Experiments in Kumiko Woodworking–Part II
I’m actually posting this blog sooner than I expected to. A Friday evening spent making a shooting board and a snowy Saturday morning cutting and assembling parts was all it took to complete the kumiko design on this cabinet door panel. Granted, it’s a very simple example of the technique, but everything went smoothly and I’m as happy as I can expect to be on my first effort, not that I’ve come close to mastering the technique. On the contrary, I’ve just scratched the surface of a technique that would take a lifetime to truly master.
But that’s the really cool thing about woodworking. A lot of techniques seem very intimidating at first glance, whether it’s shaping a cabriole leg, carving a shell, inlaying a bellflower, or even picking up a handplane for the first time. But when we get the courage up to give it a try, it’s amazing how much we’re able to accomplish.
Each part of this design needs to be beveled at 45 or 22.5 degrees in order to fit in place. I made a simple shooting board with an angle at each end that made it easy to bevel the parts with a block plane. Adjustable stops ensured that the pieces ended up at the precise length.
I started with the diagonal pieces and planed a 45 degree bevel on each end. I cut a groove in the top of the shooting board to hold the piece. I made it a little wide so the piece wouldn't get stuck, but the wiggle room was a problem because the work piece moved during planing. I'll shoot for a snug fit on the next one I make.
It took a couple of tries to get a snug press fit, but the time spent on making an accurate grid paid off, because I didn't have to do any custom fitting and everything fit right off the shooting board.
The bent pieces came next. I started by planing 22.5 bevels on the ends.
The bent pieces needed a saw kerf most of the way through the stock. Once I dialed in the depth of the cut, I clamped stop blocks to my saw. The saw cuts were a little fuzzy. I'm not sure if it was due to my saw being dull or the wood I used. I chose basswood instead of the traditional cedar. It didn't seem to affect the final result, but it bugged me.
I wet each piece at the joint to prevent it from snapping and gave it a bend before setting it in place.
Little stubby guys lock the bent pieces in place and finish the design.
Here's a better shot where you can see the fuzzy kerfs.
I backed the kumiko with red handmade paper. Right now I have french iron hardware on the cabinet, but I may end up going with turned ebony pulls.
The design required working accurately with small parts, but I wouldn't call the process tedious. It was actually a nice way to spend a morning at the workbench.