Introduction: How to Make an Andon-Inspired Mini Kumiko Lantern

About: Hi, I'm Brian. My goal is to make fine woodworking — and especially Japanese kumiko woodworking — accessible and fun.

Today I'm going to show you how to make these mini lanterns that are inspired by Japanese andon lamps. Andon are wood and paper lamps traditionally made for indoor use. I’ve decided to add some kumiko to mine, but andon can be anywhere from basic to complex. I like the challenge of creating something restrained yet detailed like this.

I've made mine with thicker lumber, so in the video you can see I joint and plane mine to thickness. But you can make these lanterns with hardwood from a big box store that is already dimensioned, making those steps unnecessary.


24" x 6" x 3/4" hardwood (I used birdseye maple and cherry)

24" x 4" x 1/2" hardwood (same species as the thicker board, or you can just thickness the thicker board to this 1/2" thickness)


Wood glue

Finish of choice (I used General Finishes Arm-R-Seal oil-based topcoat)

Bike City Mini Kumiko Lanterns FREE Plans

Step 1: Cut the Leg Stock

The first step is to cut strips for the legs of the lantern. I set the table saw fence to the thickness of the material and rip enough for 4 legs. Refer to the plans for specific lengths and widths.

Step 2: Making the Stretcher Stock

If you're using 3/4" thick stock for both the legs and stretchers, now is when you'll thickness the remaining wood to 1/2", after the legs have been separated.

Once the remaining stock is at 1/2", you can again set the table saw fence to the thickness of the board, and rip strips for the stretchers.

Step 3: Chop Everything to Length

When you have strips for both the legs and the stretchers cut, you can cross-cut them all to length. I use a miter saw with a stop block, but you can do this with a hand saw just as easily. The most important part is that all legs are exactly the same size, and all the stretchers match as well.

Step 4: Cut the Cross-Lap Joinery

This is where the project gets a bit more complex. The whole lantern joins in what I’m calling a triple lap. I’m not sure if it’s actually called that, but that’s what I’m calling it.

You can see in the diagram that the leg has laps on adjacent faces, and the stretchers have a traditional cross-lap that allows them to join at a 90 degree angle. We need to cut these joints precisely, and for that I use a table saw sled.

Starting with the leg laps, set up stop blocks to determine the width of the lap. I set the final width to a hair less than the thickness of the stretcher, because I want to be able to sand the stretchers to fit to ensure a tight joint. Run the leg through the saw against one stop block, then move the leg against the other stop block and run it through again to establish the width. Finally, hog out the rest in the middle moving the leg slightly for each cut. Flip the piece end for end and repeat the process.

Rotate the leg to an adjacent face and repeat the whole process to create the leg joint.

(Refer to the video for more info)

Next, I cut the stretcher cross-laps using stop blocks just like the leg joints, setting the width of the final lap to a hair less than the thickness of the stretcher so I can sand it.

Step 5: Assemble the Horizontal Frames

Since the joints are sized just a hair smaller than the stretchers, it's going to take some sanding for final fitment. Simply rub the sides of the stretchers against a sheet of 220-grit sandpaper, checking for fit along the way, until you get a perfect fit.

Note: Sand only the sides of the stretchers so they can join together. Don't sand the tops or bottoms yet.

Step 6: (Optional) Profile the Edges

If you want to have a profiled edge, now's the time to do it. I chamfered all of my parts slightly on my homemade router table.

If you just want to break the edges with sandpaper, you can wait until the piece is put back together entirely.

Step 7: Assemble the Lanterns

Horizontal Frames

Glue the horizontal frames together with wood glue and clamps. Once the glue is dry, you will need to sand the tops and bottoms for final fitment into the leg joinery. Repeat the sanding process in the previous step, checking the fit along the way, until you have a barely loose fit in the leg joinery.


Once all the horizontal frames are fit, you can glue the horizontal frames into the leg joinery. The joinery should make the lantern frames come together easily, and square.

Note: It's important to have a barely loose fit versus a tight fit in these joints. Glue will swell the wood in the joint, which could end up cracking the legs easily if you force the joint together.

Step 8: Finish the Lanterns

After a final sanding on all parts up to 220-grit, apply your preferred finish to the lanterns. I use General Finishes Arm-R-Seal in semi-gloss, which builds up a protective film finish.

Step 9: Make the Kumiko

The kumiko is an optional part of the project. The free plans have a very basic design for the panels but if you're interested in making something a bit more complex, you can add kumiko to it. Refer to my Instructable about making kumiko if you'd like to go this route.

There is a photo with the measurements, if you’re interested.

Step 10: Attach the Kumiko Panels' Paper Backing

To attach the paper, you can use super glue, but I used acid-free double-sided tape that I got at the art supply store. I’m not sure if you actually need acid-free tape, but I just asked them what they recommended using with the handmade paper I also got from them for the lanterns. The paper I used was a handmade mulberry paper, and it should be available at most art supply stores.

It's important to put as much adhesive on the back of the wooden part of the panels so the paper doesn't wrinkle or crease.

Step 11: Assemble the Lanterns

The last step is to put the panels into the main lantern body. You can glue them in, but I don't recommend it because if you need to replace or fix the paper later on, it's easier if the panels can slide out.

Just make sure the panels are pretty snug so they don't fall out.

By the way, I recommend a small LED votive for these lanterns — I even use one that flickers. They stay cool, are a perfect mood light, and fit the theme pretty well.

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