Saturday, July 11, 2015

Books: Making Shoji & Japanese Houses

I got a couple of books from Amazon this week. Two of them are about making Shoji, and one is called "Measure and Construction of the Japanese House".

Shoji are a typical and very characteristic feature of a Japanese house. They're essentially a sliding wooden door frame covered with translucent white paper. It's hard to get good shoji in North America. Most of the ones available are from Taiwan, and the construction is for the mass market. The shoji in Japan are of a much higher quality. The really good ones are hand crafted with incredible attention to detail. There are factory produced shoji screens in Japan as well, but even the less expensive ones in Japan are really very nice. I know of at least one local wood worker who produces shoji screens. Unfortunately they're pretty expensive and they seem to be more westernized in appearance than the authentic Japanese shoji screens.

Real Japanese shoji screens are made by carpenters who specialize in the shoji craft and have many years of training. Using simple hand tools and traditional techniques, they hand-craft the shoji screens with incredible precision and beauty. They really are works of art. Yet they appear to be deceptively simple; a wooden frame and a paper covering. While I could never make an authentic shoji screen, I got these books on making shoji and took a couple of wood working courses with the though that I could probably construct a simpler version of shoji screens for our house. The book pictured here, "Making Shoji", discusses the traditional Japanese method of shoji construction, but also provides some tips on using simpler western tools and techniques that are within the reach of a hobbyist woodworker.

Regardless of whether or not I actually attempt to build some shoji screens, these books are fun to read and full of interesting diagrams. I enjoy owning them, and I'm sure they'll provide inspiration for various projects in the future, and help us make decisions about how we want to decorate the interior of our house.

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