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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


Asa-no-ha on YouTube

I uploaded a video to YouTube today showing how to make the square asa-no-ha. In it, I make a coaster with the pattern, which would make an ideal Christmas gift. I hope you find it interesting.


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.


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)


Exercises Part 2 uploaded

I’ve uploaded part 2 of the shoji exercises video.

Next it’s on to making a real shoji, so stay tuned.

New YouTube video - Exercises Pt 1

I uploaded a video to YouTube today that runs through some kumiko sawing exercises in preparation for making a shoji. I hope you find it interesting and of value.


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


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.

Still here, and some side-tables

Well, almost three months without an entry. It’s not that I haven’t had anything to write about, it’s just that for the past two months or so I’ve hardly had time to scratch myself. Anyhow, enough of my tales of woe. These are the two side-tables I finished a while ago.

The first is the combined
goma-gara and sakura pattern I described in the previous entry. The table body is kauri.

Side-table goma-gara and sakura 01

Side-table goma-gara and sakura 02

The table top is 450x450 mm, and height is 700 mm. The top is 22 mm thick, tapering out from the table body to 12 mm at the edges. The design itself is very straightforward, as is the joinery. The top is attached with shop-made buttons. The legs were hand-planed to a taper on two sides. To me a more complex and stylised design would have been far too overwhelming with the intricate kumiko pattern.

The second side-table has the
kawari-yaezakura pattern. The front panel is entirely kawari-yaezakura, while the panels on the sides and back have a central kawari-yaezakura band on an asa-no-ha base. The light timber in the kumiko pattern is Victorian ash, and the red timber is red cedar. The star within the pattern is made simply by alternating the two different coloured wood types. The size is the same as the other table.


Work permitting, I’ll try to be a bit more regular with my blog entries. Hopefully no more three-month gaps.

Thanks for reading.

Couple of old friends revisited

The photo is one of four panels for a couple of smallish side-tables I’m making for a client. These will form decorative rails below the table top. It’s all a bit experimental, but so far the client seems to be happy.

Because these panels have complex patterns, the side-tables themselves will be quite conventional and straightforward. Too much of a stylised design would detract from the kumiko panels, and vice versa.

The patterns are
sakura (cherry blossom) in the middle, and goma-gara (sesame) on the outside. It’s been a few years since I made either of these patterns, so it was a bit like getting back together with some old friends. The goma-gara was the second of the triangular patterns I learned at the College.

mitsuke (thickness) of the kumiko is 1.5 mm, the pitch of the mitsu-kude is 34.1 mm, and the overall size of the panel is roughly 250 x 150 mm. The wood is silver ash, and the internal pieces of the sakura are laminated silver ash and purpleheart.

The four panels for the second side-table will be a different pattern mix.

Sakura and goma-gara patterns

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

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.

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

Kiri-asa pattern

This is the kiri asa-no-ha — an attractive but quite a challenging pattern. It consists of a multitude of different jaguchi angles and kumiko angles. In fact I had to use all four of my ha-ganna planes for the different angles. Each of the bottom sections is held together by a single locking piece, so without the proper amount of tension on this piece, it would all fall apart.

The pattern is called
kiri (paulownia), but to me it also looks a bit like the leaves on a grape vine, while Wife and Daughter think it looks something like the face of a praying mantis. However, I think I’ll stick with tradition, and refer to it as kiri.

Kiri asa-no-ha

Next I’ll make up the overall frame and backing.

Frame for new pattern

Today I finished the frame and jigumi for a new art piece that will feature the kiri_asa pattern. Kiri () is Japanese for the paulownia tree. As you can see by the jigumi, it’s a square pattern, and the kumiko are 3.2 mm (1/8 inch) thick (mitsuke). The vertical kumiko pitch is 15 mm, and the pitch of the squares that will house the kiri pattern is 60 mm.

This pattern is quite stunning when featured in a set of
shoin shoji doors. The one I’m making is an art piece and won’t be subject to the normal stresses of shoji doors, so I’ll be altering the cutting and assembly method slightly to speed up the process.

All kumiko pieces in the
kiri-asa pattern are secured in place by jaguchi joints (which can be seen in the square asa-no-ha pattern explanation) of differing angles, so it is quite challenging.


All going well, I should have it finished tomorrow, after which I’ll add an explanation to the Patterns page.

Dahlia pattern

This is the dahlia pattern. It’s the first time I’ve tried this, and I’m reasonably satisfied with the results. It’s fairly straightforward, but as with all other patterns, accuracy is the key. This dahlia is Huon pine and a purple-heart and silver ash feature in the middle.
Dahlia (ダリア) pattern - Huon pine and purple-heart

Over the years I’ve read a lot of comments by so-called “experts” about Japanese woodworking and Japanese tools, and how they’re really only suited to the soft straight-grained timbers such as
sugi, hinoki, aka-matsu, hiba and other softwoods commonly used in Japan. I believe these comments are purely based on poor technique. If you know how to use Japanese saws, planes and chisels properly, and, just as important, know what “sharp” really means and how to get blades truly sharp, then they are just as effective on the hard hardwoods as Western tools.

The following dahlia is silver ash and purple-heart. Silver ash is not especially hard, but purple-heart is certainly a hard and dense timber. The joints were cut in exactly the same way as I cut the Huon pine with my very thin-bladed kumiko hand-saw. And although the hard woods dull the blade much more quickly, there were no broken teeth or other problems that many of the “experts” complain about.
Dahlia (ダリア) pattern - Silver ash and purple-heart

This one is with silver ash and Brazilian bloodwood, which is much denser and harder than purpleheart. The bloodwood was too hard to cut the
jaguchi by the normal technique, so I swapped the timbers around a bit, and used silver ash for these parts instead. But the half-lap housing joints caused no problems at all.
Dahlia (ダリア) pattern - Silver ash and Brazilian bloodwood

So with the proper technique, blades that are truly sharp, and the appropriate care, Japanese tools are not only for softwoods, but certainly suitable for all types of timber.

I’ll add the dahlia to the other patterns in the near future.

New art piece and patterns

Finished the landscape piece on Saturday. Haven’t thought up a suitable title for it yet. It’s now safely tucked away…

Landscape 01

and I started on the next pattern piece with a couple of new patterns. Tomorrow I’ll cut up and fit the main frame, then give it a couple of coats of finish.

Pattern piece with yuki-gata and kaza-guruma patterns

The next photo shows the new patterns in a bit more detail. The centre pattern is the yuki-gata kikkou (雪形亀甲), and the outer pattern is the kaza-guruma (風車), a fairly new pattern developed by a tategu shokunin in Fukushima Prefecture. Surrounding these two patterns are asa-no-ha.

Over the next week or so, I’ll add these two new patterns to the kumiko patterns page.