Gateway (80)

Post 80 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.

Nearly there. Another long day of go-go-go, and I ticked most of the items off of the ‘to-do’ list by the time the dust settled. Not all steps were photographed as I was generally too preoccupied. Fighting the effects of fatigue, a messy shop and the stuff I misplace in it, tools that need sharpening, wood that won’t cooperate…it’s the crux time, no doubt about it.

I started off repairing the arris of one of the kasagi beams. A chunk had randomly broken off the edge of it at some point for no apparent reason, and I fixed it with an angled dovetail patch as shown in earlier posts. That piece can be seen in the background of the next photo with clamps holding the patch tight while the epoxy cures.
After that repair was done, I set to work assembling the flanking paneled section to the left side of the gate. You might recall a few posts back that I had made up a three-panel assembly for this section with a couple of dovetailed battens. Here, I’m fitting the mudsill to the wall post:

The connection between these two parts is a double tenon with hammerheads – and I discovered a mistake I had made where for some reason months back I selected the wrong hammerhead bit for my router and the mortise did not precisely correspond to the tenons:

The discrepancy was in the angle of the inverted dovetail, not the height, and was easily corrected by opening up the hammerhead mortise at the wide end with a chisel. The nice thing about this type of joint is that the neck of the hammerhead aligns the joint, and so long as the distance to the shoulder of the hammerhead is correct, it will draw up tight even if the hammerhead shape does not match perfectly.

A while later I had the frame most of the way together, save for the header:

On this side of the header, the yatoi sen to go into the wall post has a hammerhead end:

The hammerhead end inserts in the open mortise…

…and then slides down to lock in place:

Then the header is slipped on and moved towards the wall post to engage its tenons:

Then the header is shifted down at the other end, gradually trapping the top of the paneled section:

The header is now down at the flanking post end, fully engaged with the paneled section, and the tenons at that end of the stick have entered their associated mortises:

All that remains is to coax the assembly fully together.

With the header connected to the flanking post, the block-hammerhead floating tenon can now be fitted:

You can see in the above picture that the crosswise trenches in the floating tenon for the shachi sen have been cut.

This piece is simply tapped into position:

“She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes…”:

Well hello there!

Here’s the intersection between the mudsill and the flanking post – another task that formed part of today’s process was making the dado around the sill for the copper covering:

A closer look:

Back to that first corner with the double hammerhead tenons:


With the frame assembled around the paneling, the half dovetails on the ends of the battens could be wedged:

This is about how far the wedge can be pushed in by hand:

After driving in:

The wedge then receives a little tap down to push it flat against the panel (not shown). Then a good swabbing with the waxy impregnator.

With the four wedges in for the battens, the next task is to fit the double-tapered parallelogram fixing pins, or shachi-sen around the frame corners. I started with the lower connection between mudsill and flanking post:


Driven down to lock the joint a little further:

Then trimmed off flush:

The pencil marks remain here because this section will be covered by the ice/water shield and copper.

As for the header, it receives shachi-sen at both ends:

After installation, the only way you’d see these joints is if you squatted down and looked up. They are discrete. The flanking paneled section, or waki, is done! I shuffled it off to the pile of parts and moved on….

Next I finish planed the magusa (main door header) and chamfered it. Then I made the kannuki, which is the drawbar for the doors, and fitted it with bronze caps. At this point I was not thinking much about taking photos, just working to get stuff done. Those two parts were then treated with the waxy impregnator and set aside. Done and done.

Then I went to clean off that patch on the kasagi that I had glued up in the morning. It cleaned up well and looked decent, so I went to finish plane the piece. The stock for the kasagi was not the best material unfortunately, and gave me some trials and tribulation during finish planing. Both pieces were like this, and I had a little bit of tear out due to some ridiculously frequent grain reversals. Some POC is like that. Got through it, but it’s tough to deal with stuff like that at the end of the day. All too easy to get frustrated, tap the blade down a bit and rip the shit out of the material, images of sacrificial burnings coming to mind. Didn’t go down that path, though the idea did dance across my mind!

The kasagi done, I crawled off home. Tomorrow is the last full day of shop fabrication, with work on the main posts and the kiosk occupying most of the slate. The day after is largely revolving around packaging and loading.

Stay tuned – and thanks for visiting. Up next: Post 81

6 Replies to “Gateway (80)”

  1. Looking good Chris! I always find the fit up and finish planing to be the most satisfy and most stressful part of the project.

    Just in time it seems, I believe the pine trees will be waking up pretty soon, mine are already getting greener.


  2. How lucky is that museum to have found you? I think the only way that they could get a better gate would be to go to Japan. I love how you make no compromises in your work. Truly inspiring. Congrats also to your wife: it takes a lot of support to be able to work the way you do and I'm sure she will be proud to finally see it standing!

  3. Impressive joinery!

    Are the wedges also trimmed flush, or is it normal to leave them a bit long, so they can be tightened up after some time? (by driving them further with a hammer)


  4. Good question Jonas. If the assembly was of large timbers and subject to a conditioned interior, then leaving the wedges long and tapping them down after a heating season or two would be a good idea but not always practicable. Depends where the shachi sen are located, and how accessible they are after the rest of the construction is complete.


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