How to Shape a Shoji, Step by Step

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By Arlene Hirst
Every Order Miya Shoji Receives is Different, but the Procedure Follows the Same Rough Pattern Each Time.

"My father calls woodworking 'action meditation.' He says that shojis bring nature back into the house," —Zui Hanafusa, craftsman, Miya Shoji


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After selecting the lumber, craftsman Naotaka Hakamada brings it to a jointer to ensure the wood is straight before cutting into smaller pieces with a table saw. 

After selecting the lumber, craftsman Naotaka Hakamada brings it to a jointer to ensure the wood is straight before cutting into smaller pieces with a table saw. 



Next, to ensure that every single piece will be perfectly straight and square, Hakamada puts them through a jointing jig to guarantee complete uniformity. The carpenter is seen here using a planer. 

Next, to ensure that every single piece will be perfectly straight and square, Hakamada puts them through a jointing jig to guarantee complete uniformity. The carpenter is seen here using a planer. 


Making the screen is like putting together a puzzle. Here, an attachment on the table saw is used to cut the grooves that will be needed for the final assembly.

Making the screen is like putting together a puzzle. Here, an attachment on the table saw is used to cut the grooves that will be needed for the final assembly.


Using a Japanese handsaw, the woodworker, in just one stroke, cuts a channel into the wood, <br>creating a slot for the rice paper.&nbsp;

Using a Japanese handsaw, the woodworker, in just one stroke, cuts a channel into the wood,
creating a slot for the rice paper. 



Held in place by a wood frame, whetstones with varying grades of fineness are used to sharpen the blade.

Held in place by a wood frame, whetstones with varying grades of fineness are used to sharpen the blade.


Hakamada carefully pulls a plane across the wood's surface. He will use only one stroke to make sure that the surface is even. It is never sanded.&nbsp;

Hakamada carefully pulls a plane across the wood's surface. He will use only one stroke to make sure that the surface is even. It is never sanded. 


Before inserting the rice paper, Hakamada connects all the pieces by hand, then taps them in place with a hammer.&nbsp;

Before inserting the rice paper, Hakamada connects all the pieces by hand, then taps them in place with a hammer. 


The addition of the rice paper, carefully slid into the inner channel of the assembled piece, completes the screen. The whole process takes a week on average.

The addition of the rice paper, carefully slid into the inner channel of the assembled piece, completes the screen. The whole process takes a week on average.




Read the entire story of New York–based Miya Shoji, a close look at the enduring art of Japanese joinery and panelized construction.