DIY Shoji Screen


Make a contemporary version of a folding shoji screen using lightweight materials and some ingenuity. This shoji screen project does not require saws or wood. It does require a large work surface on which to place the screen while it is being constructed. Begin by deciding upon dimensions and drawing the screen (grid) plan on a sheet of graph paper. The frame will be made of heavy-duty cardboard instead of wood.

Build The Frame

  • Look for a stiff cardboard that will stand upright without curving or bending. Visit industrial packaging companies and moving and storage companies for sturdier cardboard. Purchase a product that the screen can be cut from as a whole piece (e.g., a 5-foot-by-3-foot panel would need cardboard at least that size). Each panel will need two sheets of cardboard each, with a thickness of 1/4 inch or more---a two-panel screen would need a total of four sheets. Measure and cut out the openings for the screen material on each panel. Practice cutting on scrap cardboard to finesse a smooth cut. Make sure to use new, sharp blades for the best cuts.

Choose The Grid Material

  • Get creative with the grid material. There are a wide variety of rice papers, patterned mylar and decorative papers available. Visit craft stores and artist's supply stores to locate a favorite. Find a local paper maker or paper artisan and have a special paper made just for this project, or purchase one of their ready-made items. Shoji screens allow for light to enter a space but keep privacy intact. Stick with papers that have transparent properties for the best results. Mesh or metal material can be used in place of papers.

Attach the Screen

  • Assemble the screen by creating a sandwich of cardboard, paper and cardboard. Cut the grid material 1/4 to 1/2 inch larger than the opening it will fill (e.g., an 8-inch-by-12-inch opening will need paper cut at 9 inches by 13 inches). Using double-sided tape, lay the paper over the opening, tape-side down, pressing and adhering it to the inside of one sheet of cardboard. Mesh can be stapled to hold it in place. Once the paper is well attached on all sides, prepare to place the second sheet of cardboard to create the sandwich. Place double-sided tape around the grid material (this seals the grid material on both sides so there are no gaps around the opening). Add paper or wood glue to the inside face of the cardboard panel, then place the second sheet of cardboard on top. Weight the panel with heavy books or flat objects on a flat surface for drying. Clipping them together for drying purposes can mar the cardboard surface.

Hinge the Panels

  • Hinging the panels together to create a screen can be accomplished several ways. Experiment with where the hinges need to be placed. When the overall screen height is more than 4 feet, hinges are usually placed about 6 to 8 inches from the top and the bottom, with a hinge also located in the center. Lightweight metal hinges can be used, but care will need to be taken not to pierce the cardboard all the way through. The length of the screw should be less than the thickness of the cardboard sandwich. A quicker, easier way to hinge the panels is to pierce them using an electric drill and a small-diameter bit. Match the placement of the holes on each panel and use ribbon, string, rafia or shoelaces and lace the panels together and tie the ends in a bow; add a decorative tip to the ends of the ribbon. Loose-leaf binder rings (found at office-supply stores) are another way to connect the panels using the drilled openings.

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