Japanese woodworking is mostly done with softwood and kumiko is no exception. Here I’m using basswood which is a great starting point to learn kumiko. Its soft fibers and forgiving nature allow you to work it quite easily and hide those unforeseen mistakes.
Kumiko is an ancient Japanese woodworking tradition and this asanoha pattern is certainly the most popular. This instructable breaks down the four main parts of this pattern into small, digestible sections. The four parts that make up this pattern are the grid, diagonals, these pieces that make up these diamonds, and short diagonals.
You will need kumiko jigs to make this project:
You can buy a kumiko start kit here! It includes all the jigs and pieces you need to make this pattern. The only thing you need to provide is a chisel.
Tools that I used:
This can all be done with chisels and a handsaw. The table saw simply speeds things up.
Sawstop table saw - https://amzn.to/2ILhw5L
Chisels - https://amzn.to/2ILhw5L
Japanese handsaw - https://amzn.to/2ILhw5L
Step 1: The Grid
The stock I’m using is ⅛” by ½” and we'll be making a 6" square pattern. Rough cut six pieces to just over 6” long and trim them to exactly 6” using your table saw and crosscut sled with a stop block.
The next thing to do is cut the half lap joints that will tie this grid together. Start by laying out where you need to cut the half laps. One will go directly in the center of these pieces and another on either side of the strips ½” in from the edge. Use a marking knife to get sharp lines and mark out the width of the half laps which are ⅛” wide. We do this so we can line up those marks with the table saw blade and has it cut the joints since it too is ⅛”. Adjust your stop block accordingly. Since we’re using ½” wide strips, our blade needs to be sticking up ¼” to cut halfway through the material. Start slightly lower, testing the fit, and slightly raising the blade until you get a perfect fit. Now we can assemble the grid.
Step 2: Diagonals
Roughly measure out the length needed for these four diagonal pieces and cut them slightly oversized. Now we can take out our kumiko jigs and cut the 45 degree angles needed on the ends of the pieces.
Each end of these pieces gets a 45 degrees cut resulting in a 90 degree point. Adjust your jigs to sneak up on the proper length needed for a snug fit in your grid.
Step 3: Diamonds
There are sixteen pieces that make up this section and these are the pieces that intimidate me the most. But with a firm understanding and a bit of patience, you can get a nice, snug fit.
Start with your 67.5 degree jig cutting a point on one end of each piece. This is the end that will fit in the corner of the diagonal pieces we just added and the grid. The opposite end of these pieces get a 22.5 degree cut. This is the area where patients is required to achieve the proper length. Dry fit two of these pieces in place and ideally there should not be a gap between the 22.5 degree bevels and corners.
There is still one more cut needed on these on these pieces and for that we need to move the stop block on our 22.5 degree jig, in just the smallest amount. Here we have to remove two thirds of the pointy end of the bevel we just created to create an asymmetrical point. This might take some trial and error so start taking off less material than needed and sneaking up on the fit.
If you haven’t noticed by now that’s the name of the game when it comes to kumiko. Sneaking up on the perfect fit. These two pieces are fit into place with the the one third, smaller of the asymmetric bevels meeting each other.
Step 4: Small Diagonals
These small diagonal pieces are cut just like the larger ones in step 2. Rough cutting your pieces to length and using your 45 degree jig to cut points on the ends of all pieces and, you guessed it, sneak up on a nice snug fit.
Step 5: Finishing Touches
With that the pattern is completed. At this point I like to take everything apart and add a small dab of wood glue to each joint to secure all the pieces. You can also do this during the process but I like to make sure everything fits properly before it's permanently attached.
The final thing to do is sand the faces of this pattern as there might be some uneven joints. Start with 220 grit wrapped around a wooden block and move up through the grits. You can take this as high as you’d like. Just make sure you do both sides.
And with that it’s all done.
Step 6: You're Done!
I hope this gave you a bit of insight on how kumiko patterns are made and inspired you to try it out yourself. If you have any questions, leave them down below and I’d be happy to answer them. Thank you for sticking around and I hope to see you in the next instructable!
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