Screen Play

This post forms the start of a build thread where I will be making a type of Japanese free-standing screen, or tsuitate. A tsu-i-ta-te (that’s how the syllables in the word break down) often has a heavy frame and an infill panel which may be of a veritable infinity of arrangements, from latticed panels, to a simple slab of timber, to gilded cravings, to silkscreen fabric and mixed media.

The kanji for tsuitate are: 衝立. The first of these characters, ‘衝’, means roadway and collision, and the second, ‘立’, means stand up. Thus it is literally a piece of the ‘road’ which has been stood up and blocks the way. For instance, a tatami mat could be stood up off the rest of the floor to effect the same purpose. Most Japanese people today probably would not know the meaning of the word tsuitate – instead, English words which often sound fancier or more exotic, like ‘screen’ (スクリーン, lit.: su-ku-ri–n) or ‘partition’ (パーテーション, lit.: pa-ti-shon) are employed.

I have studied a bunch of examples, and have settled on a reasonably chunky frame and feet arrangement, and will be infilling with a type of latticed panel. Here’s how that looks at the conclusion of the drawing process:

This piece is about 50″ x 60″ in size, in case you are wondering.

I’m still mulling over the materials and some of the details of the composition. The above example has a Honduran Mahogany frame, cross piece and feet, Swiss Pearwood inner frame and lattice bars, and a Bubinga infill panel. I may change out the Pearwood for more mahogany, and am trying to decide between curly Black Cherry and the Bubinga for the panel. I already have the Bubinga and Black Cherry on hand, and I prefer to use what I have if possible. It is challenging to come up with the right combination of colors and surface textures when so many options present themselves. One has to think of how the wood will look after it is cut to shape and polished with the plane and oiled, and how it will look 5 or 10 years down the line. Many woods change colors quite a bit over time, like Honduran Mahogany which gets a lot darker.

The frame, since it is chunky, can only be made of a limited number of hardwoods that are available dry and thicker than 8/4. The choice for that has pretty much been the Mahogany from the get-go, as it is likely the best option. It is not getting so easy to find pattern grade mahogany in 10/4 and 12/4 sizes these days it seems, but I did manage to locate some and that’s what I’m going with. The 2 planks of 12/4 material I bought has now been jointed and planed, and I’ve ripped a piece for the cross-member out of the plank already.

The form of the frame on mine is different than any I have seen, in that it is in the flickering flame motif, commonly associated to some Buddhist temple and pagoda window frames. I like the form and thought it would adapt well to this sort of piece. Here’s another view of the tsuitate:

I’ve got the joinery figured out and plan to do something special with the latticework in terms of how it will be joined up. The final form will likely have somewhat more subdued lines to it as I will be drawing the templates full scale on some 6mm Baltic Birch plywood. That sort of plywood is not readily available around here so I had to special order a sheet from a building supply outfit. This hassle has slowed my progress down a bit, but the sheet should be in my hands by later in the week and then I can commence the layout. Once the templates are ready, I can slice up the wood and get into the joining. I’ll be making this piece in the palatial workshop known as my kitchen once again, the work taking place on my deluxe workbenches known as sawhorses.

Thanks for dropping by today. – -> On to post 2

One Reply to “Screen Play”

  1. Ok Chris we're ready and waiting… This is something I've been thinking about building for some time now.


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