Saturday, April 25, 2015

Gateway (86)

Post 86 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. Post 1 in this series can be found here if you'd like to start at the beginning. Each post links to the next at the bottom of the page. Recent installments also to be found in the 'Blog archive' index to the right of the page.


My website is now live, and I hope you'll take a look:

This is the initial version, and I plan to be developing it over time, adding pictures and text, so please check back from time to time if it is of interest.


Final posting in this series.

Since last time, I have returned to the MFA a couple more times, taking care of loose ends. Helper Matt was along for one of those sessions.

The first kannuki (drawbar) I had fitted to the gate doors was a hair too tight and I had swapped in a temporary one which was a little slimmer to see how it would do. In the meantime, I took the original back to my shop and dimensioned it down some, then refitted the bronze caps.

When I returned to site, it had just let up from rain, so I was able to observe the situation with the parts swelled up from normal. The temporary kannuki, though quite wet, had clearance:

There a good amount of space there on top at least. Note that the bronze carriers have a square opening and that the kannuki is a square section. The double door's inner stiles had swelled slightly, however they were only touching on the top 1" and bottom 1" of the pieces. When they touched they pushed slightly against one another, and this tended to act to spring the doors open, and this was what could make the drawbar a little sticky - you can see in the above picture that the drawbar's front face is against the metal carriers. So, I tuned the top and bottom inch of the doors to ease the interface, and fitted the original drawbar back in place. I also showed one of the security guard who opens the gate in the morning that a little hand pressure in the middle against the stiles would immediately free up the drawbar for easy sliding if it were a little tight. So, I think that's going to be fine from here on out. I want the fit to be as tight as possible so there is minimal play in the assembly, and having the opportunity to inspect things right after rainfall was helpful in making some final adjustments.

On that day we also did another round of white paint on exposed end grain surfaces, and caulked the gaps between the wall posts, decorated wall end caps, and the concrete walls.

It's tough looking at things after the gate has been in place for more than a week. Both the effects of the weather on the wood, and the nicks and scratches the gate has already picked up from who-knows-what, are somewhat dismaying, however, of course, this is what the situation will be from here on out. It is shiny and fresh but once, at install, and after that it lives on in this world. I'll be around to fix things that happen, and keep the gate maintained, and that is the best that can be done, short of encasing it in a giant glass box.

Yesterday was the grand opening of the garden, with various dignitaries present. I decided to spring for some new duds:

Who is that guy? I was annoyed to discover later that the jacket's front pockets are all fake! Fashion -grr!

One last small step I took care of was to add a rubber bumper for the side door where it meets the stretcher:

I used a stainless wood screw to attach it.

Anyway, the Consul General of Japan was there, along with the director of the MFA, representatives of the various funders for the project, and a Japanese television crew. I guess there were 60~75 people in attendance.

The MFA director gave a speech, with a senior executive from Nippon Television, left, and the consul General of Japan, right, looking on:

The senior executive from Nippon Television then gave a speech:

That was followed by ribbon cutting:

Nippon Television executive to the left, MFA director to the right.

Doors opened...

Then another speech was given by Ann Nishimura-Morse, the William and Helen Pounds Senior Curator of Japanese Art at the MFA. With that, the garden was at long last open to the public and people streamed in:

Here I'm with Karen, the MFA facilities person who oversaw the project:

It was cool to be part of all that - definitely a bit outside the normal realm of events that make up my day-to-day existence.

The garden was looking beautifully revived, and some of the trees were already in bloom. Another week or so and the leaves will be out. Looking forward to seeing it when the garden has fully woken up. It was great to see so many people excited to check out the garden and gate - it's a popular spot! Most popular question I received: "What kind of wood is that?"

We were treated to a luncheon inside the museum afterwards, and that gave me a chance to have conversation with various folks.

Afterward, my wife snapped some pictures...

The signboard with the garden's name is now on the right side post. It was make in Japan, out of Hinoki:

Interior, looking out:

The kiosk has its original mahogany sign back in place, all cleaned up, re-mounted and re-lettered:

Well, that wraps up this long series of blog entries on this topic. I hope you've enjoyed the ride for whatever portion you chose to take in. 

I like to finish up a build thread with a series showing the original drawing of the project, and it's realization:


I'm working on some teak wheelbarrows these days, and designing a sideboard in bubinga for my west coast client, so hope to have to new posts to share in the near future. Thanks as always for visiting the Carpentry Way.


  1. Chris,
    Simply superb! Well done!


  2. Outstanding work Chris! This was another great build to follow from start to finish.


    1. Dale,

      good to hear from you and glad you enjoyed the build.


  3. Excellent result and impressive work. It was very interesting to follow.

    About the suit's pocket, are you sure they not only lousely stiched to prevent deformation while hanging in the store waiting for a customer? I once had a suit like that, after removing the stiches, the pocket were real and functional.

    1. Sylvain,

      thanks for the comment. I receive some email about the suit pocket issue as well, so clearly this is an area where I am fairly clued out. I looked more closely at the pocket openings and it does appear there is some stitching there that could be removed. I'll hold off on that for the time being however as I don't anticipate wearing the suit again for a while.


  4. Congratulations Chris, what a fantastic piece you have created! I have enjoyed following along the entire process. Can't wait to see the next one!


    1. Dan,

      very kind of you to share that. The next build will certainly be smaller in scale but I hope it is of interest to readers.


  5. Handsome gate. It's a fine acquisition for a world class museum. Thanks for taking us through the build.
    Bruce Mack

    1. Bruce,

      appreciate that - thanks for sharing!


  6. Thank you so much for allowing us to watch over your shoulder.
    Your expertise in such fine craft is rare in the 'english' world.
    I've been in the fussier end of residential woodwork for 40 years and am deeply impressed with the accuracy you accomplish with wood.

    I look forward to your future adventures.

    John Swift, Richmond

    1. John,

      glad to learn your name, and thanks for taking the time to comment. Glad you've been liking what you find here on this blog.


  7. Congratulations on such a wonderful work and recognition. I can imagine the bittersweetness of seeing the gate age with exposure and use, but I'm sure there's some universal wisdom in that :)

    Great looking website, and looking to more of your projects.

    1. Siavosh,

      thanks for letting me know you like the website. It is a work in progress, as they say...


  8. That gate is just fabulous, Chris! And how wonderful that there was a big ceremony for it. I can't remember if you told us this but I hope your name is engraved there somewhere. It is a real work of art, you should be very proud.

    1. Julie,

      thanks for the comment. I don't think my name will be engraved anywhere, however I did receive a mention during the opening ceremony and possibly my name will appear somewhere in the credits in published material on the gate emanating from the MFA.


  9. Hi Chris,

    Happened to be in Boston today and made it over to see the new gate, beautiful job!

    I may have missed it, but is there any finish on the wood?

    Thanks for posting the progress reports, very inspiring!

    Sam Friedberg

    1. Sam,

      great to hear that you had a chance to look at the gate in person.

      There is a wax finish on the wood. It is a 'close to the wood' finish, and though there are three coats on there, it is not obvious at all.


  10. hi chris,

    one small thing. suit pockets are usually stitched closed before they are sold to keep the shape. of course yours may be fake, but chances are you just have to snip the threads at the opening under the flaps.


    1. Taro,

      thanks for the comment - a few other readers have mentioned the same thing.


  11. CHRIS;
    Looks impressive! Would like to see it in person. It will be enjoyed by many I am sure! Glad to see you have a site where people can see your work and then ask for it as well. Haven't looked at it yet but will check it out thoroughly! Keep them coming and thanx for all!!! Hope a new build comes soon I miss them already!


All comments are moderated:

Anonymous comments will be deleted

Spam will be deleted

Comments containing links unrelated to blog content will be deleted