Like many people, this winter was pretty bad for me. The isolation at home, the chaotic election, the violent attempt to overthrow a democratically elected government… I realize things were even worse for people who actually got sick, but the rest of us still had a lot to deal with. To help fight the depression, I bought one of those full spectrum lamps to at least help combat the winter blahs that are caused by lack of sunlight during the Winter. I think it helped, even if it was just the feeling that I was trying something new.
I bought a small-ish, flat-panel light that I could mount on the wall over my desk, or place off to the side on a table. It works great, and has a timer function so that I can chunk out my work day. The only problem is that its modern aesthetic clashes with my rustic Japanese decor preferences. So, I made a cedar “shoji” frame to disguise the lamp.
I can’t show you what it looks like with the light on, because the lamp is so bright that you wouldn’t be able to see anything else in the photo besides the glowing rectangle. I am thinking of adding some kumiko lattice-work to the frame opening, but kumiko are so trendy right now that I don’t know if I can bring myself to do that. Honestly, if one more person responds to me saying “I do some Japanese-style woodworking.” with “Have you tried kumiko?” I may stop discussing woodworking entirely.
Sharon bought this bell maybe ten years ago up at Pennsic. It was in the basement at the old house, then it was in the garage here at the new house. I have planned, for all this time, to build an enclosure in which to hang this bell, to give Sharon’s garden a Japanese accent piece. Well here it is.
This belfry, or shourou, is made entirely of cedar, except for the pegs and wedges, which are cypress. The vertical posts are 4-by-4. Cutting all those through-mortises in 4×4 was no picnic, let me tell you. The cross-braces are all 2-by-4. Cutting the large tenons and small securing mortises on those was fun by comparison. The roof is all quarter-inch by 4, which I made by re-sawing 1×4 on the band saw, and then planing it down to remove the saw marks. In spite of the power tools, this was ten 1x4s, and quite a bit of work.
The corner posts are six feet tall, so this is a human-scale project. There’s a ranma panel between the center roof supports that’s made from a single panel of 1-by-6. The bell hangs from this.You can see a cherry-wood mallet sitting on one of the lower cross beams, for striking the bell. The bell is made from a an old SCUBA tank. It has a pleasing sound.
I put about six days of work into this, if you don’t count the trip up to Mars Lumber to buy the cedar. I could pretty much only cut one of the vertical posts per day. I drilled out the mortise holes, the chiselled the corners out of the holes to make square mortises. To keep them square with the faces, I marked both ends of the mortises and went in from both sides to the center. This means that cutting the four large mortises and four small mortises was like cutting 16 mortises on every post. So, one per day. I would only re-saw a few of the 1x4s and cut a few 2x4s each day, too. Spreading out the work made for more variety each day, which was necessary given that I was working out in the garage in 90 degree heat.
When enough pieces were ready, I started assembling the structure. The tenons on the end of the 2x4s were pretty tight in the mortises, and the pegs to secure them had to be hammered in to tighten the joints. once I had the frame assembled, I set it up in the garden and cut the three roof beams. These have notches cut in them to hold them on the posts, and there are hidden construction screws to secure them. I could have gotten fancier with the joinery here, but I did not.
Once all the roof pieces were sawn, planed, and cut to length, it was time to make a roof. The roof pieces are all nailed in place with brads from a nail gun. Strips under the edges of the roof keep the ends of the pieces together, and a cap rail on top secures the top ends of the roof pieces. It’s not waterproof, but it does not need to be.
I’m really happy with the way this project came out. It’s big, but not too big, and very solid. The thin roof provides shade, but doesn’t make the structure too top-heavy. The bell looks great hanging there, and sounds terrific when you strike it. Lamost all of the project went according to plan, so if I need a similar structure someplace else, I know that I can make all the pieces and then construct it on-site with minimal fuss. My ultimate goal is to build a small Japanese-style house on a trailer for camping at Pennsic. This is a good step in that direction.
Long-time fans of my work my remember the nine endai benches (one, two, three through five, and six through nine) that I’ve made in the past. These are great, but they are 18 inches tall. As the endai is a half-step between the ground and the en of a Japanese dwelling, I wanted to make something that was a half-step between the ground and an endai. Even though there’s no Pennsic this year, I wanted to tackle this little project and get it off my list. I recently sorted through all of the surplus wood I have, so I knew I had enough lumber on hand to tackle this project without having to go and buy anything.
It’s entirely red cedar, and much of a style with endai six through nine, but roughly half-scale. Instead of being 36″ long, 18″ deep, and 18″ tall; this one is 18″ long, 9″ deep, and 9″ tall. The legs are 2×2 instead of 4×4. It’s a mini-bench.
I’m a bit disappointed about the external fasteners on the legs. I wasn’t able to do the joinery I usually do on the legs, and there isn’t a lot of room inside the apron for screws. Even with four screws on the interior of each leg it was a still a little rickety, so I gave in and put some screws in from the outside.
I put a bit of boiled linseed oil on it, to enhance the color and keep the wood from drying out. I’m pretty happy with it.