Gateway (78)

Post 78 in an ongoing series describing the design and construction of a kabukimon, a type of Japanese gate. This is a project for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.


Today was characterized by an early start and a late finish. I completed the list of tasks I had set out for myself to follow.

First off was fitting the kusabi, or wedges, to secure the nuki to the main posts:


Kusabi and wasabi sound kinda similar, but best not to mix them up when trying to have a conversation with a Japanese person.

Another kusabi fitted – could be straighter for the pic but no big deal to align:

And that led to the fitting on the nuki to the rear support posts, and then the fitting of wedges to those joints as well, which are cogged laps, or watari ago tsugi. Wedges are fitted to both sides and it makes for a strong joint. These wedges are all left long and will be trimmed to length after final fitting on site:

By the way, I’m not dropping the Japanese language terms in some effort to impress anybody. They are the correct terms for the parts, and, in in some cases, perhaps out of keyboard fatigue I don’t know, I would prefer to write the four short letters of nuki instead of ‘penetrating tie’. And since ‘penetrating tie’ is not a standard sort of framing connection in western practice, it isn’t really any more informative than the Japanese term. So I’m sticking with my infernal ferin‘ language stuff, and I hope y’all will give me a pass in that regard.

The main crossbeam was parked on the sawhorses, and I decided it should be finish planed before it went anywhere:

I think it came out fairly well:

Then the kabuki was moved out of the dock, covered with some protective foam, and I set up the framing for the side door on the sawhorses:

I was pleased to find the door fitting the framing exactly.

Another view:

One last bit of fitting work was required to get to the above stage, and that was letting in the stub tongues on the door header, which are housed in both connecting posts. At the flanking post, the header’s stub tongue is 1/4″ proud of the surface, as you can see in the above photo.

Here’s a look down the other edge of the door, resting above the wall post:

Notice here that the stub tenon on the door header is 1/8″ proud of the wall post.

I’ll be fabricating a door lock receiver piece tomorrow. That shouldn’t take too long to do.

Today’s task was to fit the hinges to the flanking post:

Because the bottom of the door meets the granite sill, which is proud of the posts by 1/4″, the door is 1/4″ higher than the adjacent (flanking) post. The wall post is 1/4″ fatter in section than the flanking post, so there the offset for the door from the post face is 1/8″. The header, where the upper end of the door meets, is 1/4″ proud of the flanking post and 1/8″ proud of the wall post. All looks kind of simple when it is together, but this assembly is full of pitfalls if you’re not paying attention to the relationships between the parts. Very easy to make mistakes at this juncture, and very hard to recover from them given that I have three days of fabrication left before delivery.

A closer look at one of the hinges after fitting:

And here’s the other:

These hinge leaves will also have escutcheons and fastening pins with decorative escutcheons. Those don’t take too much time to fit, and that will be one of the first things I’ll tackle tomorrow.

I finished the day by coating the exposed ends of the nuki with white tinted epoxy paint.

All for now, Thanks for visiting. Post 79 is up next.

6 Replies to “Gateway (78)”

  1. Chris

    How do You estmate lifetime of this Gate ? Sometimes is just contradiction in my head when I see how much skill and effort You put into Your work and it can happen so that after a month comes a dumb visitor to museum and makes some foolish skratches or graffiti there. What we would like to see that if the product has very high quality (no doubt-You things are high end ones), it also should used and maintained correspondingly.
    Or is it so that if the customer is paying high price, You dont care,because its paid.
    Its more like philosophical question, but still important for mental health:))
    Best regards

  2. Not to detract from the wooden structure at all, which is superb, but GOSH I love that hardware!

    Really puts the icing on the cake.

  3. Priit,

    hard to predict the lifespan with any certainty, however i am confident it will easily outlast the original gate. I'm hoping for 50 years – we'll see.

    As to you other point, the matter is very clear to me: I am responsible for designing and building, working with the client to achieve an outcome of mutual benefit. I can be responsible for my part, executing the work to the best of my ability, however once it is delivered and installed, I must accept that I cannot control outcomes from there. Yes, it could be vandalized, struck by lighting, etc., and that would be sad. I only 'own' the project for as long as it is in my hands, after that I must let it go.

    I'll be keeping an eye on this one over time though!


  4. Derek,

    yes, I'm rather hoping the hardware is sufficiently distracting that no one notices any deficiencies in my work.

    It is beautiful stuff – I'm glad I pushed the Museum to go for bronze hardware at the outset.


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