I have been immersing myself into the world of Kumiko lately. The intricate patterns or motifs draw you in where the possibilities are endless to the application of the panels in furniture. An interesting fact is how Kumiko is a traditional Japanese form of craft. To be able to recreate the same motifs that were designed centuries ago intrigued me. At first I thought the delicate technique would be difficult to achieve since the scale of the components in Kumiko is quite small. Kumiko can be intimidating to a novice. Upon further research, I decided to further explore and experiment. As a woodworker, I enjoy challenges and this would be yet another in a long string of challenges over the years. How else do we grow as woodworkers if we don't embrace new skills and techniques.
So one thing led to another and after a few early failures and struggles, I was successful at mastering the Kumiko process of creating intricate lattice-like patterns within a grid or frame. The prerequisite to even beginning Kumiko is to create a couple of guide blocks. The blocks have preset bearing surfaces shaped at various angles. These angles are instrumental to the components within a Kumiko grid. Through the judicious application of a chisel to the miniature Kumiko components, precise angles that interlock the pieces are shaped or beveled. The process is methodical but enjoyable. Small or large grids of components can be created, where time and patience are the only variables.
There are several motifs or patterns to choose from, my focus was the asa-no-ha pattern or hemp leaf pattern. Although Kumiko patterns are considerable, nothing stops one from designing their own patterns. The challenge soon was overcome and the process became second nature to me. The next logical step was to integrate Kumiko into a display cabinet. This worked out surprisingly well!
Since the, I have developed several instructional video on how to make Kumiko. The videos show the detail involved and how to create the grids from rough blanks. Other videos focus on creating the small parts within the grid forming the intricate patterns. I also realized that creating the guide blocks is a prerequisite to Kumiko and this step kept many people from experimenting with Kumiko. So other videos describe how to create guide blocks in detail (from rough blanks). Guide Block plans are also included in the Kumiko Course.