Canadian Woodworking

Make a sushi geta

Author: Jason Klager
Photos: Jason Klager
Published: August September 2013

This is a perfect project to increase your proficiency with the scrollsaw and a few hand tools. It also makes an ideal gift for the sushi-lover in your life.


When my extended family visits us from Japan, in keeping with Japanese tradition, they bring with them small gifts for everyone in the family. This “gift giving” exchange inspired me to create my own version of a sushi geta. The word “geta” is in reference to the traditional Japanese footwear, a kind of wooden soled sandal, as the original sushi getas reflect the profile of these wooden shoes that similarly rest on two blocks. It is a rewarding process to take a traditional design and make it your own. My version took an image of a koi and placed it in the bowl portion of a spoon-shape profile geta.

Carbon Copy
Once the final design is developed, Klager puts it in place, on top of the project, and sandwiches a piece of carbon paper between the two. The design shows up on the wood when he traces the design.

Custom Designs
Klager cuts the koi silhouette using a scroll saw. This process brings a unique look to the piece that can easily be customized.

Support Block
In order to support and balance the plank while it’s on its side being cut, attach a large block to the top of the work-piece with double sided tape.

Smooth the Surface
Use a curved bottom spokeshave or card scraper to smooth the rough under surface.

Slight Side Radius
After marking a slight curve on two edges, use a bandsaw to remove the waste.

Work Inward
When planning end grain, work inward from either end to avoid splitting out the far edge.

Subtle Shapes
Klager added a chamfer on the upper, front and back edges with his spokeshave. The chamfer is quite small at both ends, but grows deeper at the middle of the edge.

Functional and Beautiful
A food safe finish, like Clapham’s beeswax salad bowl finish, helps protect the geta and bring out the grain nicely.

Select your wood carefully

First, you will need to select the wood for your sushi geta. This is an ideal time to make use of all those valuable offcuts lying around the shop. If you can, try to find a piece of wood that has a quarter-sawn or rift-sawn grain orientation, as this will help prevent possible cupping or twisting of the board after years of use. I chose a piece of 4/4 tigerwood, which had the grain graphics and movement to complement the image of the swimming koi. You will want to mill your board to the dimensions of 13″ x 7″ and 7/8″ thick. Once your board is milled up, it is time to cut out the koi using either a scroll or fret saw. Cutting out the koi at this point ensures a flat base from which to work. Feel free to customize your board using your own image, or maybe something meaningful to the person who will be receiving the geta.

Transfer the image onto the board using carbon paper. If you’re using darker wood, it may be necessary to go over the image with a white pencil crayon. After drilling a pilot hole, cut out the koi using a #5 reverse skip tooth blade to ensure a splinter-free cut on both sides of the board.

Shape the geta

Next, it is time to shape the underside curve of the board. Begin by drawing a freehand gradual curve on one edge of the board, starting about 3-1/2″ in from the front edge and ending about 1″ from the back edge. The finished profile should resemble the underside of a spoon handle with a thickness of 3/8″ between the highest point of the curve and the top of the board. Before cutting this profile out on the bandsaw, make a square block, about half the size of your board, and mount it to the opposite side with double-sided tape. This will give you a more stable and broader platform to rest on the bandsaw table when cutting.

Depending on the size of blade that you decide to use, a few relief cuts may be necessary to prevent the bandsaw blade from binding. Back at your bench, remove the machine marks using a curved-bottom spokeshave or card-scraper. However, be mindful of grain direction. A spindle sander would also do the job.

Refine the shape

Now you can give your sushi geta some shape by creating a subtle curve on the front and back edges of the board. After marking it out, cut it on a bandsaw and fair the edge.

Next, shape the profile on the top back edge by first drawing a couple guidelines on either side to establish the curve, and then removing the bulk of the material with a disc sander. Clean up any ridges left by the disc sander with a well-tuned block plane, cutting across the grain from both sides to prevent blowout along the edges.

Working with the grain, cut a chamfer on the top side edges using a spokeshave. To do this, start at a point near the front corner, broadening in the center, and tapering off to a point on the opposite side. You can also make and use a curved template to mark a couple of guidelines on either side of the chamfer to provide a reference when shaping this bevel. This chamfer visually reduces the thickness of material between the top surface and the bottom curve, and makes the sides appear to curve inward.

Finally, sand the entire piece, soften the edges using a file and apply several coats of a food safe finish to protect the surface. My own sushi geta was finished with Clapham’s beeswax salad bowl finish. It doesn’t matter if it is simple or complex, the perfect gift to receive after travelling either a thousand miles or a single mile is one that is handmade.

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