I’m waiting for the finish to be ready on a couple of planes I’m working on, so I’ve been planning out a shoji exercise I’ve wanted to do for some time. I’m going to do a Ranma (transom) piece with a diamond or hexagonal structure and asa no ha (hemp leaf) details. You can see a fantastic example of the pattern in this screen by John Reed Fox, one of my favorite furniture makers. This is extremely detailed work, and requires a very high degree of precision to execute well. I’ve done a couple of basic shoji in the past, but this will be my first attempt at this complex pattern. There are a couple of critical handtool fixtures for this project that I wanted to show here.
For the frame on the ranma, I’m going to use a mitered housed mortise and tenon joint that Toshio Odate describes in Making Shoji. It’s a tricky joint, and the miter itself is particularly critical for a clean fit – I’m using my miter jack.
I think shooting boards are in pretty widespread use by handtool woodworkers, but I’m not sure the miter jack is nearly as common — which I think is a shame. This is a fantastically powerful tool for any sort of joint that involves a miter. This is my second jack – I needed to remake it to work with my new Benchcrafted tail vise. There is a reprint from some fine plans for a jack at the most thoroughly informative website of Alice Frampton (ALF) in the UK: Cornish Workshop.
The miter jack can be used with a plane for a variety of mitered joints, much like the ‘donkey’s ear’ shooting board, which I think a fair number of folks are familiar with. Where the jack surpasses the donkey’s ear, however, is more complicated (and structurally sound) mitered joints – like this one, or the secret mitered dovetail. The two wedges of the jack are perfectly mated, and tuned to a dead-accurate 45-degree angle. The workpiece is clamped between these jaws, and the ramp surfaces act as a jig for the miter work. In this case, I’m using a paring chisel to define the miter:
The prepared rail, ready to be mortised:
I’m reasonably adept with a saw, but I’m not capable of getting anywhere near this sort of surface any other way. Here’s the joint, ready for assembly: