Kumiko – A Traditional Japanese Style Of Woodwork


Origins of Kumiko

Kumiko originated as a unique Japanese artform in the 8th Century during the Asuka period.

The traditional wood used in Kumiko is Akita Cedar or Kiso Cypress, which is long lasting, durable and bright in colour.

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The Best Wood To Use

Nowadays it is advisable to start with basswood, which has small pores, no grain lines. pares easily and is consistent in colour. It is also comparatively soft, which allows you to achieve a tight fit when assembling the pieces.

Assembling Kumiko

The wooden pieces, which are traditionally cut by hand to an accuracy of 0.1 mm. are arranged with meticulous care. They are interconnected, without the use of glue or nails, but relying on equally dispersed pressure for their strength.

Hundreds of identical blocks are joined together to create a complete panel, which forms a screen or a Shoji door.

Shoji screen

Shoji Screen japanobjects.com

Today Kumito panels are assembled using mass production methods. as demonstrated by Shiraiski Mokki. in his video called The Art Of Wood Setting

Selection Of Kumiko Patterns

Although any geometric pattern can be used in Kumito artwork, there are around 200 patterns found in screens nowadays. Here are a few of the most popular patterns……..

Ura Goma e1668856472123

Ura Goma

seigaiha e1668856641728






Each pattern represents a different aspect of Japanese culture…… 

Goma  This pattern resembles a sesame seed pod, which was initially considered to be good for your health when it arrived in Japan in the 6th Century. The design was used on the ceremonial robes of samurai.

Seigaiha    The waves in this design resemble the opening of a fan which is considered to be auspicious. This association has led to the design being very popular. 

Shokko This design is associated with having a happy marriage and longevity. It is often seen in hotels and at wedding ceremonies.

Sakura Depicts the blossom of the cherry tree where the rice deity resides. It is believed that the amount of blossom determines how productive the rice harvest will be.

Books on Kumiko

Here are two books on Kumiko which are available from Amazon….


Art of Kuiko

Book The Basics










Des King, whose first book is illustrated above, has followed it with a whole series of books.


Starting out making Kumiko

The book shown above, ‘The Art of Kumiko‘ shows you how to create your own kumiko art. There are cutting diagrams for several original decorative wall panels with step by step instructions on how to create them. You are shown how to use both modern woodwork equipment and hand tools.

Finally it shows you how to apply your completed artwork to furniture and framed panels.

If you have access to the Fine Woodworking magazine, then Article 259 by John Pekovich explains his method for Kumiko in detail.

The jigs, which John uses to pare the pieces, will improve the quality of your work, as well as saving a lot of time.

There is a video called How To Make Kumiko By Hand which is also well worth watching.

genius 300x250 a

The Tools That You Need

If you are buying pre-cut stock. then you will only need a hacksaw, a chisel and some guide blocks.

However, if you are preparing your own stock, then a jointer, handsaw, planer and tablesaw will be required. 

You will also need guide blocks, which will enable you to pare the angles on the ends of the infill pieces.

A Kumiko starter kit and guide blocks are available from Etsy, who also sell completed artwork……just click on the images below.

Starter Kit e1668856838400

Kumiko Starter Kit

Wood strip e1668856903642

Kumiko Wood Strip

Guide blocks e1668856957440

Three Guide Blocks

Kumiko jig 2

One Guide Block


Examples of Completed Projects

Here are some Kumiko artefacts you

can make….

Lampshade e1668857080450

Kumiko Lampshade

Panel e1668859531455

Kumiko Panel

Lantern e1668859447651


Box e1668857160797

Kumiko Box








You may be interested in other posts I have written…..

Marquetry – An Age Old Craft

Toy Automata to Whirlygigs


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I have always loved wood crafts. In my teens it was model gliders, ships in bottles, puppets, wooden toys.... Then I had to earn a crust and became a civil engineer designing and building bridges, motorways, schools...until I became a video producer. On retiring I started making dolls houses but now I am a blogger concentrating on my love of wood.

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