How to Make Asanoha Kumiko - Japanese Woodworking

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About: My name is Johnny and I am a woodworker in NYC. Check out my Instagram to see what I'm currently working on @jtwoodworks and you can visit my YouTube channel to see videos on these Instructables. bit.ly/JTWo...

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 them here or find out how to make them here and watch a video on them here.

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.

Find out how to make these jigs here or watch a video here. and also in the description. You can also buy these jigs here if you didn’t want to make them yourself.

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!

Kumiko jigs for sale here.

You can watch the video here on how make this pattern.

You can also find me on Youtube

Instagram to see what I'm currently working on

Facebook and Twitter for behind the scenes shots

Note: This post includes affiliate links. Thank you for your support!

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    17 Discussions

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    FerretPD

    Question 12 days ago

    This is beautiful...but I have to ask....do these constructions have a purpose, or do they only exist to show off the artistry of the wood-worker, and for the art itself? (I know the Japanese do a lot of that)
    Thanks in advance!

    1 more answer
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    JT WoodworksFerretPD

    Answer 12 days ago

    They are included in furniture and various other object to add an artist and decorative touch. They don't serve any structural purpose or anything else like that. Here's a great link that someone shared below with info about different patterns and their meanings, if your interested.

    https://www.tanihata.co.jp/english/products/list.h...

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    shallnot

    13 days ago

    "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."

    Except using basswood is an exception. Basswood may be a 'soft wood' but it is not a 'softwood'.

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    JT Woodworksshallnot

    Reply 12 days ago

    True but it's a softwood in my book. It acts like one and works like one. Semantics

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    BirgitJansen

    13 days ago

    I am very much intrigued. Would you mind elaborating a bit on the pattern? Is there "only" this one? Are there different ones or is it basically one pattern just in different sizes etc? I tried to google it, but couldn't really find anything. And a word about basswood? Is it easy to get? Thank you, and really great instructable!!

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    BirgitJansenBirgitJansen

    Reply 13 days ago

    Oh wait, i think I got it. asa-no-ha is the name of this particular pattern, right? I found some other cool designs by just looking up "Japanese wood patterns". One problem solved. :-) Now where do I find basswood?

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    shallnotBirgitJansen

    Reply 13 days ago

    A search for "kumiko" in the search box at the top of this page came up with a link for various patterned coasters (trivets?) https://www.instructables.com/id/Japanese-Latticework-Inspired-Kumiko-Coasters/

    They are laser-cut as one piece but it would be easy to adapt them to a more "traditional" method of production.

    EDIT: following a link in the link here I found this nice overview and summary of various patterns: https://www.tanihata.co.jp/english/products/list.htm Enjoy!

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    JT Woodworksshallnot

    Reply 12 days ago

    Thanks for providing that link! Those are great examples of various patterns and the meaning behind. I just bookmarked it

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    JT WoodworksBirgitJansen

    Reply 13 days ago

    Yes, asa-no-ha is the name of this particular pattern. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of other types of kumiko patterns. Kumiko (translated to lattice) is the name of this type of woodworking and it comes from Japan. You might be able to find basswod at your local lumberyard. Call them in advance to see if they carry it. You don't absolutely need basswood to make this. Any type of softwood would work. You can probably find poplar at Home Depot or Lowe's and a 2x4 might even work. Just experiment and have fun.

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    Birgit JansenJT Woodworks

    Reply 13 days ago

    Thank you! I have a starting point now and can't wait to get started. Thank you so much for your help, really appreciate it!

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    dmjohnsnx2Birgit Jansen

    Reply 13 days ago

    Balsa works good too, you can pick up balsa at your local model car_airplane_railroad_craft shop.
    Home Depot and Lowes have small sized boards to use for smaller projects. My local HD store has Maple, Red Oak, Poplar, and Black Walnut in 1/8", 1/4" and 3/8" sizes, so there are plenty of places to get wood. Granted, those are hard woods, but if you call around to your local woodworking shops you should be able to find Basswood if that's what you're after.

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    JT Woodworksdmjohnsnx2

    Reply 12 days ago

    Balsa is a great option!! Completely forgot about that. I wouldn't recommend hardwoods for starting out with kumiko. They are much more difficult to work with. Basswood can also be found at Michael's craft stores. They sell carving blocks at the one in my area (about 4" x 9" x 2" I think) and that's what I started with.

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    nonobadogBirgit Jansen

    Reply 13 days ago

    I think basswood is an excellent choice. I have several window blinds made using basswood, one is six feet wide. They are over twenty years old and none of the slats, not even one, has warped at all. Very stable wood.

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    Kink Jarfold

    16 days ago on Step 6

    Painstakingly perfectly executed. Great precision you have. Excellent Instructable. Really enjoyed it. -- Kink

    NICELY DONE.pngKnox my socks off.png
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    JT WoodworksKink Jarfold

    Reply 16 days ago

    Thanks Kink! I'm glad you enjoyed it. The jigs make it a much simpler process than you might think

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    Chaosbychoice

    17 days ago

    Nice clear instructions for an interesting little project. Thank you.

    1 reply