Gateway (75)

Post 75 in an ongoing series describing the design and construction of a kabukimon, a type of Japanese gate.


Today and tomorrow revolve around doing those tasks associating to fitting the copper work. I need to mark all the various intersections where copper fits to wood, and check that the copper is going to fit, as in just two more days I have to take the copper parts to the powder coating people. I started off this morning by fitting the copper feet to the rear support posts, hikae-bashira. There, the fit was good however the copper sheet a little bit long, so I had the metal fabricator come by and do a little trimming. It’s a good thing his shop is just a minute away from mine. It didn’t take him too long to scribe and trim and then the lower copper feet were done. A ‘tick’ off the punch list.

Then I completed the 3 coats of waxy impregnator on the flanking panel section, front and back, and applied the decorative bronze nails to the front of the panel so I could get that piece out of the way. Then I trimmed the nose pieces on the main crossbeam, kabuki, to finished length. Sorry, no pics – I was too preoccupied to think about grabbing the camera.

The next task was to fit the copper cap to the kabuki. The kabuki’s upper surface needed to be beveled yet, however before that I needed to check that the door header, magusa, fit the kabuki. Readers may recall that it is connected to the kabuki with a series of five sliding hammerhead keys. I fitted some plugs so the sliding keys were trapped in place on the kabuki. After that, the parts were connected and the magusa persuaded laterally. It didn’t take too long to fit; a small sledge hammer was sufficient to drive the parts together:


I was pleased with the interface between the two parts – no gaps and the inside surfaces are flush to one another.

Then to check that the end grain surfaces meet properly at each end – here’s one:


And here’s the other:


A view of the under surface of the kabuki with the magusa fitted, showing the close clearance for one of the long rod tenon’s locking pins, shachi-sen:


Then on to processing the bevels on the upper surface of the beam, which I did with my 380mm Makita circular saw. Here’s cut one:


I kept the cut a couple of mm away from the line – I find cuts like this, where most of the saw base is unsupported during the cut because of the blade tilt, tends to intensify my focus on the task.

Saw cuts complete, I took the bevel surfaces close to the line with a 155mm power plane:


The bevels were then finished off by hand. It seemed like a good time for a video (and I hope you like repetitive planing!):

After the planing was done, I checked the fit of the copper cap:


Looks like it fits fine. The next step is to fit the kabuki to the main posts so that I can scribe the copper ends onto the post faces. Likewise, the nose pieces will be fitted as well so that I can scribe their copper caps to the posts’ outer faces. Those copper parts should be ready for pickup by tomorrow morning.

Without further ado, I moved the large bandsaw and the planer out of the way so I could start assembling the kabuki to the main posts. It was the only open area of floor space I could use, and I still might have to move more equipment out of the way yet – we’ll see.

By the end of the day, I had one connection 99% together:


A look at the tenon exiting the post:


These joints were cut out three months ago and the fit remains close. That’s the advantage to using dried timber instead of green, and having fairly consistent relative humidity in the past few months. Still, I’m thinking that it would have perhaps been better to make the doors first and then do the large timbers last – well, should another timber project like this come along, then I’ll have such considerations to bring forward into that.

Hope to complete fitting of the kabuki, main posts, and two nose pieces tomorrow. Then the main doors get fitted to that assembly. Going to be some heavy lifting ahead!

Thanks for visiting the Carpentry Way, comments always welcome. Go to post 76 if you’re feeling brave.


10 thoughts on “Gateway (75)

  1. Hi Chris, thank you for sharing what you do, you are very inspiring and I am fascinated by the complexity of your projects and your level of knowledge, focus, and discipline. You are a dedicated craftsman. I was wondering, will the copper be 'bonded' to the wood by adhesive; or clinched; or fastened with nails at all or any of these? Any response appreciated at your at you convenience.

  2. Hi Chris

    I just checked the first post in the series.

    The hinges and other hardware for the original gate looks pretty similar in design to the hinges you showed a couple of posts back.
    Will you be tasked with the job of dismounting the old gate too?
    If so, I suppose that the hinges and the lock could be re-used perhaps after being repaired. But they are probably already spoken for by someone working at the museum.

    I am really looking forward to seing the gate mounted and shining in the spring sun.


  3. Jonas,

    I appreciate your comment, however that matter has already been described in considerable detail in this series. Take a look at post 6, for example, for a description of the dismantling of the old gate.

    The new hardware is bronze. The old hardware was mild steel and had corroded. The hinges were the wrong sizes for the stiles and were put in crookedly. The decorative hinge plates were the wrong size for the size of doors. None of it was worth reusing. I guess I am not of fan of rust stains down the front of a timber – hah!


  4. Thanks for the question Justin. The copper will be attached using hidden clips for the most part; in other spots decorative nails, and in a couple of places I will use construction adhesive.


  5. CHRIS;
    Looking very nice! Why powder coat the copper? Don't copper make its own protection in time? Are they wanting the color match with the hardware? Can't wait to see her done together standing tall for all to see a job done right!! Thanx for all!!!

  6. I gave them the option of raw copper, however they wanted the copper to match the black patination on the original pieces.

    Thanks for the question.


  7. Chris,
    I haven't been commenting much lately but I check in everyday to see the progress of this landmark undertaking. The doors with hardware look stunning and I'm salivating at the thought of seeing the whole structure sitting in place – It's so cool that we get front row seats.

    Moreover, I can see now how the significant investment in large scale machinery has paid off. At times it has seemed that some items, though interesting, were very specialised, but it is clear now the time saving and force multiplying effect they have on a one man shop. Seems like it won't be too long and the cargo capacity of the Land Cruiser will be the weak link.

  8. Hi Derek,

    good to hear from you as always. I also feel that the investments in machinery and tooling have been worth it for the 'work-multiplying' effect. Maybe the weak link in this process will one day be the constraints of the shop space I have. I'm getting close to maxed out – putting the gate frame together has meant moving two large machines out of the way just so I can find enough floor space to assemble the frame. if I get similarly large projects in the future, I will have to seriously consider moving to a larger shop.


  9. Hello Chris,

    Aren't you afraid of heat build up under the copper? Normaly you would want a little room between the wood and the copper for ventilation and such. I hope you are considering this, but since you know exactly what you are doing you have though of this.

    Thanks for al the interesting posts 🙂


  10. Jeroen,

    there will be a little space under some of the copper sheets and bituminous ice and water shield installed, so, yes, I've given this matter some thought – thanks for asking.


Anything to add?