Instructables
I wanted to replace my closet doors with something that fits more closely with the furniture I build and the renovations I've been doing on my house.  I've always hated bypass doors on closets - they make a closet seem dark and cramped,  they're a pain to use, and it always seems that what you want to get to is on the side where the doors currently are - so there's lots of sliding, fumbling, cussing, etc, etc.  I wanted some closet doors that were light, airy, and allowed full-access to the whole closet at one time - so I settled on bi-fold doors.  Now, I know what you're saying "Bi-fold doors!? Are you kidding?" - to which I'd say, "Read on" - but first some disclaimers: 

Because each installation is fairly unique (your closets aren't going to be exactly the same size as mine) I won't be giving a detailed set of plans.  I'm assuming (dangerous, I know) that you have some modicum of woodworking skill before tackling a project like this.  Although it IS a fairly simple project, it does require some precision. 

You do not need to have a shop full of tools to build something like this, however, you will need to make up for whatever tools you lack (like a jointer and planer) with outstanding hand-tool skills, or, a trip to a cabinet shop where they can dimension the lumber for you. 

For those who are familiar with traditional Shoji design, construction, and installation, you will see that I used a lot of ... uh... "alternate methods" which work - but aren't exactly "traditional" - I hope the Shoji Gods forgive me :)  I recommend Jay Van Arsdale's book "Shoji: How to Design, Build, and Install Japanese Screens" to anyone interested in traditional construction and installation.

Finally, the project cost about $400 total - that's for the wood, shoji paper, finishing materials, and quality hardware - not exactly cheap, but also nowhere near what these would cost if you had them made.
 
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Jeffsieben1 month ago
How did you make the Kumiko? I didn't see how you cut those yourself on the table saw? Or did you simply buy them?
jwilliamsen (author)  Jeffsieben1 month ago

I cut them to rough size on the table saw and then sized them to final dimensions using a thickness planer. I don't know if you can buy kumiko - but it wouldn't surprise me if you could.

This is beautiful.
I have read this instructable many times trying to work up the nerve to do it. Love the project and think it is beautiful. Enjoy your very complete instructions. Thanks for sharing.
Cheers,
Duane Thompson
duanesails@gmail.com
Love, love, love it! And I thought my stinky dirty rough old louvered doors were the worst - you win. Please come to my house and make them for me! Pleeeeeeeeease -
Greetings jwilliamsen,

Just wanted to say awesome work on the Shoji Screen Closet Doors! I am building my third Shoji Screen for a window covering and after reading your Instructable, I believe that my end result this time will be of much higher quality!!! Thanks for the guidance.
saosport1 year ago
Wow beautiful. This is exactly what I was looking for. I have odd size doors and do not plan on paying big money for custom doors I can make. I would spend the money on tools I can reuse on other projects instead of having someone else build them for me. Thanks
beautiful! I absolutely love the look
:)
wziegler12 years ago
Hi. I was wondering if you could give me a suggestion since you did such a great job on your shoji doors. I am trying to make shoji style bifold closet doors but with quite a few more shortcuts/adaptions due to my lack of woodworking skills. Currently I have bifold doors installed in my closet. They are wood but I believe they are hollow inside. I have 4 dogs (one of them is 185 pound mastiff) so the thought of making closet doors with shoji paper seems like a terrible idea. I can imagine my dog putting a hole in the paper within a day. So I was thinking about putting the shoji paper or some other kind of opaque material (very very thin frosted plexiglass or something else to create the frosted effect) directly on top of the closet doors. I'm not sure how I would adhere it...possibly a spray glue??? And then simply buying a wooden garden lattice or strips of thin wood molding, painting or staining them and attaching them to the front of the closet doors to give the illusion of shoji doors. I'm not sure if I'm explaining this very well but I'm still hoping someone understands and can offer suggestions and/or their opinion if something like this would even work or in any way resemble a shoji door. Thanks in advance for your help!!!!!!
jwilliamsen (author)  wziegler12 years ago
OK - one more idea:

1) Take medium-weight, acid-free paper and use spray adhesive to bond it to the door (this backing will reflect light and block out any visual color-bleed from the door surfaces). This step would only be necessary if you use a translucent Shoji paper. 2) Lay out your Kumiko pattern. Place double faced tape around the perimeter of where you will layer the Shoji paper. 3) Lay out the tape in the same pattern that your Kumiko will follow. 4) Lay the Shoji paper over this and burnish your paper down. What you are doing is bonding the backing paper to the door, and the Shoji paper to the backing paper - but making sure that the tape will be hidden by the Kumiko. 5) Repeat the layout of the Kumiko pattern on the surface of the Shoji paper with double-faced tape and bond your Kumiko strips.

Of the methods I mentioned, this one seems to me to be the one with the least pain (no painting) and SHOULD yield pretty good results - however - you really need to do a little testing to find the look that you want. A little time spent testing can save a whole lot of disappointment down the road.....
jwilliamsen (author)  wziegler12 years ago
Just FYI, Shoji "paper" isn't necessarily paper, per-se - the material I used consists of paper laminated between two layers of PVC sheet - so it's a lot tougher than it looks.

I understand what you're trying to do and why. I think you could achieve a similar look to a genuine Shoji screen - although "similar" is going to be a subjective thing since what you're thinking of won't have much depth. You have a number of options depending on your budget and how involved you want to get.

Forgive my rambling - this is all off the top of my head:

The plexiglass technique - besides being expensive - probably wouldn't achieve the look you want. Frosted plexiglass is going to look a little "flat" and you'd probably want to space it off the surface of the doors along with painting the surface under it white..... going through it in my head, it sounds like a lot of work for a less-than-optimum result. :-\

The simplest solution might be to paint white (or textured) areas on the doors, then use thin glued-on wood battens to make your "kumiko". You could have a cabinet shop make you some wood strips if you can't find what you want. I would think garden lattice would be too thick and rough, and molding would be too thick (you're looking for something around 3/8" wide and maybe 1/8" thick).

The next step up would be to use Shoji paper or rice paper and attach it to the door - around it's perimeter only - and then use brads or double-face tape to attach / adhere the lattice parts (Kumiko). You will want to either paint the area of the door under the paper with a bright white or possibly silver paint to reflect light, or, just use another layer of bright white acid-free (non-yellowing) paper as a backing. I don't think a spray adhesive would be a good idea in this case because it might stain the paper eventually (which is why I'd tack around the perimeter, under the frame, only). The type of paint used (if you went that route) would also be a consideration if you live in a humid climate as it *might* bond to the paper and later crack and come loose from the door - not pretty - so I'd avoid latex and go with something oil-based. I would shy away from plain rice paper for this technique and go with double-sided PVC Shoji paper - why? Because if you attach paper tends to wrinkle with changes in humidity - unless you live in a very dry climate... and uncoated paper is harder to clean). PVC paper is much less prone to wrinkling and is easy to clean. You don't want to try to clean Mastiff slobber off regular paper - lol.

I would recommend ordering some paper samples from e-shoji.com, or finding a supplier who can provide you with samples to play around with. The nice thing here is that you can get by with the thinner materials than what I used (cheaper and more styles to choose from). Use the samples for some non-permanent tests on the doors - try paper backing, aluminum foil backing, mylar backing - or if you choose a very opaque paper - no backing at all. Experiment with attachment techniques - be aware that staples or brads can crack some of the PVC backed papers and brads require filling holes, so using the shoji tape is the way to go IMO. You could use carpet tape, too - but cutting it to ~3.8" width would be crazy-making work.

Good luck - I hope this helps. Feel free to ask follow-on questions should anything be unclear. Whatever you end up doing, you should consider documenting it and posting an Instructable :)

lyssums3273 years ago
I really want to do this for my room that connects to the living room! Only problem I wouldn't know how to make it look nice on both sides of the room. Like how it looks on the outside of your here.
jwilliamsen (author)  lyssums3273 years ago
Traditional Shoji usually only look "good" on one side. What you would do to make it look nice on both sides is essentially make two identical screens and put them back to back (with paper only on one of the "halves"). The important thing is that your lattices are either perfectly symmetrical or mirrored so that when you place them back to back the Kumiko on one panel line up with the Kumiko of the other panel .

You'd probably want to make your frames around half as thick - maybe a little thicker depending on how you plan to install them (fixed screens could be thinner than a panel that was going to be manipulated).

Good luck :)
Thank you so much! I will See what I could do.
sunshiine3 years ago
When do you find the time to do this with your schedule! Awesome!
neonack3 years ago
I am making my own but would like to know what your thoughts are on a 4 panel shoji door opening slightly larger than 97inches long and 5" deep.

it its going to be a by-pass door, tracks on the top and bottom.
jwilliamsen (author)  neonack3 years ago
So, I'm making some assumptions here: You're planning on building 4 separate panels each door on it's own track, to span an opening of 97" with a total depth of the doors and tracks being 5"(?) This will give you a panel thickness of around 1" (assuming a spacing of 1/4" between panels). I'd suggest going with a wider rail to make up for lost thickness and help make a stiffer door with better resistance to racking forces.


The other questions that come to mind are in regards to indexing the panels to each other and installation issues caused by potential inaccuracies in the existing door frame opening:


In regards to indexing, multiple bypass doors usually have a "tab" system that allows one door to "grab" another as it passes and bring it along - like a telescoping antenna - otherwise opening and closing that many panels and keeping them aligned not only side-to side but also front to back becomes kind of a pain in the butt. You may want to research those systems and see about integrating them into your design. There is also the possibility of putting "stops" in the tracks to help position the doors - but that would limit you to opening in one direction. Lots to think about, anyway.


Before you get too far in your design, you may want to check that your door opening is square and plumb - and if it's not, you might want to consider building a dedicated frame and install your doors like you would a typical residential interior door - i.e. shim it into place and cover the gap with trim. Since you're installing a set of doors who's smooth function is going to be dependent on their tracks being parallel and square top to bottom - a dedicated shop-built frame seems like the way to go since getting something that requires a good amount of precision to "fit" into the typical sloppy closet door opening can really be a torturous experience. Since your doors are going to be tracked at the top and bottom, also be sure to check that the distance from the floor to the top of the opening is consistent across the width of the door - it's more common to have variances that one might think (one more good reason to build a dedicated frame).


Good luck! Sounds like a great project - I hope you create an instructable to show off your results!  If by some chance I misunderstood what you were asking for,  just let me know and I'll post another response. :)
Actually the door 2 rail by-pass, with 4 door in it. Length of opening for the closet is about 97" and the width of the track and frame is 5". I plan to sink the track below the floor so the track is not visible above the floor.

So I guess my question based on your excellent response is that the doors need to be 1" thick? I am I correct in thinking this? How much thicker on the bottom track do I need go?

I went to http://johnsonhardware.com/sdindex.htm for the 4 door sliding by pass hardware. Any thoughts on weight constraints of each door? Would the 300lb set be overkill?

Let me know your thoughts. Thanks again for getting back to me!
jwilliamsen (author)  neonack3 years ago
Oh - OK - a 2-track system with 4 doors - got it. Well, that makes things easier.


Now that I know that, however, I am curious as to why you are going to use a lower track as well? That may cause problems getting the doors in and out of their upper tracks, and I think it adds complexity that may not be necessary - unless you have a specific purpose that I'm missing. Traditional Shoji will use a lower track, but they tend to use a "tab and slot" kind of tracking system at the top - they're not mechanically attached - so they need that extra control. If you're using rolling hardware, the standard floor guides should work just fine and save you the trouble of letting a track system into your floor (IMO, of course).


The 300 LB set would *definitely* be overkill - I'd be shocked if your door panels weighed 20 LBS apiece when completed (assuming you're using Shoji paper) - so definitely don't spend the extra money. The model I'd be looking at for your application would be the 111SD both for it's flexibility in door thickness (because of a split rail system) and it's 150lb weight capacity.


Door thickness can be what you would choose - you can use my design specifications as a guide - or go thicker or thinner (down to 3/4" if you use the 111SD hardware). Since your application will only be 2 doors deep instead of the 4 doors that my original post assumed, you can definitely go thicker than 1". Just off the top of my head, I'd say a thickness of 1-1/4" to 1-3/8" would be the range I'd consider - but realize that too thick is going to look kind of "clunky". Also, it's a good idea to have the actual hardware in hand before you commit to any design - know how your hardware will be installed and know the required clearances so that you don't have to hack part of a door off later (yes, it's happened to me). It's very easy to make your doors just a *little* too tall - so know the manufacturer's suggested dimensions and your installation dimensions and how they will affect you before you design and build your doors. As we used to say when I was a machine designer  - "A minute on the drawing table saves an hour in the shop" ;)
Thanks a million man, I will go buy the hardware and rough fit everything before I set it.
Another question I have is that the opening is just a tad over the 96" length would guess to say 97". I am also putting face molding on the ends where the doors meet, so to hide the joists better. Would that be a problem for sliding if the length of opening is slightly larger than the hardware?
jwilliamsen (author)  neonack3 years ago
No - that shouldn't be a problem at all. It's possible that the hardware track will be a little longer than 96" - you may actually have to trim it to fit. If you do end up with a space on either end, be sure to split the difference - i.e. half the gap on either end.  From what it sounds like, the worst case scenario would be that you'd have a 1/2" gap on either end of the track, and I don't see that being a serious issue - just be sure that when you install your hardware on the door panels that you check to make sure you're not going to go off track on *either* side (right or left) of the door. You might have to install the roller hardware a little more inboard than the directions specify, but I really doubt it. I think it should work out just fine. Good luck! :)
Thanks so much! I will attempt this very soon for my closet and also to use as a means to hide too many doors. I want to use two in a corner to make it look like one large opening is behind the doors when in actuality, there's two doors behind them. LOL..there's three doors in my bedroom. Thanks!
boomrlargo3 years ago
Both the instructable and the finished project are a thing of beauty.
wobbler3 years ago
Nice!!!
VERY NICE! How bout we skip all those steps and you build a few more sets! I know I would buy them! Great job!
CementTruck3 years ago
Great job, great Instructable! Shoji Screens are awesome. I've built a few myself.

Stephica3 years ago
These are beautiful, wonderful job!
TechDante3 years ago
excelent instructable. these look loverly
socrates_al3 years ago
Wow! This is very, very cool!
wario2353 years ago
Epic. Love the instructions, quite clear. The end result is fantastic.
cheesehead3 years ago
1. you did a fantastic job.
2. the only thing i might want to see in my sick mind is some music oriented dancing led's
3. again awesome job.
milesduggan3 years ago
Totally wish I had a slider closet so I could do this! Maybe when I move in 6 months the new house will have them (sigh). lol
bluecor3 years ago
Horizontal tape on one section and vertical on the other--was this an experiment, or am I missing a hidden purpose? Which worked best?
jwilliamsen (author)  bluecor3 years ago
Actually, both horizontal and vertical slats received tape. You apply it to the vertical sides/sections/lattices first, peel the backing, then go back and do all the horizontal sections. If you look closely at the third image, you can see the tape in place - it's pretty translucent once it's burnished down and the backing is peeled off . You can also glue the paper down, but tape is by far the fastest and easiest route - and it's a strong bond.
Oh, I see it now. Thanks!
SolidVapor3 years ago
Looks great!
WOW, that is STUNNING. Hopefully one day I get to build my house from the ground up and be able to include beautiful work like this! :)
augur453 years ago
The Blue Tape matching marks... Thank you for that one... So much better than sanding away pencil marks... especially with perpendicular grains to contend with (sanding-wise).
DAYJAY3 years ago
Beautiful job. Excellent instructions. Like reading a really well written and photographed story. Great sense of humor... heh, heh... night light.
I second this!
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