I was fortunate to take a shoji screen building course with Toshio Odate last weekend at the Brookfield Craft Center in Brookfield, CT. Toshio is an extraordinary woodworker and sculptor who's published two books on Japanese woodworking technique: "Japanese Woodworking Tools" and "Making Shoji", both of which I highly recommend, but start with JWT if you're new to this and interested. At any rate, I considered it a great honor just to meet him, much less study with him for two days. Each student made a small shoji (screen, photo below).
I didn't document the class in action, was too busy working on the screen, wasn't taking photos. The joints (mortice & tenon, half lap for the kumiko (internal lattice) weaving) I can document when I dissemble for packing/shipping, maybe over the weekend, can't really see much when it's assembled.
It's all poplar, tools used were all Japanese, except for Marples blue handled chisels, small regular marking guage, and a ruler:
1. ryoba (Toshio said a real good dozuki of 27 or so tpi would have been better for fine jointing)
2. shoji mortice bottom cleaner (the center one, Sokosarae Nomi, at http://amos.catalogcity.com/cc.class...66018&ccsyn=1, Toshio has bent the neck a bit more for better scooping)
3. mortice marking guages preset for 1/4" and 3/8", small wooden Japanese style
4. steel hammer (one head end crowned, one flat)
5. 3 small bronze clamps
It was a great weekend, only 6 students, each of us had our own bench and set of tools (we did have to share a couple of Sokosarae Nomi's). There was one tool we used that I don't have a name for, it was a bronze square shank, depth mark at about 1/2", nail style head for striking to clean out through mortises (used only for the stile mortises, which were worked from both sides). Note that in normal shoji making these shouldn't be through mortises, this was a shortcut for the class only, because we didn't have some very special tools needed to make these very thin stopped mortises.
A weekend with such a master...how great! And Pam, that little screen is so perfect is looks effortless...always the mark of perfection. I bought the 'mori nomi' chisel to clean out mortises, with a little more angular hook on it than the one you used, and though I don't have a collection of Japanese tools, I was surprised how well it works. I can see how one could quickly become a disciple of this method of handwork. Thanks for the description of the class. -Barb S.
One of the most valuable things that happened was that he corrected several things I wasn't doing optimally, the work got much easier after his (and his assistant Laure's) instruction. For example, the correct relationship between hand, forearm, and the saw. Once I got that, sawing became easier, faster, and the saw tracked a straight line.
We also learned how to cut a mortice from scratch with just chisel and hammer, without munging the edges, no drilling required.
Thanks, Barb. Where did you find the mori nomi? I ordered all three tools some months ago, only the kama nomi was in stock, still waiting on the other two. Maybe there really is a little, old Mr. Matsumura toiling alone with "only" his wife for help...
The square shank tool was also useful for levelling the bottoms of stopped mortises by compression. And I'm thoroughly enchanted by Japanese saws, but it's difficult choosing a set long distance. My first one was a Timber saw, which really hogs off the wood; but it's better at cross cutting. So now I'm trying to choose a dozuki; but it's tough choosing between practical, very good (replaceable blades) and superior (send a saw back to Japan for sharpening?).
Pam- these chisels are available at hidatool.com ...Hida Tool and Hardware in Berkeley, CA. Pricey, but worth it. I feel that if I spend $40.00 on a chisel and it's one reached for often, then it's been worth the money. My trouble is always in taking that leap of faith to try it! I have a little Dozukime from Lee Valley Tools (only $25) and it's held up well so far, and much used (they sell a replacement blade for it for $14, so I figured that was a good way to try a Japanese saw.) And I have a Ryoba with crosscut teeth on one side, rip onthe other. I use it less often (power, you know.) They are both aggressive saws and take some finesse (practice, practice, I tell myself.) -Barb S.
PS- I think it's time I ordered Odate's book on Japanese tools and reviewed it for my book review column on Wood Central!
Thanks for reminding me about it.
Thanks. I checked out the LV Japanese saws, the dozukime looks very interesting. My problem in choosing Japanese saws is there are too many choices for a beginner. It was easy picking an Azebiki and a Timber saw, there are only a few options; but when it comes to ryoba and dozuki, the tpi are all over the place, rip tpi ranging from 6 to 20+, same with cross cut, some with replaceable blades, others not, etc.
As to sawing technique, the trick is to line up the sawing action with the saw and line to cut; so if working one handed, let's say right handed, line up the hand and forearm parallel to the saw handle and blade, pull the arm straight back, which mostly means you stand turned a bit to the right so your left side is facing the cut to be. You pull across your body, more or less. If working two handed, clamp the piece and pull from your center trunk. Also, rather than cutting from the top of the end grain straight down when cutting tenons, saw on an angle to first cut the half you're facing, then tilt the saw to level and finish by cutting the back. Amazing difference.
JWT is a wonderful book, chock full of seemingly little tips that are of great value.