Japanese style lamp #1: Getting Started

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Blog entry by SPHinTampa posted 05-10-2013 10:34 PM 67055 reads 32 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Japanese style lamp series Part 2: Style # 2 - Persimmion Box »

Decided to make lamps for Christmas for my mother in law. Found a very cool book on japanese lamps so decided to take a crack at it:

Key Steps in process:
1. Prep plans and Mill stock (not shown)
2. Cut and Route legs
3. Cut, Route and Rip kumiko (rails and styles)
4. Cut and route top
5. Test fit sides
6. Glue up side panels, legs and lid
7. Add light socket
8. Light up!

Step 1 – Mill Stock
Started out with book, shoiji paper and reclaimed wood from a prior project.

Instructions in book are light on details so I made a more detailed parts list.

Step 2 – Form legs

Cut 1×1” legs to width on table saw

Cut to length on RAS

Route dados to hold frames on inside of legs

Step 3 – Form Kumiko
I route the dados in one large piece and rip to size as it is easier.

Route kumiko that form the inner frame middle stretcher

Route kumiko that form the inner frame sides

Rip the kumiko to width

And I end up with a stack of parts ready to build

Step 4 – Form the top

Miter cut the top piece

Use an angled stop to cut pieces to consistent size

Test fit the miter and it looks good (it is not of course, but we will address later)

Cut the rest of my sides

Use biscuit cutter and holding jig to add support to miter joint

Test all four sides and find out how ugly a 0.3 deg miss on each miter looks – ugly.

Use a shooting board to clean up miters

Glue up top with no ugly gap

Use table edge bit to route a gradual curve around top.

Use 1/8” round over bit to soften inner edges

Step 5 – Test fit the assembly

I discovered during this phase that it pays to make lots of extra kumiko … they are fragile and easily break during fitting.

Use block plane to make final fit

Stack of unglued sides

Route the cross braces

Test entire assembly without glue

Step 6 – Glue up

Start with sequenced group of parts

Dab a little glue at each joint and friction fit

Clamp frame to table with caul to eliminate twist after checking for square assembly.

Once try, you can roll out the rice paper.

The cut and glue using white glue. Once glue is dry, you mist the paper with water and it gets as tight as a drum. Make sure you have even glue coverage on paper or it will separate during this step.

Clamp assemblies together and let dry

The clamps legs in place and let dry

In order to join top, I used dowels. First I created a template.

Used template to drill dowels for legs

Used same template for top

Glue in dowels

Glue on top

Step 7 – Create bulb holder

Using left over scrap, I cut rabbets on the edges and then used forstner bit to drill out a 1” hole. I slipped a pre assembled mini candelabra lamp kit into the hole and screwed holder into lamp base.

Step 8 – Light Up.

I sanded assembly to 220 grit and finished using wax. Then I lit them up and enjoyed.

Next time I try this, I going to try entirely with hand tools.

-- Shawn, I ask in order to learn

6 comments so far

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3029 days

#1 posted 05-11-2013 01:56 AM

Favorited! Those really look great. May have to give that book a look.

-- Brian Timmons -

View Tim Dahn's profile

Tim Dahn

1590 posts in 4109 days

#2 posted 05-11-2013 10:39 AM

Beautiful lamps Shawn and thanks for showing the build. Favorite!

-- Good judgement comes from experience and experience comes from poor judgement.

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4426 days

#3 posted 05-11-2013 12:40 PM

Thanks for the blow by blow.


-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 4330 days

#4 posted 05-13-2013 04:54 PM

Very nice Shawn.

View BobFrankly's profile


18 posts in 1527 days

#5 posted 09-16-2015 02:32 PM

Fav’d. Going to use your experience as a reference for when I try mine!

-- BobFrankly, California

View raydawg's profile


41 posts in 2575 days

#6 posted 12-07-2015 04:10 AM

Beautiful. Going to make one for my wife. Where did you get the rice paper?

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