How to Build Japanese Shoji Screens

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Shoji is a type of translucent screen traditionally used for dividing walls in Japanese housing. Usually crafted by placing rice paper over a wooden framework, shoji screens allow light to filter through a room while still maintaining some level of privacy. Today, shoji screens are often used as sliding doors between rooms or to the outside, as well as interior window coverings, closet doors and freestanding screens. In the West, many people use freestanding shoji screens to solve interior design problems such as overlarge rooms, as well as to create a soothing ambience.

Things You'll Need

  • 1/2-inch-thick basswood or other wood
  • 1/4-inch-thick wood
  • Small nails
  • Hammer
  • Saw
  • Wood glue
  • Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Six medium-size hinges
  • Rice or washi paper
  • Rice glue
  • Determine what size you would like to make your shoji screen. Shoji can be as large or small as you need, as long as you can fit a consistent number of same-size grids inside the frame. For example, the fairly large, hinged, room-divider type of screen this article describes is 53 inches wide by 73 1/2 inches high, with 63 grids arranged in a 9-by-7 pattern. Be sure to take into account the width of your screen frame and grid frames, which in this case would be 1 inch and 1/4 inch, respectively.

  • Build the wooden frames for your shoji screen. Cut 12 pieces of wood that are 1 inch wide wood and 73 1/2 inches long out of the 1/2-inch-thick wood. Cut 12 more pieces of wood that are 1 inch wide and 15 1/2 inches long from the same type of wood. Create six rectangular frames, gluing together two of the short pieces inside two of the long pieces, then drive nails through the corners to secure the joins.

  • Build the kumiko, or grids, for your shoji screen frame. Cut 36 pieces of wood 1/4 inch wide and 15 1/2 inches long out of the 1/4-inch-thick wood, and glue six of these pieces horizontally down the length of each screen, 10 inches apart. Cut 84 pieces of wood 1/4 inch wide and 10 inches long out of the same wood. Glue two of these pieces vertically to each row on each frame, 5 inches apart and 5 inches from the sides. This should create an effect of evenly spaced grids on all six of your frames.

  • Paint and finish all of your frames in one color, or leave the frames bare. Let any paint dry completely.

  • Attach rice or washi paper to the back side of three of your frames, using rice glue or the wood glue you have already been using. Make sure that the paper lays reasonably flat, then glue the other three frames to the back side of these frames, sandwiching the rice paper between them. Attach the three sandwiched frames to one another along the length, putting hinges at the bottom of the first grid row and the top of the last row.

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