Stair-step style Tansu in Cherry

Posted by on May 14, 2017 in Custom Shoji Screens | 0 comments

Stair-step style Tansu in Cherry

My long-time client and patron Steve G ask me to make him a Tansu. This came about during a discussion in his kitchen. I told him I always wanted to build a Tansu style kitchen for someone.
A few weeks later, I heard from him. He is a really good artist. Super creative guy. The paintings in my previous blog posts are his ( I made the frames).
He sent me some drawings and I agreed I would build it down the road as I had several Shoji jobs already lined up.
I contacted him in October and by November, I had collected the deposit and ordered up all the Cherry I needed. The body of the Tansu is 5/4 Qtr Superior Grade Eastern Cherry.


It was ripped to random (3-5″ wide strips) mixed up and then glued back together again into 15″ x 8′ planks. These were then planed down to 1″ and sanded flat on the dimensional sander to 120 grit. This alone was over $2000.
No sooner than I started cutting up the planks; I was given 30 days notice from my long-time (8.5 yrs) landlord. They were going to make my shop space into offices and I was to get out. They would not budge on my moving out date.

Anyway I had 2 months of work to do in 30 days and I somehow managed to get it done and delivered to my finisher on my move out day.

13-shop pix and tansu raw 7-7-2015 5-22-13 AM 3648x2736 11-7-2016 5-58-38 PM 2560x192006-shop pix and tansu raw 7-7-2015 5-22-13 AM 3648x2736 10-28-2016 5-33-42 PM 2560x192005-shop pix and tansu raw 7-7-2015 5-22-13 AM 3648x2736 10-24-2016 2-39-03 PM 2560x192007-shop pix and tansu raw 7-7-2015 5-22-13 AM 3648x2736 11-1-2016 5-39-19 PM 2560x192010-shop pix and tansu raw 7-7-2015 5-22-13 AM 3648x2736 11-7-2016 12-14-05 PM 2560x1920P1070360P1070365P1070364P1070361

My client; Steve loves it, it’s just what he ask for (remember, he designed it).

To recap, this is Eastern Cherry framework and Local Alder for the drawer faces and drawers. These woods are very similar but different collors. The Cherry will get very dark, while the Alder stays a mellow tan. Makes for a beautiful contrast…

It’s 11″ deep, and is about 8′ x 8′. 100lb full extension dwr slides and Japanese tansu hardware from a Berkley CA company called Eastern Classics..

The paper-like insert in the shoji is the standard Warlon acrylic I always use in an off-white shade.

It took me another week to actually move out.


I moved to the only place I could find in a short timespan… the back half of a motorcycle repair shop in St Johns neighborhood. I like the folks I share it with. It needs a lot of work to get it right. When some jobs started coming around, I hustled to rearrange the space to work in. Instead of a “workshop”, I now call it “my studio” to try and give a cold windowless concrete tilt-up some class. More on that later.


Posted by on Aug 28, 2016 in Asian Design, custom made doors, Custom Shoji Screens, Japanese door, Japanese wood door, Screen Door, Shoji, Shoji Blog, sliding door | 0 comments

I had some folks from Southern Oregon contact me. They had a 4 panel, folding Shoji they brought back from Japan. This was interesting in it’s self as they don’t make a lot of folding screen in Japan.  We had to coordinate the shoji delivery as they were passing through Portland from Ashland (Southern Oregon) and had a small window to stop by the shop with the shoji.

I assume this was a “made for export” item. it was well made and appeared to be of Hinoki or Sugi Japanese wood.

I removed the old paper and replaced with a Kozo (Japanese Mulberry) type paper. Tough and a little thicker than the thin paper usually used.  Real Shoji-paper is usually about like a rolling-paper thickness. It is NOT made of rice as most people think.

You need to use the correct glue on Shoji as it needs to be easily removed.

You don’t want to sand the kumiko, just use warm water, a plant sprayer and don’t soak the wood,as it may stain the wood. Cedar will release tannins into water (or even the glue) and it makes a light brown stain. If the paper doesn’t want to come off easily, soak some rags.  I would tear off strips approx. 1-1/2″ to 2″ wide, wet them,  and leave them as long (length-wise) as you can. Damp but not real wet, and folded, you can lay them onto the glue side of the Kumiko and allow to absorb some of the moisture. This should make it come right off. Use a small scraper and carefully remove all the glue you can. Wipe down the wood before it absorbs on the sides and face of the Kumiko.

You can make your own riceglue by boiling up some sticky rice. keep adding water as it cooks out, then run through a blender or even a Nutri-Bullit. I buy a glue strainer from an Art store but you can find them at paint stores too, they’re much bigger though. Anyway, strain it through the netting and put it into a glue type bottle. I buy bottles from the dollar store. They are made for hair products, ketchup, paint etc.

Needs about a 1/16″ hole, maybe slightly bigger. 1/8″ hole is as big as I would go. Glue needs to be runny enough to flow and gooey enough to stay in a line when you squeeze it out.

Before you do your shoji, better practice on some wood and practice laying the paper on. The glue will spread once the paper hit’s it. We use rice-glue as it shouldn’t leave a stain once it’s dry.

So, lay the shoji on a bench or some sawhorses at waist height for ease. cut your paper to fit the door. If you’re having to use regular shoji paper in the 11″ rolls then figure out where the roll will cross a kumiko strip and trim it so the paper stops in the middle of the kumiko. I use a sharp saw blade in my table saw and cut the whole roll. In the case of these shoji in the pix, I cut off a 37″ roll to 18-1/4″.

Lay the paper in the shoji to make sure it fits. allow cutting off an extra 1/8″. In my case, the shoji kumiko was 18-3/8″ wide.

Having extra space makes it lay down nicely. If it is tight or pinches, it will hang up and cause the paper to bunch up.

Lay a bead of glue on ALL kumiko and carefully lay the paper into the shoji and roll it out. If it messes up bad,  just cut it off and wipe down all the kumiko and  start over. If you have 3 shoji to do, I’ll bet the first one is funky and by the 3rd one you will be an expert.

I cut off the paper with a razor knife and then trim it off so it lays in there nicely.

Allow to dry completely. Trim any excess paper and lay on the bench again face down. When completely dry, lightly spray the paper with a plant type sprayer. I use one from Home depot and it has an adjustable nozzle. You want a fine spray over most of the paper but don’t soak it. if it starts getting real wet…STOP! Allow to dry and start over. Too much water will cause the glue to loosen (like when you removed the paper). You can set the shoji in the sun to dry (watch out the wind doesn’t blow them over) or use a hairdryer or heat gun. You could put the shoji in a unused room and turn the heat up all the way, also.

That’s about it. If there are wrinkles. them spray that area again and use a hairdryer. You may have to do this several times to get ALL the wrinkles out. A few small wrinkles won’t be a be deal.



Shoji Cabinet For The Dalles

Posted by on Jan 26, 2016 in Asian Design, Asian Style, custom made doors, Custom Shoji Screens, Fine Woodworking, Japanese door, Japanese sliding door, Japanese sliding shoji door, Japanese wood door, Screen Door, Shoji, Shoji Blog, sliding door | 0 comments

Shoji Cabinet For The Dalles

P1060295    Some of my clients become patrons. In this case, Lauretta and her sister Diana hired me a couple years ago to build shoji for their newly remodeled basement and create a bedroom. I blocked off the end of one room with 2 large shoji made of my favorite wood: Superior Grade Alder.
About a year ago, there was some talk between us about adding a cabinet. They had already discussed this with a cabinet maker in The Dalles OR, where they live. he was to make something that would require 2 or maybe 3 Shoji to cover part of it. It was to have some drawers.
As the months went by, we kept in touch about it and it became obvious that their cabinet maker was too busy to even do it let alone collaborate about it.
I was headed off to Peru at the time, and agreed to get together with them upon my return.
By August, I had a design for a cabinet that I would build and incorporate some sliding Shoji for the face.
They gave me the dimensions and wanted it to look similar to the existing Shoji.
I wanted it be like a Tansu but had to really back off of all the detail a Tansu would have. It would greatly increase the cost and amount of time involved.


In the end, I had to keep refining the design to make it come apart so it could be moved and I had to lighten it up or we would not be able to carry it in the house.
Originally, I wanted this heavy top and bottom. I replaced that idea with a 3/4″ plywood bottom and added a 1-1/2″ piece all around the bottom plywood to make it look thick.
The sides are made similar to the Shoji Koshi-ita panels I had used in their Shoji. The size of the kumiko grid is very similar to the existing Shoji…3″ tall by 10″ wide with 3 rows across. A formula with a very traditional look that I use often.
Lucky I designed this so it would come apart easily as there was a corner in the hallway of the house that made carrying this difficult.
Turned out the room where it was installed was such that the ends are never seen. So including the kumiko grid on the ends was a moot point.

The clients love their cabinet and were so very nice to me. Lauretta even gave me a nice tip! my kind of client!




A picture from my past … A kiosk I made for the Forest Service

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in Custom Shoji Screens | 0 comments


This structure, that I call a kiosk was built in 1999. I built parts of it at my shop, then transported the parts to the contractor’s shop in Vancouver, WA where it was assembled and trucked to the site where it resides now.

This was part of a job done by Lloyd Kessler Construction. A company that has done lot’s of State and City of Vancouver jobs. This job in particular; The Crown Point Job was one that lasted for a couple years and this kiosk was part of the work although was quite a ways away.

This kiosk is located on a side road parallel to I-84, East of Multnomah Falls.

John B. Yeon State Park Trailhead. Douglas Kessler was the head honcho and longtime friend.

Installing a Closet Door Package with Jambs

Posted by on Apr 24, 2015 in Asian Design, Asian Style, custom made doors, Custom Shoji Screens, Fine Woodworking, Japanese door, Japanese sliding door, Japanese sliding shoji door, Japanese wood door, Screen Door, Shoji, Shoji Blog, sliding door | 0 comments

Installing a Closet Door Package with Jambs

My client has hired me a few times in the last few yrs. Lately, I cut down his closet doors in a basement room and added my typical hardware setup to good results. In todays bit, I installed shoji in a hall/entry closet.


The client wanted a “mill-core” type trim detail. This means NO trim and the dry-waller (or sheet-rocker) tapes the jamb directly to the drywall. This was popular with architects wanting a super clean line…NO CASING. Why I’m doing my blog on this job is to point out the custom made jambs on either side of the doors. A “Jamb” is the finish wood that covers the wall stud and drywall edges. 5-P1030952

A typical interior wall is 4-9/16″ thick. This incorporates a 3-1/2″ stud and a layer of drywall on either side of this stud. Using 4-9/16 or even 4-5/8″ wide material will cover the stud and drywall nicely. Any smaller and you have problems with gaps. In this case, we have NO casing. Here is how I made these…I ripped 3/4″ Birch plywood or Alder plywood to 4-9/16″ wide. I used my nice finish blade with 80 teeth for a smooth cut. I milled up 3/4″ x 1-1/2″ solid wood (to match) and glued and nailed these pieces to the edge I will use as the front or leading edge. On the back edge I used 1/4″ x 3/4″ and glued and nailed all pieces to be flush with the edge that goes against the drywall and stud. All sanded flush with 220 grt. The top part of this piece is notched to fit to the header and the valance box pieces  (these are usually 3/4″ x 3-1/8″).


The 1-1/2″ pieces have the edges rounded over with a 1/8″ round-over bit in the router. If the closet has a light in it, use a valance piece on the front and the back  of the track-box as the light will escape over the doors top and look bad. The bottom track will be trimmed to fit between the jambs.   This can be used with casing. The main reason we did this was if the jamb is NOT installed plumb and very straight against the wall stud. The shoji will not fit nicely and have gaps. The light inside the closet will show in the gaps…looking like it was installed by an amateur.


The piece on the edge blocks that light some and looks much more elegant and finished.


Amado Door-Solid Wood Sliding Door

Posted by on Apr 4, 2015 in Asian Design, Asian Style, custom made doors, Custom Shoji Screens, Fine Woodworking, Japanese door, Screen Door, Shoji, Shoji Blog, sliding door | 0 comments

Amado Door-Solid Wood Sliding Door

I recently got a call from a retro-60’s furniture store owner. He told me he had a client that need my services.  It turned out that the client; Tim, needed about 8 lineal feet of sliding door. Although he was of Japanese decent, he was not interested in Shoji.

At my shop, I showed him a set of Amado doors I have from Japan and are about 80 or 90 yrs old. They are antiques  that I keep around to show people. They are made of Pine and look almost exactly like what I built in the pics below.

Tim loved them and we agreed that I would build him a pair of doors that slide on one track and slide to one side. They would be custom made to his opening of 94″ wide by 80″ tall.

Here is what I designed and built…

Wood: I chose a Tempered Ash. This wood might be called engineered. The manufacturer heats up Eastern Ash, normally a light yellow to blonde color with distinct grain. The wood is kiln dried then heated up so that the core is 180 degrees. This changes the composition of the wood. It cooks it! The wood turns a sort of dark caramel color throughout. This wood was designed to be used outdoors. Bug and rot resistant. And all without the use of chemicals. Great stuff.

08-P1040095 The frame is 1-1/2 x 3″09-P1040096  3/8″ x 1/2″deep dado11-P1040105 I jointed the edges of the 1/2″ panels so it would fit snug. These are re-sawn 2 x 10″. Rough-sawn to 3/4″, they are 1/2″thick once they are planed and sanded.

1-P1040115I applied 11/16 x 11/16″ verticle strips.

1-P1040140How it turned out…

The doors were finished with satin sheen lacquer. Gives it an oiled look.

01-P1040125-001This shot of the door at my shop lets you see the grain and color.


Back side… This is the client’s private room that I screened away from the rest of the house.

The original use of this type of door was a shutter that fit into a track. They were stored in a slot in the wall. Like a closet for the doors. When a storm approached the house, the Amado were brought out and put in place, over the shoji. This protected the fragile paper.






A Minor Mishap in the Shop Parking Lot.

Posted by on Oct 2, 2014 in Custom Shoji Screens, Shoji Blog | 0 comments

A Minor Mishap in the Shop Parking Lot.

My shop is located in an Industrial location. Mostly the other tenants are connected somehow with the trucking industry. The building was heavily vandalized before the new owner bought the place. Slowly, they have brought it back to it’s former glory. I say that lightly as the building I am in looks exactly like a WWII era airport. I have seen airports in the Andes in Colombia SA that looked just like my building does. I like it here. Rents cheap and no one gives me any trouble. It’s easy to find too.

Anyway, a while back, a truck parked in the yard with a load of lumber. Next thing they know, it’s on top of the truck driver’s Pickup.

1-DSC04518 2-DSC04512 3-DSC04514

Guy was really lucky.



The Bug-Screen Door Finished and Installed

Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Asian Design, Asian Style, custom made doors, Custom Shoji Screens, Fine Woodworking, Japanese door, Japanese wood door, Screen Door, Shoji, Shoji Blog, sliding door | 0 comments

The Bug-Screen Door Finished and Installed


Looks nice…but my cat doesn’t like it! I assume she will destroy the beautiful bronzed screen. May have to put in a thin clear acrylic in the lower parts.

I live in a California Style Bungalow and they look great in my home.

Next up for my house is a pair of narrow shoji to replace the French doors in my office.


This door is now available as a kit for $1500. This includes the jambs, finish, hinges, and the screen installed. I can do this for $150 less if you want to finish it your self. The price includes a crate. You pay whatever the shipping is via Pilot Freight. probably around $220-275 to the major cities airports. Home delivery probably about $50-60 more. I can ship this to NYC address for $250 and that is delivered and insured.


Building a Bug-screen Shoji

Posted by on Aug 20, 2014 in Asian Design, Asian Style, custom made doors, Custom Shoji Screens, Fine Woodworking, Screen Door, Shoji, Shoji Blog | 0 comments

When the flies started invading my house, I decided to take action!

I built a shoji of Western Red Alder, (Alnus Rubra) which is my favorite wood. I finished it with a Urethane varnish, also called polyurethane, as it offers a better resistance to heat, solvents and abrasions than any other varnish.

Finishing the wood is a major problem for woodworkers. They can do perfect work with the design, assembly and sanding…then mess it all up applying a finish. I ‘ve tried them all. I’ve bought an expensive spray gun and loads of materials to run therough it with varying success.

On this project I opted for a brush as traditionally that’s how varnish is applied. And, all in all it was successful. But next time I’ll spray it…or better yet, have the finisher I use regularly; spray it in his spray booth. BTW- I use STAN HANSON CUSTOM FINISHING right here in Portland. These guys are great and always are helpful to me.

Here is what the door looks like with no screen 01-P1030671

The Koshi-ita panel is traditional. Here it also functions as it would in Japan with a paper in it…the panel protects the bottom edge of the door and the roof overhang protects the upper part. it also keeps people from putting a foot or knee through the screen.

I bought my bronzed screen at my favorite Hardware store here in Portland; WINK’S HARDWARE. It’s not cheap; about $6.00 a running foot for 30″ wide screen. I could have used black too but the bronze is about the same color as the wood, so I went with that.

04-P1030668 05-P1030667

This is really hard to cut and have the piece be square. The kumiko is only 3/8″ x 3/8″.

I stapled it into the kumiko with 5/16″ staples and put on the other kumiko grid which I screwed on with tiny screws. This is so it can be replaced easily. I considered a storm window too but that was getting complicated and I needed a screen door quickly.


And here’s what it looks like. I have made some jambs that will be surface mounted on the exterior casing. This screen will be hinged. Need to figure out how to make it close it’s-self without slamming.

03-P1030673 Can’t really see the bronze screen in this photo. Hopefully I’ll get it installed by tomorrow and post a pic of that.

I will be selling these in this kumiko design and in the traditional horizontal rectangle design in standard sizes. 30″, 32″ 34″ 36″ by 80″ tall.

They will be of Alder with a sprayed on Poly-Varnish. Will have the typical koshi-ita panel at door bottom

cost for 30″ and 32″ x 80″ door only: Unfinished $950

cost for 32″, 34″ and 36″ screen door is $1040

I can do these in clear Fir for $120 extra.

add $30 for finish and $150 for a crate if shipped. Shipping is extra.


Media Screen Cover…sort of a Mini Shoji

Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Custom Shoji Screens, Shoji Blog | 0 comments

I was ask to cover up the screen that drops down above the clients fireplace.
This is clear Douglas Fir with an acrylic insert to match the 2 sets of screens in their house.
Right now, I’m building 2 5′ x 6′ picture frames to match also.
The client, who is an excellent painter commissioned me to build these for the huge blank walls in his Great Room. he will be able to interchange his paintings in these frames according to whim.