Shoji Screen Ideas

Basic tips for a first-timer on fabricating shoji screens. September 10, 2007

I have a potential customer interested in some shoji screens for their windows. I'm not really familiar with the tradition, but the customer wants the look and not necessarily the strict Japanese style - they just want that simplistic frame and rice paper look. Also, they don't want rice paper because you have to replace it annually. I'm looking into other synthetic materials that don't break down as much, but it is a fairly easy job. I'm thinking of half lapping everything based on the design the customer wants and the actual wood construction is easy. I'm just interested in seeing how the paper would attach. I've heard of sliding dovetail joints that allow for replacement and a glue-less paper to wood joint (better in my opinion). Anyone have information on this? This is mainly preliminary - I haven't quoted yet, just been approached, but I'm interested because it's unusual and fairly simple and easy, but lucrative.

Forum Responses
(Furniture Making Forum)
From contributor P:
I've built a couple in the (distant) past, and here is what I remember. Most modern shojis produced here use fiberglass panels instead of rice paper. Similar look, believe it or not, and much more durable. However, if paper is the way you want to go, do a net search for shoji paper, and you will find many available, including hand made. Very beautiful, and very expensive. Half laps are traditional for the interior grid, and they are fit into simple mortises in the frame. The grid is usually only on one side of the paper, to allow it to be easily glued and replaced, or repaired. I used a simple glue stick to hold the paper. I think it was called O-Glue. There is a good book on shoji by Jay Van Arsdale, which will point you in the right direction and give you some design help.

From contributor K:
At you will find the material that I have used. It is about like lamp-shade material, only looks like shoji paper. I have a 24' X 6' run of it in my studio that I did about 20 years ago, and it still looks great, even with a western exposure.

I made mine captive between two grids, and shot a brad through the intersections about every two sq. ft., and the two are captive in a dado of each frame, which has dry pined M/T joints, which can be disassembled if I ever need to.

Just a note for quick production - I made the grids 1/2 x 1/2". I cut a 1/2" x 1/4" dados across wide 1/2" planks before ripping them to squares, then when I did that, I had a little planer set up on the side of my TS, which also had a power-feed on it, so I could do two jobs at once.

From contributor J:

I just finished up some and used Synskin from Tap Plastics. I attached it with double stick tape from Shoji Designs in CA. That is what they use on theirs, and it seems to work great.