DIY: Japanese Style Sliding Screens

A Japanese-style sliding screen, or shoji, is the product of finely honed craftsmanship and woodworking techniques that can take many years of careful study to master.

Materials

However, you can construct a basic shoji-style screen for your home by using rice paper, custom geometric designs and precisely shaped wood pieces.

To construct a shoji screen, you will need rice paper, rice glue, and a light wood that will act as both the frame on which to place the paper and any additional decorative geometric designs. Recommended woods include basswood, Alaskan yellow cedar, redwood, walnut, oak, pine and cherry. To make the screen slide, you will need a sliding track and mounting material, including rollers.

Space

Measure the space in which you want to place the screen before you begin construction. Decide how you want your screens to slide before building them. If you envision pushing the screen back into the wall, you will need to make sure you have additional space in which to recess the screen.

Construction

Create the shoji screen by first constructing a wooden perimeter frame. To realize the pleasing visual effect of the screen, make each of your wooden pieces the same width and smoothness.

After you have constructed the perimeter frame, begin adding support members to the frame. The support members will be there primarily so you can attach rice paper to the frame in segments.

You may design these interior support segments in any way you like, as long as the rice paper is attached in relatively similarly-sized segments. If you create an especially abstract design with irregular gaps, your shoji screens will not look very good because the rice paper may have an inconsistent application, and bend and bow out in unexpected places.

When you have completed the frame, attach the rice paper to the frame using rice glue. This is a very delicate process. Too much glue will cause the rice paper to adhere in a splotchy manner; too little glue will cause the paper to come undone and ruin the effect of your screen. Take your time gluing, especially with the first piece of rice paper, so you can have a better idea of how to apply the glue to avoid either extreme effect.

To create a more consistent effect, you may tighten the paper to the frame by using a water spray bottle and a hairdryer. By lightly spraying the paper, and then very carefully heating it with the hair dryer, you will cause the paper to constrict. Once the rice paper has dried to the frame, mount the frame in the sliding track.

About the Author

Julia Lai is a frequent contributor to Los Angeles-based arts and literature publications. She graduated from University of California, Los Angeles with a bachelor's degree in history and has been writing professionally since 2008.