Japanese hand toolsIn their very basic form, shoji and kumiko-zaiku are simply a matter of joint placement, lengths and angles. With the proper care and perseverance in marking and cutting, the thousands or even tens of thousands of very small individual pieces will come together cleanly and precisely to create breathtaking works of art. To achieve this, the kumiko shokunin requires a broad range of highly specialized tools, on top of the normal tools used by most woodworkers. Some of these tools can be bought, but in most cases, shokunin alter and adapt existing tools to suit their own personal working style and needs. It is these original and innovative tools, along with the many highly resourceful jigs designed to ensure these tools can function properly that are guarded so jealously. In a highly competitive world battling for a gradually shrinking market as the Japanese slowly trend away from traditional forms of housing to the more Western style of housing, these tools, jigs, and the many years and even generations of experience in using them are the true lifeblood of the kumiko shokunin.
In this section, I'll briefly describe the range of tools I use in my shoji and kumiko-zaiku work. Because of the nature of this work, most are hand tools. I have the normal types of machinery for all the initial dimensioning processes, but once the kumiko are machined down to the required width (mikomi - 見込み) and thickness (mitsuke - 見付け), the remainder of the processes are done predominantly by hand using various hand tools.
I won't go into great depths about the tools as there is an abundance of references covering Japanese tools on the internet and in books. So this will be just a brief rundown on the tools and some interesting points that may not be commonly known.
Clicking on the following links will take you to explanations of the tools. This will continue to be a work in progress.