and patterns book 2 published

The Complete Guide to Shoji and Kumiko Patterns: Volume 2 has now been published, and is available at Amazon.

The Complete Guide to Shoji and Kumiko Patterns Volume 2 cover


Vol 2 — Writing finished, now the coding

I’ve finished the writing side of Volume 2 of the kumiko pattern ebook series, now comes the html coding part to get it into ebook format, then the proofreading and editing, and finally the publishing.

These are the shoji and kumiko patterns that are included.

Volume 2 shoji

Volume 2 kumiko patterns

Hopefully I’ll have the book finished over the next couple of weeks.


Chōchin izutsu-tsugi

This is the next pattern for Vol. 2 of the patterns ebook. This one is called chōchin izutsu-tsugi. Just to confuse the issue, I’ve also seen it called izutsu-tsunagi and chōchin izutsu-tsunagi (my reference is a series of books written in the early and mid 1950s, so I’ll stick with those names).

Chōchin izutsu-tsugi pattern

Chōchin (提灯) are Japanese paper lanterns and in the pattern you can see three chōchin along the center row. The izutsu (well curb) pattern is used to form the lanterns, hence the chōchin izutsu-tsugi name. While it may look fairly simple and straightforward, all of the locking pieces for the izutsu squares intersect the main jigumi kumiko with half-lap joints, so if the measuring and the cuts for both the kumiko and the izutsu squares are not exact, they ain’t gonna fit. There’s certainly enough of a challenge in the pattern to keep up the interest level.

This is the second-to-last pattern in Vol. 2. The last will be the izutsu-kiriko-tsunagi, which is also a member of the izutsu pattern family. I’ll cut and assemble that pattern over the next couple of days, then finish off the writing side of the book.

After that it’s on to Vol. 3 and some fairly complex and difficult patterns. These will still be based on the square jigumi. The diamond and triangular patterns will come later.


Another pattern - izutsu-tsunagi

I’m back from Japan, and I’ve just completed the latest pattern for Vol. 2 of the patterns ebook. This one is the izutsu-tsunagi pattern.

There are a number of different patterns under the
izutsu grouping (izutsu - 井筒 means well curb, the supporting structure around a well). Kumiko pattern names will often vary depending on the area or person making the pattern. In my Shoji and Kumiko Design Book 1 The Basics, I referred to one of the patterns as izutsu-tsunagi. I used that as a simple generic term; I’ve seen it referred to as yotsuba izutsu-tsunagi, yotsuba izutsu-tsugi, zutsu-izutsu, and simply izutsu-tsugi, so there’s no set name for these less-commonly used patterns. To simplify everything, the pattern below is the one I’ll refer to as izutsu-tsunagi, and the one in Book 1 The Basics I’ll now refer to as yotsuba izutsu-tsugi. It may be a little confusing, but hey, that’s part of the fun of kumiko patterns.

Izutsu-tsunagi pattern

This pattern is fairly straightforward, but with the large number of joints very closely spaced, it is quite time-consuming, and accuracy is critical. This pattern would look stunning in a ranma, either by itself or in conjunction with another pattern, or as a bottom base pattern for a shoji.


Another pattern - Kaku-tsunagi

This is another pattern for the second book. It’s the kaku-tsunagi, and is a less complex sibling of the futae kaku-tsunagi I showed in this blog entry. This pattern requires concentration to make sure all the cuts are in their proper position in both the vertical and horizontal kumiko, and care when trimming the miter joints to ensure a firm fit without gaps.

Kaku tsunagi pattern


New pattern - Mie masu-tsunagi

I completed the latest pattern for inclusion in the next volume of the shoji and patterns. This one is called mie masu-tsunagi. I showed the masu-tsunagi pattern in blog entry about a year ago. The word masu (or ) means a measuring cup used in Japan in the past to measure liquids, or rice and other grains. It was cube-shaped, so the top formed a square, and by extension, masu in this case means a square. Tsunagi means connecting or joining. So the masu-tsunagi is a series of interconnecting squares or a connection of squares; mie means triple, so this pattern is a series of three interconnecting squares, and if you look hard enough you can see the squares grouped in threes.

Mie masu-tsunagi

This type of pattern is used for feature bands in a shoji, or as a top and bottom border pattern. It would also look quite stunning in a ranma arrangement.


Shoji and patterns Book 1

The first of the e-books on shoji and patterns is now up on Amazon (the “Look Inside” and other features will be added by Amazon over the next day or so).
This one includes a brief background of shoji and the different types, and two of the three shoji that were in the paperback book. It also details the different ways of making the
asa-no-ha. There are 185 line drawings and photos giving step-by-step instructions on making the shoji and asa-no-ha pattern. All for the price of US$6.99.

The Complete Guide to Shoji and Kumiko Patterns Vol.1 cover

I’ve had to split the book up because the file would have been far too big for people’s patience with the download if I’d included the entire paperback book in the e-book. Also by keeping the number of shoji and especially the patterns down to a reasonable level in each e-book, I can get the patterns out and available more quickly, rather than waiting to build enough for a decent sized hard copy book.

While my e-books have been formatted for Kindle and Amazon, it doesn’t mean that you need a Kindle device to read them. In fact, for books like this, the Kindle or other e-book reader is probably the last way you’d want to read them. Amazon have a range of applications you can download for free so you can read the e-books on your computer or iPad so the images are a bit more readable. The Amazon link is
here. For people who have bought the book, higher resolution images for the shoji and kumiko pattern dimensions are available on my website for printing or downloading.

So not having a Kindle is no excuse for not buying this book, charging out to the workshop and getting stuck into some kumiko patterns.


Publishing direction – soon the patterns

Among other things, I’m currently converting the rest of my book into Kindle format for inclusion in the Kindle Store at Amazon. This is the shoji part. I’m not sure whether the remainder will be one book or two; this will depend on the overall size of the file with all the diagrams.

Once I’ve completed that, I’ll then convert the part of the second book that I’ve finished, which goes into patterns that are considerably more complex.

After that, I’ll start writing and putting kumiko patterns into Kindle format. Last night I worked out that I have roughly 80 individual patterns that I can cover in future books. Some of these are reasonably straightforward, while others are extremely complex to say the least. Many of these patterns are never seen these days, simply because of their complexity and the time needed to make them.

I will make sure that you will be able to make all of the patterns I cover with normal hand tools and jigs. You won’t need to buy any expensive specialist planes like my
ha-ganna. And for those patterns where specialist tool are needed, I’ll make the necessary adjustments to their design so that jigs can take the place of those specialist tools.

All this will happen over the course of a few years, but I’m hoping I can get the first few out sooner rather than later. These patterns are really the fun part of shoji and kumiko work—frustrating at times, but fun.

I’m looking forward to starting on this project, and I hope that many of you will also find it interesting. As I’ve mentioned on this website, kumiko
shokunin tend to keep their knowledge on how to make the intricate kumiko patterns very close to their chest, but an unfortunate by-product of this attitude is that this knowledge and the skills are gradually being lost. Hopefully, these series of books will go part of the way to addressing this, and keeping this knowledge alive and in use, especially in the West.

Kindle book published

It’s now on Amazon at the Kindle Store, and no that’s not me on the cover.


The whole process was a lot less painful than I thought it would be. The reference book I mentioned in the last blog entry (The eBook Design and Development Guide) was a great help in learning how to write up effective and efficient HTML and CSS code, although the final few files that I had to make up to properly compile the final book for submission to Amazon caused more than a few headaches. Eventually I managed to fluke the right parts, and it cleared the Amazon formatting checks. So it’s up on Amazon for sale: for only US$4.99.

The Kindle book is essentially the first part of my book
Shoji and Kumiko Design: Book 1 The Basics, although because of the different format—electronic as opposed to hard copy—I had to touch up all the diagrams and photos. I also made a few minor adjustments where I thought they were necessary.

The Amazon site has a “Click to Look Inside” function, so the sample pages and table of contents will give you an idea of what the book contains. In short, the book covers just about everything you need to know about setting up and maintaining a
kanna, the problems that can occur, and how to avoid them.

So for the price of not too much more than a good cup of cappuccino, you’ll have all the information you need to get those thin and wispy shavings floating out from your


General and book update

Wow, this time four months between blog entries.

Central Queensland had a pretty ugly cyclone hit at the end of January, and here on the Gold Coast we caught the edge of it as it turned into an angry low pressure system. There was some serious flooding in Brisbane and a few of the major towns, and there were a couple of deaths. It wasn’t as bad on the Gold Coast, but the weather was nasty, and there was a fair bit of damage around the place. And unfortunately, we copped some of it here at home.


Possibly the strong winds may have moved a tile, or the amount of water may have just been too much for the roof design. That part of it will be checked early next week.

Fortunately though, the waterfall that came out of the ceiling missed the bookcase, Mariko’s grand piano, all my shoji and kumiko art work, everything, so the luck was certainly on our side. Insurance has it covered, and hopefully next week repair work will start. A nuisance, but compared to what others lost in the storms and flooding, this was nothing and we consider ourselves very lucky.

I bought one of the new Kindle paperwhite readers the other day. We have one of the older e-ink versions, which I think is excellent, but the paperwhite really takes the e-book reader technology to a new level. So at the moment I’m consuming a large number of the public domain books from the Gutenberg Project in the
US and Australia. Japan also has a similar project with their classics as the copyright expires (50 years after the death of the author in Japan I think) - Aozora Bunko. I’m not cheap (I am actually, but that’s another story), but I just think the writers of old (by old I mean 19th Century and early 20th Century old, not Chaucer or Shakespeare old) had a better grasp of how to use language to its best effect, even though today it at times sounds a bit odd or outdated.


Aozora Bunko is also a treasure trove of wonderful books. As a historical novelist,
Eiji Yoshikawa is one of, if not the best there was. He died in 1962 so his books are now starting to come online. Among his many novels are Miyamoto Musashi and Shinsho Taiko-ki (about Toyotomi Hideyoshi), which have both been translated (Musashi and Taiko, respectively). I’ve read both of the translations and they are excellent books. Musashi in English runs to nearly a thousand pages, but the original Japanese version consists of eight volumes. Aozora are starting to put his Miyamoto Musashi books up at the moment (recently put up Vol.5), and I’ve started reading the original. So at the moment, I’m reading in English Arthur Conan Doyle (The Lost World), and in Japanese our translation work during the day when it comes (boring), a fantasy science fiction book that was turned into manga and anime (good for picking up modern Japanese usage), and Miyamoto Musashi (brilliant).

Believe it or not, there is a point to my literary ramblings. I was never really happy with the way books with large numbers of photos or diagrams looked on the older Kindles, so I initially decided against taking that route with my book. The new paperwhite Kindles have change that. As I delve deeper into what’s involved in shifting my book to Kindle, the more it appears that the problem is not so much with the Kindle technology, but more with the crappy way books have been converted, even by the major publishing houses. This causes an unhappy reader experience, resulting in poor reviews, regardless of what the content itself is like.

I came across a very good book on e-book design and structure (
The eBook Design and Development Guide by Paul Salvette) and he maintains that writers tend to leave everything up to Word files and automatic conversion, and this is where problem is, even on simple fiction books with no diagrams or images. He shows how to build an e-book from scratch to ensure the best reader experience, and that means writing the html code yourself. So I’m following his advice, and starting to learn the basics about html and css code so I can turn my image-intensive book into a decent e-book structure. This will take time, so I don’t expect anything to happen in a hurry.

The book lends itself to splitting into two sections — the
kanna part and the shoji part, and to keep the overall size of the e-book version to something that’s manageable, this is the course I’ll probably take. At the moment I’m grinding my way through the kanna section — re-writing and adjusting where necessary. After that’s done, I’ll be able to get a better idea.

One bonus with this is that I don’t have to wait to finish an entire book’s worth of patterns before I get it out. The first book was a major commitment of time and effort with no money coming in, and the second book was turning out to be much the same. With the Kindle, though, especially for the sake of size, I can split and group the patterns up and get the information out more regularly, and still do other things to bring in a bit of income (unfortunately the bills never seem to stop).

So that’s the state of play at the moment. Things are happening, it’s just that they’re happening very slowly.

Thanks for reading.

Futae-kōzu pattern

After a few distractions (like doing some actual paying work), I managed to get some work done on the kōzu pattern for the book. The photo shows one of the completed kōzu sections of the panel. The multiple layers of the crosses to me really highlights the beauty of this pattern. I would have preferred a greater interval between the rows of crosses, and in principle, this interval should be at least the same size as the crosses, but because I designed this purely for instructional purposes, and I also wanted the multiple cross layers, and to include the futae-shokkō pattern at the bottom, I had to bring them a little closer than I would have liked. Because there is a clear differentiation between the crosses, though, this is a reasonably satisfactory design.

While there is a little design flexibility with the
kōzu pattern, there are some design and dimensional principles that should be adhered to, and I cover these in detail in the book. And although I don’t make the other kōzu patterns, I also give diagrammatic examples of the hitoe-kōzu, mie-kōzu, and another way of making the futae-kōzu involving slightly simpler cuts but more kumiko.

For shoji made with this pattern to be anywhere near economically feasible, the work processes have to be streamlined. That means that when making the cuts, the same cut should not be repeated (unless, of course, there are too many kumiko to be manageable for a single cut by hand). Repeating the same cut simply means that additional time has been spent and wasted lining up, securing and cutting the kumiko.

What I mean by this is that, say, when making a joint cut in the vertical kumiko to fit a horizontal kumiko, all the vertical kumiko that require that joint in the same position to house that horizontal kumiko should be cut at the same time. This also applies when making the cuts in the horizontal kumiko for the vertical kumiko. In the book I detail the optimum cutting sequence for both vertical and horizontal kumiko.This pattern is time-consuming, but it should not take a long time.

This pattern may seem simpler than the
futae kaku-tsunagi I introduced in Book 1 and show here, but the cuts and assembly are, in my opinion, more complex. I also detail a suggested assembly sequence (the one I use) to help the process for the kōzu pattern flow more smoothly.

It’s now on to completing the shoji, finishing the writing part, then designing the next shoji, which will be a step up from the
naka-nuki shoji shown here.

Futae-kōzu pattern

Kōzu cuts

I finished the frame pieces and tsukeko, and they’re safely tucked away until the final finish planing before assembly. Today I started on cutting the kumiko joints for the kōzu. The photo shows the kumiko for one kōzu panel.

You can see by the number of cuts for just one of the panels how much work is involved in this pattern. This, though, is only the preparatory work. From here, I will assemble the main vertical and horizontal kumiko, then trim the shorter kumiko and cut the mitres.

kōzu was a popular pattern for shoin shoji - the attractive decorative shoji in the shoin-zukuri style of architecture - but it was largely limited to nobility and the upper echelons of the samurai warrior class. It was this kind of work and the skills needed to make it that led to the growth of the sub-branch of shokunin within the tategu trade known as kumiko shokunin. They are the shokunin who specialise in the intricate kumiko patterns.

Cuts for the kozu pattern

Started the kōzu

I finally managed to get a start on the next shoji and patterns for Book 2. I dimensioned the rails and stiles yesterday afternoon, and all this morning was spent cutting and dimensioning the kumiko. The following photo shows about four hours’ effort (the timber is Huon pine).

Kumiko for futae-kōzu

The kumiko
mitsuke is 4.0 mm exactly; not 3.9 or 4.1 mm. In fact 0.1 mm in shoji and kumiko work is a massive size. Every one of these kumiko has to be checked after I finish preparing it to the correct thickness. I use a pair of digital callipers for this.

In this shoji there are 30 vertical kumiko, and 68 horizontal kumiko. I also make up a reasonable number of spare kumiko in case disaster strikes.

In the
futae-kōzu part, there are 15 vertical and 27 horizontal kumiko, and also 64 mitre joints to cut for each panel. So there are 128 kumiko mitres to cut, and that’s just for the kōzu pattern. There are many more mitres to cut for the futae-shokkō patterns on the bottom. Each one must have exactly the right amount of tension, otherwise the overall piece can look very ordinary indeed. I can assure you that by the time you finish making this shoji, you will certainly be sick and tired of mitre joints.

kōzu is not a particularly difficult pattern to make. The futae-kōzu design here essentially builds on the kawari-gumi shoji and futae kaku-tsunagi pattern we tackled in Book 1. It is, however, a very time-consuming pattern when done properly, and this is what makes it so expensive.

It is, though, one of my favourite patterns. And it can be adjusted and used in a broad range of work, not just shoji.

CAD drawing of next shoji - futae kōzu

This is the next shoji I’m planning to make for Book 2. It’s the futae-kōzu pattern. Futae means “double”, and kōzu means “illustration of fragrances”. The background to this beautiful pattern is explained in the Patterns page of this website.

The pattern forming the base is called
futae-shokkō. Again futae is double, and Shokkō (蜀江) indicates the upper stream section of the Yangtze River in China. This region was quite famous for the clear waters of the river, and the silk cloth made here (Shokkō nishiki) was very popular. The shokkō pattern of interconnected rectangles embroidered into this fine silk came to symbolise the region.

I’m not entirely sure when I can actually start making this shoji, but hopefully it won’t be too far off into the future.

Futae kōzu with futae-shokkō pattern base

Naka-nuki shoji completed

Yesterday I completed the naka-nuki shoji with two asa-no-ha bordering bands and a central kiri band, and fitted it into its frame. I decided against fitting the handles in this shoji because I’ve given sufficient explanations and details in all the previous shoji.

Naka-nuki shoji with asa-no-ha and kiri patterns

Kumiko pattern completed

All the kumiko in the naka-nuki shoji have been safely assembled, and all that’s left is to assemble the frame and attach the paper.

The central kiri (paulownia) pattern really sets this shoji off. Multiple angles and multiple jaguchi joints make it quite a difficult pattern to fit together.

naka-nuki kumiko
(The dark mark in the bottom left is simply shadow from a fold in the dark cloth)

The difference an asa can make

Work on the naka-nuki shoji has been a bit slow of late, but I thought I’d show how a couple of simple asa-no-ha bands can really set off a shoji.

nakanuki with asa

The important aspect of the square
asa-no-ha and what really gives it its beauty is the central highlighted circle formed by the convergence of the 16 pieces (jigumi, diagonal pieces, and the hinge pieces). This circle literally shines with lighter coloured wood, and can only happen when the hinge pieces fit fully into the corners. Unfortunately this requires a bit of extra time, effort, and cutting angles when making the asa-no-ha.

So to do justice to this wonderful pattern, please don’t take any short cuts. You’ll end up with a much more attractive, and traditional looking

asa-no-ha pattern that fits into the triangular mitsu-kude jigumi is a much simpler design with fewer angles to work with, so there’s not the same issue with that.

Next will be the
kiri pattern in the central band, and then it will all come together.

Unfortunately, because of a few other projects and things happening, this will be the last Book 2 shoji for a while, and my writing of the book will have to go on the back burner for quite some time.

Naka-nuki shoji base kumiko

The kumiko bases for this set of Book 2 shoji are now assembled, and it’s on to the internal patterns - kiri in the centre, and asa-no-ha in the top and bottom bands. The initial CAD drawing is in my blog entry of 29 Dec (with a couple of minor design changes).

There is a set cutting sequence for the vertical and horizontal kumiko so that the total number of cuts required is kept to the minimum, thereby reducing the possibility of error. This sequence will be explained in detail in the book.

An interesting challenge for you would be to look at the CAD design and the photo below, and think how you would approach the cutting, and see if you can work out a cutting sequence in which the same cut is not repeated, other than when there are too many kumiko for a single manageable cut. Unfortunately, though, you’ll have to wait until the book is released to find out if you’re correct.

The vertical kumiko pitch is 13.9 mm, which means the space between the kumiko is 9.9 mm. So the kumiko can snap very easily if the marking and cutting accuracy is even the slightest amount off.

The internal squares for the two
asa-no-ha bands are 23.8 x 23.8 mm, so there’ll be some quite small asa-no-ha pieces.


This is quite an advanced shoji design, but the whole idea of Book 2 is to take the basic work I covered in Book 1 to a completely new level.

Inches or millimeters

In Book 1, and in all the other books on kumiko-zaiku that I’ll be writing, I use millimeters as the unit of measurement. This may be an anathema to woodworkers who have only ever used the imperial system of feet and inches, but I’ll try to explain why this is the only measurement unit that will work without the need for large calculations that increase the risk of error.

You can, of course, use the traditional
shakkan-hō (kanejaku) measurement system (shaku, sun, bu and rin) used in Japan since ancient times, and although officially discontinued in 1966, is still used today by the majority of carpenters, tateguya and many furniture-makers. This system is just as good, if not better, than the millimeter system for this kind of work, but tape measures and straightedges with these markings are not readily available outside Japan, so I used millimeters in the book.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but woodworkers who use the imperial system use fractions rather than decimal places when working below the inch unit, and herein lies the problem.

In shoji with a standard kumiko arrangement, like the first shoji in Book 1, the imperial measurement system is quite straightforward and acceptable. For example, there are three vertical kumiko, the shoji width is 515 mm and the pitch between vertical kumiko is 111.9 mm (you’ll have to look in the book to find out the calculations to achieve this).

Rather than make a direct conversion of this to inches, I’ll give rough, rounded imperial measurements, and calculate from there. Instead of 515 mm, the width of the shoji will be 20¼ inches (514.4 mm), and instead of 30.5 mm, the width of the stiles will be 1¼ inches. After going through the calculation in the book, the pitch of the vertical kumiko is 4 3/8 inches. No great drama with that — it all worked out quite well into a workable fraction, and there is a small leeway with accuracy in this kind of arrangement.

The shoji I’m making up now for Book 2, though, has 31 vertical kumiko. This will be the second-last shoji listed in the book because it is very difficult. In this shoji, the pitch between vertical kumiko is 13.9 mm (actually 13.91 mm, but 13.9 mm is acceptable).

Now try this in imperial with fractions. Again same 20¼ inch shoji width, and 1¼ inch stile width. The pitch becomes 35/64 inch. A much more difficult number to calculate and work with than 13.9 mm, and there’s no leeway with accuracy. Squares are involved with patterns, so measurement has to be precise, otherwise the squares and the patterns won’t fit — 34/64 (17/32) inch is not acceptable.

And this is just with the vertical and horizontal kumiko arrangements. The third book will go into great detail on the diagonal diamond arrangement and many variations, and three-way joints and all the intricate patterns shown in this website, and many other patterns, and for this fractions of inches just won’t cut it. The numerator and denominator numbers become too high to work with.

So my advice is that if you’re satisfied with just the simple shoji, the imperial measurement system will work OK, and stick with that if you’re more comfortable using inches.

If, however, you want to go beyond the standard simple designs, and explore the range of marvellous things that can be done with shoji and small thin pieces of wood, you will need to learn how to use millimeters. If it makes it any easier, don’t think of them as millimeters — think of them as units. So instead of 13.9 mm, think of them as 13.9 units. You’ll be surprised at how easy pitch and interval calculations become. And there is much less risk of inaccuracy and calculation errors.

As an aside, I’m old enough to have been raised on the imperial measurement system and the pre-dollar currency days of pounds, shillings and pence in Australia, so don’t use age as an excuse — it
is possible to learn to use the metric system.

Shoji 1 Book 2

This is the first shoji I’ll be including in the second book. It’s called a masu-tsunagi tateshige-shōji. The two band patterns are really very simple and straightforward, but they look quite stunning when combined with all the vertical action of the main kumiko.

Masu-tsunagi tateshige shoji

At this stage, I’m planning to make up about five or six shoji for the book, and write up detailed instructions for making about 15 or 16 patterns. These patterns will all be for the square

None of the patterns will require any tools other than those found in a normal workshop. There will be a large number of jigs to make up though.

It's reached Amazon

Shoji and Kumiko Design: Book 1 The Basics is now available at Amazon (US).

Book 1 now available

After more than seven months of writing and rewriting and tearing my hair out over Microsoft Word, Shoji and Kumiko Design: Book 1 The Basics is now published. Details about purchasing the book can be found in the link.

Front cover - blog

Four years ago in April 2008 I was fortunate to be in a position where I could spend the following 12 months in Japan devoting my time to learning about shoji at a Japanese technical college (Shokugei Gakuin) that focused on traditional carpentry and woodworking methods and hand skills. This gave me a solid foundation from which I could begin to explore the intricacies and beauty of
kumiko zaiku (kumiko craft and art).

Although it does become frustrating at times trying to fit pieces of kumiko that are no bigger than 1.2 mm thick and 3–4 mm long together when they don’t want to cooperate, I thoroughly enjoy what I do, and I’ve always hoped that in some way I would be able to help woodworkers outside of Japan to feel this same enjoyment when designing and making shoji and kumiko. This is what motivated me to put pen to paper, or font to screen, or whatever the term is these days, and write the book. It sure wasn’t the idea of reaching the New York Times bestseller list and buying that stable of Porsches I’ve always dreamed about.

Thank you for reading this far and I hope you do buy the book, and for this I will be very grateful.

However, before you click on the button to buy, I would ask that you continue reading this, because I want you to have no misconceptions about what is and isn’t in the book. I’ll group this under headings so it’s a bit easier to follow.

First of all, this book is self-published. Self-published means that I was totally responsible for what I included in the book, what I didn’t, and how it is presented. It’s Mariko’s and my ISBN, and we are listed in all databases as the publisher. CreateSpace, which is an Amazon company, is responsible for printing and distribution, and had no input whatsoever in the book, other than making sure that I formatted my manuscript files correctly when I uploaded them for printing. There was no publishing company or editor telling me how I should approach the book.

Why did I choose the self-publishing path? Mainly because by self-publishing, I own the copyright to the book and everything in it entirely. I don’t need to ask a publisher’s permission before I make any decision regarding the book, or to take out parts of the book and use them wherever and however I feel, as I did in my blog entry on the
ito-ura. I have also experienced the annoyance of editors with limited knowledge about the subject (not necessarily woodworking) changing things because it “sounded nicer” or “looked better”, and in the process completely fracturing the meaning or thrust of what was written. I’m not interested in going through those arguments any more.

Self-publishing is almost entirely based on “print on demand” (POD). This means that the book is printed when there is an order for it. Traditional publishing requires large print runs, and often the unknown author is required to pay for some of this, or at least purchase a substantial number of books. POD is digital printing, and to my understanding, traditional publishing is usually offset printing. Offset printing is only economically viable when books are printed in their thousands, or at least in large runs; POD is economical from the first book.

However, the quality of offset printing is better than digital printing, from what I’ve seen. Photos seem to be somewhat clearer. That said, though, over the months I’ve ordered a total of five proof copies of the book from CreateSpace, and the photos and diagrams are more than acceptable, and certainly clear enough. If, however, those who have bought the book aren’t happy with the clarity of the photos or some of the diagrams, I will upload them on to this website. There will be limits on this though.

I was entirely responsible for the layout, and I will be the first to admit that the layout is unsophisticated. Diagrams or photos are immediately before or after the text that refers to them, or if they have appeared before, a clear indication where they are.

I find nothing more off-putting that having to hunt back or forward several pages trying to find a photo or diagram to which the text refers. This kind of layout where photos or diagrams are placed to fit may look attractive when browsing, but it’s a pain in the butt when standing at the workbench trying to follow the text or instructions. So I’m quite satisfied with my unsophisticated layout, and I hope you will be too.

The expanded table of contents I uploaded
here is fairly close to how it finished up, with a few minor adjustments. The book is divided into two sections. The first quarter of the book deals with the kanna and looking after it, and the remaining three-quarters is on shoji.

I included the part on
kanna because to me a lot of Western woodworkers think too deeply about this wonderful tool, and are often taken in too much by its so-called mystique. There’s nothing mysterious about the kanna. As with Western planes, it’s a sharp chunk of steel held in a jig. Hopefully the explanations I’ve included in the book can help to dispel some of the myths surrounding the kanna, and perhaps persuade you to at least give it a reasonable try.

That said, I state this a couple of times in the book, but
you do not need a complete set of Japanese tools to make shoji. There are a couple of readily available Japanese tools that will make the job easier, and I highlight these, but for the most part, Western planes, chisels and other tools are more than adequate.

Sharpening is one area that seems to attract everyone’s attention, especially on the woodworking forums. I’ve included a couple of pages on sharpening, but these contain mainly broad generalities. I sharpen all my blades free-hand, even when I was using Western planes, but there is no secret handshake or secret hold that makes free-hand sharpening easier, so there’s no need to look for one in this book. Hand and finger sizes are different from person to person, so how I hold the blade for sharpening is different from how you would hold it. And the way I hold my 70 mm
kanna blade is different from how I hold my 48 mm kanna blade. Sharpening free-hand requires practice, practice and more practice. That’s the secret.

The book contains step-by-step instructions on making three shoji. The first is a standard shoji with a simple kumiko arrangement, while the second and third are slightly more complex. And there are a few kumiko patterns included to keep you interested. These are mentioned and shown in earlier blog entries.

I’ve structured the shoji section on how I learned shoji at Shokugei Gakuin — start off with the basics and gradually work your way up.

Before launching into the complex kumiko arrangements or patterns, I would advise you to complete at least one side of the first standard shoji pair using the dimensions in the book, even though it may not be the size you want. Use any old timber you have, it doesn’t even have to be the same type throughout, but make your initial mistakes on this, rather than on the good timber you’ve saved up for a complete shoji.

The joinery I use in the book is the joinery I learned and used at Shokugei Gakuin, so it’s the type of joinery that is currently used in Japan. Simple but effective. There’s a range of joints that can be added to make the joinery much more complicated, but these are rarely used in standard shoji, and are totally unnecessary. So the kinds of joinery you’ll cover in the book are both current and appropriate.

I list the basic kinds of kumiko arrangement in shoji, and how they generally relate to the standard kumiko arrangement used in the first shoji. Diagrams show the general feeling the different arrangements convey. I go into extensive detail on how to calculate the space between kumiko in any kind of shoji you decide to make. There is, however, no set ratio or proportions for designing kumiko arrangements in standard shoji. It’s largely a matter of “feel”, or as my instructor always said “
kan” (). Adjusting the thickness of the kumiko is one way of fine-tuning the balance within the shoji, but ultimately “kan” will determine the number of kumiko and intervals, based on the size of the shoji, and whether you want the bulk of the kumiko action to be horizontal or vertical.

I have not included any unnecessary photos of shoji examples just to fill up space. The book is black-and-white, so if you are looking for examples of how you can fit shoji within a room, a google search will bring up a large number of coloured photos that will give you some design ideas. This was beyond the scope of the book.

The shoji in the book slide along grooves, and I give clear dimensions for these grooves. How to install those grooves will differ from place to place, so if you aren’t confident about this side of it, the best thing I can advise is to ask a qualified carpenter to do this framing work for you. From this book, you will have the skills and knowledge to make up the shoji itself.

And finally, there are no recommendations in the book on where to buy any of the tools or equipment needed to make the shoji. Here, again, google is your friend. There are numerous places, especially in the USA, that sell shoji paper, glue, and Japanese tools. I buy all my gear from Japan when I go to Japan, and all of those businesses would go into a mild panic if they suddenly had a query from overseas in English, or any language other than Japanese.

Self-publishing is on a bit of a roll at the moment, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In the fiction area especially, it has given many more people the opportunity to get their work in print, or on the Kindle or other e-readers. Many would argue that this means there’s a lot more junk people have to wade through to find the literary gems, and I don’t disagree with that. Mind you, I’ve read some trash from many of the established and well-known publishing houses as well, so I don’t think self-published automatically means rubbish. There’s good and bad in both forms of publishing.

I haven’t been able to find any other woodworking books that are self-published, so I could be a bit of a trailblazer in this respect. I’ve already started to work out the overall structure of the next book and also design and make some of the shoji for it, and it, too, will be self-published. The whole self-publishing exercise has been a fascinating journey, and I would encourage anyone to give it a go. Over the next few blog entries I’ll give an outline of the overall self-publishing experience.

Thanks for persevering and reading down this far, and I hope you enjoy the book and find it useful.

Back cover blog


Ito-ura and problems

The blade ura is one area that highlights where there may be problems with either the sharpening technique, or the ura-dashi and ura-oshi technique. I cover this in some detail in the book, and I thought I would include this section from the book here, because the ura and trying to maintain it in its optimum shape certainly is one aspect that can cause a degree of frustration and exasperation.

This is directly from the book. It is, of course, not the book layout. The copyright marks on the images are purely for the internet. They are not in the book.

Shokunin in Japan are very particular about how the blade ura looks. It can be a source of pride, or it can cause shame and embarrassment. A properly shaped ura not only makes the blade and the kanna more efficient, but is also a testament to the shokunin’s skill and his respect for his tools. A badly shaped ura shows a lack of care that is more than likely to be carried through to the shokunins work.

In this section, I’ll describe in detail how to create and maintain an
ura you can be proud of, and how to avoid the bad habits that will prevent you from achieving this.

The type of
ura to aim at is an ito-ura.

01 P27

Ito is the Japanese word for thread, and in an ito-ura the uraba is as thin as a thread, or in reality about 1–2 mm. The hard steel and soft iron lamination structure of a kanna blade is different from that of a chisel, so they have different ura, as shown in Photograph 28. The chisel ura is broader, and is known as beta-ura. A reasonable beta-ura is normal on a chisel, but not on a kanna blade. This is the type of ura you should avoid.

02 P28

There are a number of faults that can create a badly formed
ura, but the advantage is that they all affect the ura in a different way so if you are having difficulties in obtaining or keeping a good ito-ura, the ura itself will tell you where the problem is.

The main faults are: a failure to tap out adequately, and closely linked to this, honing the back too much, especially on the coarser grits; an uneven distribution of strikes when tapping out; honing along a single line; honing at an angle not perpendicular to the stone; and, perhaps the most common, allowing the blade
atama to sag while honing.

Failure to tap out adequately
This can be a common problem when tapping out from the uragire condition, but it can also occur if you don't properly tap out a new blade that has a slight elevation at a point along the cutting edge. This aspect was covered in the Adjusting a new plane section beginning on Page 25.

The following diagram shows what happens when the tapping out is inadequate. This can often be caused by a degree of tentativeness when tapping out, especially in the early stages. Although not as bad a problem as not tapping out at all (see Page 39), over time the problem will continue to worsen.

03 D41

The way to solve this is very simple indeed. If, after tapping out, you hone the ura on the coarse stone and the scratch patterns reach both sides of the blade but the uraba has not widened sufficiently or not at all, STOP. Don't try to force out the uraba on the stone.

If you continue honing until a reasonable
uraba appears, you will hone too much, and while you may end up with a thin uraba, the ashi on both sides will be too thick. Once this happens you are virtually stuck with fat ashi for the rest of the life of the blade.

This is also the case if you don't tap out adequately on a new blade. If you’ve tapped out adequately but hone too much on the coarser stone, you will end up with a

Tapping out must be a careful and deliberate procedure, but that does not mean you should be tentative. Tap, check, tap, check, and continue until a sufficient bulge appears, regardless of how long it takes.

Uneven tap distribution
In this case, tapping has been concentrated too much in one area so the bulge in the urasuki isn’t uniform. The following diagrams show what happens when the tapping is not even.

(1) Tapping too much or too strongly in the center and not enough on the sides: This can be a tendency in the early stages, where the center seems the safest.

04 D42

(2) Tapping too much or too strongly to one side: This quite often happens if the uragire is more to one side, and you fail to account for it .

05 D43

If you find that your uraba is beginning to look like this as you hone, in either of these cases, simply stop and tap out some more in those areas that are too shallow. An uraba that’s too wide can be fixed after a few sharpening sessions, but once one or both ashi become overly wide, that’s the way they’ll remain.

Honing along a single line
If you hone the ura along a single line on the sharpening stones you will create a ridge, which is another sign of poor technique. Therefore as you hone the blade along the stone, especially the coarser grit stones after tapping out, gradually move it backward and forward 10–20 mm to prevent the ridge from forming.

06 D44

Honing at an angle
When honing the ura, the blade should be perpendicular to the length of the stone. If the blade is at an angle you run the risk of an ura that looks like the following.

07 D45

Sagging atama while honing
This is perhaps the most commonly seen fault. Kanna blades are quite large and heavy, and there is a tendency to let the atama sag while honing the back, giving the ura somewhat of an hourglass shape. The following diagrams show this.

08 D46
09 D47

When honing the back, you should have a feeling that you’re lifting the
atama up slightly with your supporting hand as you apply pressure to the bevel with your other hand.

10 D48

You shouldn’t actually raise the
atama as this would give you an unwanted back-bevel, just feel as though you are. That way you are giving the blade proper and even support, and you’ll avoid the hourglass shape. Unfortunately, once you have the hourglass ura, you’re stuck with it until you’re able to sharpen past it, which could take several years.

I mention earlier in the book that a properly formed ura is not just a matter of aesthetics. There is a very sound reason for the ito-ura and avoiding ashi that are too wide. Hopefully the above can go some way to help you achieve that.


Book update

I hope everyone had a great Christmas, and all the best for the New Year.

May all your
kanna stay true and your chisels remain sharp.

I’m halfway through reading and amending the second proof of the book, and there’ll probably be another couple of proofs to go through before I’m satisfied with the final product.

Waiting for the proofs to be printed and delivered, though, has given me a chance to think about and design a few shoji and patterns to include in Book 2.

This book has covered the basics with the standard kumiko arrangement, followed by a couple of slightly more complex patterns, which were also covered in previous blogs.

Book 2 will focus more on patterns. These will be based on the square
jigumi (base kumiko). The diamond and three-way joint patterns will be in Book 3.

In the next book, there’ll be five or six shoji to make, some of which will be quite difficult, and about 15 new patterns to learn, ranging from quite simple to very complex. All will have detailed instructions, diagrams and photos on how to make them.

The following is a very rough CAD drawing of one of the shoji we’ll make towards the end of Book 2.

Nakanuki kiri 01

It’s called a
naka-nuki shoji. The central pattern will be kiri (paulownia), and the top and bottom patterns are asa-no-ha. This kind of shoji with the central part cut out (hence naka-nuki) certainly has a massive “wow-factor”, and is really quite stunning. It will be a tremendous challenge, but I’ll include a full and detailed set of instructions for making every part of it.

I’m also thinking of including a shoji pair with a fan shaped opening with some patterns in the middle, but I haven’t had a chance to come up with anything concrete as yet.

So that’s where things are at the moment. Hopefully Book 1 will be ready by the end of January or early February, fingers crossed.

Happy New Year to all.

Nearly there — Book 1

On the final straight with the book, and just a few minor points to clear up before I send it off for a review printing, then hopefully, not long after that, it will be fully published.

The title of the book is:

Shoji and Kumiko Design
Book 1
The Basics

The following is an expanded version of the contents page. The actual contents page in the book, though, doesn’t go down to this level. This will give you an idea of what I’ve included.

Expanded Book Contents

For better or worse, I’ve decided to go down the self-publishing route. There are a number of reasons for this, and I’ll go into this in detail in a blog entry once the book’s out. I’ll also describe my self-publishing process at length, so that anyone thinking about trying this can perhaps benefit from my experience, which for the most part has been a good one.

Book patterns — futae kaku-tsunagi

This one of the patterns I describe in detail in the book. It’s called the futae kaku-tsunagi. With all the miter joins, the pattern, and how it’s made, is linked to the kawari-gumi pattern in the previous blog entry, although more complex and fiddly. It’s a good stepping stone to the more difficult futae- and mie-kōzu patterns.

The size of this piece is about 330 x 330 mm, the kumiko are 4 mm thick (
mitsuke), and the pitch for the 5 horizontal and 5 vertical base kumiko (jigumi) is 75 mm. The timber is Huon pine.

futae kaku tsunagi

Shoji 3

This is the third and final type of shoji I explain in the book. It’s back to the mizugoshi structure. The upper section is known as a kawari-gumi pattern. Kawari in this sense means variation, and refers to the variation from the standard pattern. The term is also used when patterns branch in from either side of the shoji, as in this case. The skills gained in making this pattern form the foundation needed to make the much more difficult and complex kōzu patterns, especially the futae- and mie-kōzu patterns.

The base pattern is the
izutsu-tsunagi. Izutsu means “well curb”, the cube structure surrounding a well, and tsunagi simply means “join” or “joint”. As with most of these patterns, there are a few name variations, but this is the one that is normally used.


I also explain in detail how to make a few extra patterns, including different ways of making the

The timber I used in this shoji is Huon pine. Here in Australia timber has always been a struggle for me. In Japan,
bei-hiba (Alaska yellow cedar) is one of the more commonly used timbers for shoji. It’s a beautifully straight- and tight-grained timber that leaves a highly polished look and feel when finished with a hand-plane. Unfortunately I can’t get hold of it here in Australia. I’ve tried other timbers, and while they finish well with the hand-plane, I’ve never really been particularly happy with them.

Huon pine is the closest I can find to the
bei-hiba. It has a similar colour and aroma, and the hand-planed surface glistens, but it is a highly protected species (and rightfully so), and the timber can vary in quality and is not always readily available. So to everyone who can get hold of good quality yellow cedar, I’m extremely envious.

Shoji 2

This is the second type of shoji I explain in detail in the book. The design is very much a shoin-shōji style. This is a kasumi-gumi shoji with a hip-board. Shoji with a hip-board are called “koshi-tsuki shōji”. The hip-board is called “koshi-ita”.

kasumi shoji

The joinery in this shoji is different from the first. Instead of the
jaguchi joint extension, the top rail tapers from the top. This way, rebates are only required on the stiles. This type of top rail is called a nageshi-zan. It’s a quick and stylish way of fitting the shoji in the top grooves, but it certainly doesn’t convey the same feeling of quality compared to the rail and rebate I normally use (this type of rail is called a maru-zan).


The next and final shoji for the book will have quite a few miters, and a couple of floral kumiko patterns.

Shoji 1 for book

Somewhere off in the distance I can just make out a light at the end of the tunnel.

In the book I give detailed instructions on making three shoji. This is the first. It’s the basic
mizugoshi structure with the standard pattern of three vertical and five horizontal kumiko. This pattern forms the foundation for all other vertical-horizontal lattice patterns, and is called aragumi-shōji (or arama-shōji).


The book goes into considerable detail on all aspects of making this shoji, from calculation of measurements and intervals, to an installation sequence for efficient alignment with minimal cuts. It also includes the special join between the rails and stiles, known as a
jaguchi. This extension gives a feeling of class to the shoji.


All kumiko joinery and the jaguchi extension are cut by hand, and the book covers the skills required in detail and lists a series of exercises that will hone the necessary techniques. The next shoji in the book will be a kasumi (mist) pattern with a hip-board and different rail and stile joinery to expand the range of options available when making shoji.

1st book draft done

Over a month since my last entry, but I haven’t been slackening off. At the urging of wife Mariko, I’ve decided to bring forward my plans for a book. Over the past month or so I’ve been gathering all my notes and other bits and pieces of info I’ve collected over the years, and I started to put them into some form of order.

The first draft has been written, now it’s just a matter of doing all the illustrations and photos - that’s the hard part. Initially, I was thinking of just the one book, but I realised that it would have only touched the surface, and it wouldn’t have given me the scope to include details on how to make the more intricate kumiko patterns.

This is the intro part of the first book. It’s only at the first draft stage, so the final version will probably bear no resemblance to this draft version. But at least it will give some idea of what the book will include. The final version is still a few months away, so there won’t be a great deal of sleep until it’s finished and out of the way. Hopefully the second one will be easier than the first.

Intro - 1st draft

The college I attended in Toyama, Japan (
Shokugei Gakuin), have released a 2 minute promotional video on the courses it offers. It takes a bit of time to load and watch, but it’s quite interesting and quite well done, and very natsukashii.

It’s at this link