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Japanese room - handcrafted by Harald Welzel

Harald Welzel
Master cabinet maker
Designer with national qualification
Handlaberstr. 4
D 92256 Iggensbach, Germany
Tel.: 09903 952424

All the photographs can be seen enlarged if you click on them (each picture 60 - 70 KB).

Japan Room - view from entry, looking east
On the right, the sliding doors, paper stretched on a frame (Shoji), imbuing the room with a pleasant suffusion of light.

Tatami mats, made of rice straw, were chosen as floor covering. As they can be obtained in one size only, 1800 x 900 mm, the room has to be designed on a 900 mm grid.

The Shojis (Japanese sliding doors) all had to be delicately dovetailed by hand - the effect is of filigree. The Shojis are of cedar; each frame is only 30 x 36 mm, and each crossbar 15 x 6 mm. They were of course planed on all surfaces by hand with a smooth plane and given no other finish. With such a quantity to plane one learns much about what planing is about - how to handle the timber, indeed how to be sensitive to it. Most people in the age of machine grinders have lost such feeling for the wood.

 The Fusuma cupboard with the entry
The solid wood Fusuma cupboard has sliding doors in solid wood with stretched paper on each side.

The Fusuma cupboard is a built-in fixture. The choice of wood was American cherry. The joints are half-blind dovetails, the shelves are set in dovetail stopped housings in the inside walls.

 Looking into the Tokonoma
The Tokonoma was fitted in front of a dry clay wall. Clay is of importance in Japan and for Japanese joinery: it is hygroscopic, maintaining a regular moisture gradient, so that the wood shrinks less.

Tokonoma, translated literally, is "the good corner in the house". It is the area where all the personal objects of importance to the family are kept - perhaps a screen, perhaps the family motto.

The Tokonoma is separated from the room by theTokobashira. This is a tree trunk, another essential in Japanese living quarters. It will have been grown in special forest. The bark is removed by hand in steam. Such treatment is, of course, a veritable labour of love - but beautifully preserves the structure of the timber.

 Detail, scarf joint in the beam in which the Shoji slides
No cherry tree long enough to provide the 4 m supporting beam, between the upper and lower Shojis could be found. The solution was to use a traditional Japanese longitudinal joint to unite two pieces: a blind dadoed, rabbetted and keyed scarf joint.
 Detail, radiator screen
The "four-eye trellis" used for the ceiling was also brought into play to disguise the radiator. The trellis, made of larch veneer, is woven on the spot.

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